Emad Hajjaj, Jordan’s top cartoonist, has a way of depicting the Arab street unlike anyone else. He also has a way of defining the Jordanian spirit and the society of which it embodies. Every now and then I’ll dig up some old cartoons in an attempt to re-tell some of our more modern history in hopes of remembering and at times laughing.
King Abdullah II, in his earlier days of ascending the throne, used to travel around Jordan wearing disguises to pretend to be an ordinary Jordanian citizen. A TV reporter, a taxi driver, an old man with a white beard. This was an attempt to see how the happenings of the country in terms of corruption and the problems people face. Now do not think of King Abdullah as a spoiled rich kid, you are talking about a man who spent most of his life in the military and that’s a pretty tough gig even for a prince.
It became a running joke in the kingdom, amongst the citizens at least, that government employees were now running scared and finally working at full capacity. For a good few months I think people were trying to get a great deal of their government related business done, taking advantage of the sudden spike in public sector effeciency.
“In this position the greatest fear that I have is of being isolated. So going out in disguise was really to be able to keep that link that I’d had previously.”
“If I wasn’t in disguise and was to go to an institution and ask what the problems were, people would probably say what I want to hear, or what they think is the right thing to say.”
Jordanian citizens do not know when or where he will turn up next.
King Abdullah joked: “It’s a bit like Elvis, it’s like sightings all over the country.” [more]
In all probability the King probably does not do this anymore as I am guessing his schedule has become rather demanding, running the country and all. Though I remember this news as being the foundations for my admiration of His Majesty after mourning the loss of his father.
He gained my respect and I believe the respect of many many Jordanians.
A Catalog of Royal Disguises
Dear Government Employee, expect to see soon at the…
(top right to left)
Ministry of Information/ Office of Incomming Labour (Egyptian Worker)/ Jwaydeh Prison/ Ministry of Social Development
Social Security / Highschool/ Ministry of Tourism/ Ministry of Awqaf & Islamic Affairs