Father, son and grandson also chose guiding
If you have visited or plan to visit Jordan it’s not out of the realm of possibility that your tour guide was or will be a member of Michel Safar’s family.
The Amman-based guide has followed in the footsteps of his tour guide father, while his son Yousef has also chosen guiding, the latest family member to accommodate linguistically differing visitors.
Safar’s father could guide in Arabic and French, with his enthusiasm for the Gallic language leading him to name his son Michel, who guides in English and Arabic, while Yousef can guide in English, Arabic and Mandarin, having honed his skills in the latter language by living in China for a time.
Safar works with Karma House, which sends people throughout Jordan and which Goway Travel uses as a Jordanian ground operator.
These aren’t ideal times for Jordanian tourism as the Gaza crisis scares many travellers away from the Middle East but Safar insists tourists aren’t at risk in Jordan, which hasn’t seen any spillover if the fighting between Israel and Hamas.
“Jordan is a very safe place. The Middle East Is not only Gaza and Israel,” said Safar, who was leading a group of Goway employees throughout his country this past week.
“I think as a group no one has been made to feel unwelcome and the group is mostly women,” added Goway’s Nadya Phelan, who was on location with Travel Courier earlier this month. “We’ve been made to feel at ease.”
Safar began a travel industry career by working in ticketing and reservations, making the switch to guiding in the 1980s, a time he said when tour guides were in short supply in Jordan and him deciding guiding was more enjoyable than sitting in an office.
He still has his first guide permit, which dates back over 40 years and now serves as a souvenir.
The affable Safar is happy to provide detailed information on the likes of Jordan’s extensive Biblical history while also telling jokes to clients, something they appreciate.
“These people are on vacation,” he said of sharing witticisms.”From time to time you need to see people laugh. You don’t have to be serious all the time.”
Safar also doesn’t believe that clients always have to hurry and scurry from one site to another, jokingly admonishing one member of a recent group who had fallen behind, ‘Don’t run. Don’t shake a leg.”
He knows people with tourism ties throughout Jordan, with a Petra t-shirt vendor calling, “30% discount for friends of Michel” to the Goway group.
Meanwhile, Safar said its unclear whether his grandchildren will continue a family tradition of familiarizing tourists with insights into such storied sites as Petra, Jerash and Wadi Rum by becoming tour guides.
“Maybe yes, maybe no,” he shrugs of them making guiding a career choice.
Safar can be reached by emailing [email protected].