Around 3 a.m. I finally gave up on sleep and sat up, snugging the blankets around my legs to keep warm. Sukhailah and Hudhaifah were awake as well, so Khalil went and came back with a hot cup of tea- he had had to search through all of his pockets to find enough change, and then the guy at the tea shop had given him a deal so he could purchase one cup. Spicy, sweet, full of milk, and, most important, hot, we passed the beverage between us as we sat in a circle under the guard’s fluffy blanket. A few other people had arrived for the early morning flight to Jordan. The Yemenia flights had all been canceled due to a strike with that airline, but our plane was still on schedule, alhamdulillah.
When it was time to go through the gates into the airport proper, we woke the little ones, gathered our things together, and got in line. Alhamdulilah, all went smoothly until we got to the final gate before boarding the plane.
“Your exit visas are for two weeks,” said the man behind the desk, his thinning hair artfully arranged across a shining bald spot.
“Yes,” answered my husband, pointing out that there were still two days left until they expired.
“You don’t understand. They are for two weeks.”
My husband switched to English, in an attempt to make himself understood.
“Yes, and we have two more days before they expire.” At this, the second man, his hair pomaded and his moustache nattily curled, put his hand in, agreeing that there was a problem, due to the two week limitation on the exit visa.
Sitting in cold plastic chairs along the wall, I could tell something was up, just not what, exactly. Finally, Khalil came and sat down and told me of the situation. It seemed clear to me that a couple of low level bureaucrats were trying to flex a little muscle- or perhaps obtain a bribe. If that was the case, I knew my husband would never agree to that.
Finally another man came, apparently the supervisor. He smiled and shook my husband’s hand and started going through the papers with him. It became clear that he, at least, wanted to help us. The other men looked annoyed and grudgingly stamped our passports, so we could leave the country.
“We are all Muslims- we help each other out!” said the supervisor, praying for us as he smiled us through the gate.
We made the plane, alhamdulillah, and, after a short flight, touched ground in Amaan, Jordan. It was hard to believe that we had left Yemen behind as we sat in the airport, waiting for my husband to get security clearance to fly on to New York. Finally, we were able to rush through, boarding the big jet that was to take us across the ocean with minutes to spare.