Our guide, Abdullah Amra, stepped onto the motorcoach in Aqaba, Jordan to welcome us in broken English. After a few minutes of listening to him stumble through words and point out the obvious (“Jordan very modern, we have traffic lights, red mean stop, green mean go.”) many of us resolved that we could be in for a challenging day on the full-day excursion to and from the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Petra.
For at least five minutes, Amra rambled on. He was certainly funny and his phrasing was even funnier. He told us, for example, that he loved his job and that it paid very well and that he needed the job to support his seven children. He pleaded with us not to tell his boss that his English was so bad.
Then, the young man exposed the joke, speaking in perfect English to much applause and heartfelt laughter. “Sometimes I actually start speaking Arabic, assuming the passengers speak Arabic,” Amra told me at a cafe in Petra. Other times, he is imitating “someone you would call a ‘stupid tour guide,’ someone who is working as a tour guide but this is the wrong job because he’s not qualified . . . ” Occasionally, Amra will break into a sweat and breathe heavily into the microphone, expressing anxiety about being in front of a crowd. He is anything but, however.
Amra’s approach and personality underscore the quality of Silversea’s guides. When we returned to Aqaba at the end of the day, it was clear that Amra had transformed what promised to be a good tour into what turned out to be a great tour. A handful of bills, which had been given by passengers in appreciation, was a good measure of his approval ratings for the day.
“I am very proud that I can do things like this,” Amra says of his technique. “It is not only giving the guest information but also entertaining them.”