YALA means “Let’s go!” Well that is exactly what the Jordanian officer told me when I arrived to QAIA (Queen Alia’a International Airport). You could say that those next few hour were the most horrible of my life (well at least for this year)! But he wasn’t showing me the way to Amman, he was sending me back to Khartoum.
This is how my time in Jordan started, where I came to attend the YaLa conference.
Men wearing formal suits interrogated me and asked a lot of questions, while my mind was with the conference and the attendees: “What will the people look like?” “Are they open minded enough?” among other similar questions.
Then, security officers put me in a room with other people from Arab countries, some of whom were caught with fake passports or visas! Until now, everything has been good. I called my coordinator and she gently told me to stay cool and calm down, but five hours after the call, I started to lose hope. Maybe it wasn’t my destiny to be there, I thought while hearing the stories from the other people in the room. The time passed and an officer asked me to come with him. I took my bag, said goodbye to the other people, and wished each one a safe trip back. I walked with my head down, fully depressed, wishing to re-collect some of my lost dignity.
After entering the plane I sent a message to my coordinator, expressing my deep respect and love for their efforts to take me out of this nightmare. I never ever thought I would miss my country the way I did at that moment. After a moment, the hostess took the microphone and kkept asking for “SHOWKI OMER”, which is me! I was terrified and kept telling myself, “Now I am going to jail! But why in Amman?! Why?!” I raised my hand to the hostess ; she took me to the front of the plane. I saw the same officer who guided me to the plane. I thought, “Well he guided me to the plane, so he must also be here to guide me to jail.” My mind went blank and my hands started to sweat. He smiled at me and called me, “MR. Showki Omer”! MR. Showki Omer, welcome to Amman!” I was a “MR” now!
Then, he asked me to take my bag out of the plane and go with him. The funny thing was that the people on the plane were terrified when they saw me. I didn’t understand immediately but then realized that they thought I was infected with Ebola.
I took my bag and 30 minutes later I found myself in the gate of QAIA. That’s where I found the amazing Ghada, a Moroccan girl, whose flight had just arrived from Casablanca. We took the same taxi to the hotel chatting about the trip and how it was. We both felt sleepy and tired and at the hotel we finally met the YaLa staff waiting for us and shouting with happiness. They were the only blessed thing I had seen since the morning.
The next morning at almost 9:00 am I had to fight to wake up. 30 minutes later I was down in the lobby, asking for something to eat, and there was the surprise! The other students were heading to the hall while I was still wearing my pajamas. What a beginning! So, I ran back to my room, changed into my clothes, then went to the hall. I was the last one to enter the hall, same as in the plane!
My lovely experience was about to start ! I first noticed that there were white people everywhere. Then, I started to observe the people and I won’t deny that watching Arabs and Israelis sitting at the same table was a big shock to me. It’s a miracle! I mean, people used to say that making peace is impossible but what I witnessed that day brought me hope. Algeria sat beside Lebanon, Yemen with Israel, Iraq with Morocco , among others. I was inspired by all those youth gathered and sitting for one reason, seeking peace and looking for how to spread it in our region.
No human being has the right to judge others because of the color of their skin, the way they look, the way they pray, or the way they talk. The only right we have is to love and live, to spread the good word among your people, to reflect your culture and traditions to the whole planet, and to defend your shelter and your people with no chaos or violence .
Before ending my story, I’d like to thank all of the people who helped me on my way to Amman. Because of their incredible effort, I am here to tell my story. Thank you all. Keep the good spirit guys, love you all! ☺
YaLa Young Leaders