What Does an Old Man See in Aqaba?
Man Passionate About the Sea
Abu Nidal was wearing shorts. I thought he looked out of place, so Arab as if to say Arabs are not supposed to wear shorts. "Its Aqaba, it should be shorts to fit the sea occasion," he begins with a smile.
With a crumbly hair barely trimmed at the edges, this has become his permanent spot, selling tea, coffee, instant cappuccino and hot chocolate. He does it to keep busy he says.
Abu Nidal is a strange cattle of fish. He is a marine engineer by profession and training, yet towards making his way to retirement, he decided to quit his job on the ships and tankers and make this water-front city his home, and become a coffee and tea seller after a fashion that is.
His new profession is a means to get close to the sea once again. "I love the sea," he says as he breathes in the deep fresh air. "It has been my life for the best part of 34 years when I worked on ships and huge tankers all over the world, and now I want to stay next to the blue water in my retirement age," Abu Nidal says while pouring me coffee.
The great bearded man looks like Earnest Hemingway, the great American novelist and just chuckles at the comparison and stresses the point: "I sell coffee not because I need to but because of the mental and spiritual connection to the sea," he adds. "I can't explain it but I feel at peace when I am looking at the sea, giving me a tremendous boost of soothing excitement," he adds.
"I have a house in Amman and all my other sons and daughters are in that city, they come down once in a while, but I tell my wife, who is with me here, I am staying put in this city and she accepts willingly."
Everyday he sits in the same spot with his implements of boiling pots, plastic cups, sugar and the rest of the drinking paraphernalia. The place has become his locale and he developed a sort of fraternity with all the other sellers of trinkets and other sea and swimming items. His spot is strategically located, giving himself a panoramic view of the deep blue sea and beyond.
At night the breeze and the cool winds blow in between the cracks of the walls along the promenade. It hisses out mysteries yonder and beyond.
Many tourists and visitors come and go from the Arab Revolt Plaza and back, they saunter along, some go up the street to the many restaurants and stroll back to the beach some with shawrmas in their hands, others with tamarhindi and other light juices.
Families, wives, husbands and other youths band together occasionally passing and stopping at Abu Nidal's spot for an Arabic cupper.
"Many come at my spot for the bitter tasting mint coffee, the hot chocolate is popular too, especially in the evenings and people come from different towns and cities all over Jordan, but there are Arab tourists as well, and occasionally we get foreigners, though I am choosy to who I sell which proves I am doing this to satisfy my relationship with the sea and nothing else," Abu Nidal maintains.
But Abu Nidal is not impolite either. If he doesn't want to serve, he just says we've run out. But he also can be very friendly and talkative. "The other day a couple of tourists from Spain came down here, and just sat on the edge drinking bitter coffee, they started off with two cups, but the drinking went on and talking continued for the next two hours. They wanted to know everything about Aqaba, Jordan and the rest of the Middle East."
It gets very busy down here especially at weekends and extended weekends with people coming from all over the country, families come down, but so do youths from such places as Amman, Zerqa, Salt, and Irbid he says.
Abu Nidal is never afraid of speaking his mind either. He believes a lot of young people lost their values these days, and when they come here they allow themselves to do things which they wouldn't do in their ordinary lives.
He has been in the same spot for the last two years and is likely to go on. This has become his life. At 12 o'çlock mid-night he calls it a day, mind you he has been to known to sleep next to his boiling pots on many a night just like a lot of people who go to Aqaba.