It was December 2006, the midwinter solstice, and I was visiting the middle east, staying with friends. I was in Jordan, the relatively peaceful, relatively stable, relatively liberal Arab country which borders Iraq to the north.
It was an outrage to some locals that they executed Saddam on Eid – an important Islamic holy day. Blood ran red in the streets as they slaughtered animals in the refugee camps to the north of Amman for the feasts – and this seemed eerily appropriate to my western eyes. I shot video from the car as the girls discussed the civilised problems of maintaining morning work routines.
An hour later we were in Jerash, the most beautiful Roman ruin, being tourists. It was stunning; in the temple of Dionysus I heard the valley fill with the hypnotic call to prayer from a dozen minarets. Far below, I saw men and boys preparing the feast, attending to a newly dead cow, hung up on a chain in a barn.