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Will tourists be startled when they hear a stirring rendition of the bagpipe classic Scotland the Brave in a country that doesn’t even share the European continent with Scotland?
Well, when the piper and drummer hitting all the right notes are a couple of Jordanian army veterans in an archeological site in often sun-baken Jordan — seemingly a world away from cooler, frequently drizzly Scotland — it does routinely raise eyebrows.
Piper Bassam Mahasneh and drummer Yousef Bani Mustafa have been performing daily at Greco-Roman ruins of Jerash for 20 years, frequently playing such bagpipe classics as Scotland the Brave and Amazing Grace for tourists in a smallish amphitheater.
“Some of them (tourists) are surprised, especially the Scottish,” says Mahasneh, who like Bani Mustafa, sports Middle Eastern clothing, rather then a kilt.
Bagpiping is seen as the ultimate Scottish music expression but Mahasneh reports it also has a long history in the Arab world.
Mahasneh and Bani Mustafa have performed before royalty and in the United States and Europe, including visiting Edinburgh in 2001, where their music received the thumb’s-up from their Scottish counterparts.
Mahasneh gives Scottish pipers the edge when it comes to the actual music but says his compatriots tend to move in a more expressive manner when playing.
Some Jerash visitors are introduced to Mahasneh and Bani Mustafa by tour guide Ahmad Malhas, who likes to have his unsuspecting clients line up single file next to a Jerash structure wall and then march them around a corner, where they encounter the musicians, who immediately begin playing.
Those visitors tend to be “shocked,” Malhas says. “I tell them (the tourists), ‘They’re celebrating that you’re here.'”
Meanwhile, Jerash vendor Mohammad Bani Tana — whose stand is near the spot where Mahasneh and Bani Mustafa entertain tourists — says he never tires of hearing their music.
“It is very beautiful,” he states. “I’m always happy to hear it.”
More information is available at kawartours.com.
Among those seen here with Mahasneh, Bani Mustafa and Malhas are Tamar Nassar of Jordanian tour company Amin Kawar & Sons and visiting American travel agents.
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