Prince William tours Roman ruins in Jordan, meets refugees

June 25, 2018

JERASH, Jordan (AP) — Britain’s Prince William on Monday toured Roman ruins in Jordan, chatted with Syrian refugee children and was greeted by ululating women at a community center for traditional arts and crafts.

At the ruins of Jerash, William stopped in front of an enlarged photo that showed his wife, the former Kate Middleton, as a child, along with her father and younger sister posing against the backdrop of the site. For almost three years in the 1980s, the Middletons lived in Jordan, where Michael Middleton worked for British Airways.

“Need to come back with the family for this shot,” William said as he stood in the same spot where the photo was taken. He pointed at his father-in-law in the photo, saying “Michael’s looking very smart in his flip-flops.”

The visit to Jerash came on the second day of a five-day tour that also takes William to Israel and the Palestinian territories. It’s a high-profile foreign trip for William, second in line to the throne, and comes at a time of widening rifts between Israelis and Palestinians.

Later Monday, he’ll be the first British royal to visit the Holy Land in an official capacity. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict looms large, despite the ceremonial nature of the trip. William, an avid soccer fan, arrived in Jordan on Sunday afternoon, as the England-Panama World Cup match was underway. Jordanian Crown Prince Hussein recorded it for him, and the two watched it later Sunday on a huge TV screen at Hussein’s residence. England thrashed Panama 6-1, advancing to the second round.

Before settling down to soccer, William spoke at a garden reception at the British Embassy, praising Britain’s historic ties with Jordan and the kingdom’s commitment to hosting Syrian and Palestinian refugees.

Over decades, Jordan has taken in waves of refugees, most recently those fleeing civil war in Syria. Jordan hosts about 660,000 registered Syrian refugees, but says the actual number of displaced Syrians in the kingdom is twice as high.

Jordanian government officials on Monday were quoted as saying that Jordan could not absorb more refugees. The comments came as Syrian government forces advanced in southern Syria, near Jordan’s border, leading to more displacement.

During the Jerash tour, William met with dozens of children attending a U.N.-sponsored education program, known as Makani, that serves Syrian refugees as well as Jordanian children from overburdened host communities.

The children greeted the William and the Jordanian crown prince in the amphitheater of Jerash, where they showed off some of their art work, including paintings. One girl painted with her foot. The ruins of Jerash are one of Jordan’s main tourist attractions. William has said the Middletons have fond memories of their time in Jordan, and that Kate was sorry she couldn’t join him on the trip to the kingdom. Kate gave birth in April to the couple’s third child, Louis.

Later Monday, William stopped by a community center, Dar Niemeh, set in a garden in northern Jordan where he was greeted by ululating women in traditional embroidered dresses. The center fosters local arts and crafts, including baking and cooking in a mud oven.

He sipped tea while sitting cross-legged on the ground in a Bedouin-style tent.

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