Wednesday, May 24, 2006

An afternoon with royalty and the dilemas of titles

Well, not really. But yesterday I attended results of a "festival of creativity" by Jordanian youth at the Royal Cultural Center, a kind of celebration of a program by the Jordanian branch of World Links. Among the distiguished guests was Queen Rania.

If you haven't ever attended one of these events it's kind of interesting. You don't actually usually meet the Queen, she is kind of whisked in and out pretty quickly as everyone is seated. Once in a while you get a handshake, and hopefully use the right term to address her.

I never remember if its supposed to be your highness or your majesty or something else. I suck at these titles, and I'm even worse at them in Arabic. Samu al-Amir, Jalalatu, 3Atoofa, Seyadtul Basha, Elma3ali, etc. I was with a mutasarref from the Ministry of Interior the other day. I still can't figure out what a mutasarref is, but its some kind of adminstrative title. These things apparently matter. It turns out I'm basically seyyid (Mr.) Jason, or, on a good day I get upgraded to ustaz.

As the Queen left the hall, we all had to stand again for the national anthem, to give her time to leave. Fair enough. So after the anthem we all shuffled to the door to go out to the reception, but were stopped by guards. Apparently the Queen was still in the vacinity. After a couple minutes two guys weasled themselves to the door, and talked their way out. I was a little annoyed. Then four Saudis went to the door, and got themselves out. I got more annoyed. Then a group of like 15 people streamed out and it was too much. I went to the door and asked the guy, "what's up, why are these guys allowed out". "Ministry of Education," came the answer.

A couple minutes later a guy comes down the steps, through the door and starts saying to some of those there, please, this way our distinguished guests (itfaddalu, itfaddalu duyoofna elkaram). When we came in we were all addressed as distinguished guests, so I wondered why the differentiation now. I started laughing and joking with the guards, saying things like, "what, weren't we distinguished guests too? We became just normal guests now?" (Sho ya3ny, mesh e7na kunna duyoof karam? ba2ayna duyoof 3am, wa khalas?) A female guard caught my eye and subtly motioned me to go. I guess she saw the comic irony of the situation too.

The Queen is actually a decent person, and does a lot for children's rights and development. A friend of mine went to school with her in Kuwait, and had a hard time not just saying, "Hey, Rania, what's up," when she saw her after she became queen. It's hard to remember sometimes that underneath the mystique of power and position all these people are just people after all. But protocol is protocol, and familiarity with royalty, even with old acquaintences, doesn't fly.

I don't envy the King and Queen. Sure being royalty has it's perks, hey, just being a dayf kareem does, but sometimes they must just want to go out and be normal people again, like they once were.


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