Before you start wondering how old is my oldest friend, the ‘old’ in this case refers to the length of time we have been friends rather than his own age.  I hope I cleared this up before he gets offended.

Not that Samir is easily offended by me because he would never contemplate the possibility that I willfully set out to hurt his feelings.  This is one of the many positive aspects of this man.  He is fiercely loyal to his friends and family; that on its own, endears him to the lucky people in his circle of love and devotion.

Samir is my younger brother by four years, three months and one day, give or take a few hours.  In our early childhood, this gap was significant and important.  But as time went by, it became less and less so as he caught up with me in terms of maturity.  By the time I left home around the age of 18, our friendship had begun to blossom, only to be continued remotely via occasional letters and phone calls.

Being related to someone is clearly something that we have little or no control over however, choosing to be friends with a person is an active and conscious choice we make because we have natural affinity towards one another.  And this is where I sometimes wonder why Samir would choose me as a friend.  He was a popular youngster who found it easy to make friends.  You see, by the time I reached the age of ten, I had already made one attempt at killing him with my father’s loaded handgun; then tried to cause him physical harm on a number of occasions, not least of which re-opening a post-circumcision raw wound with particularly powerful clothes peg, that could have doubled up as a blacksmith vice, resulting in copious amounts of blood splattering all over him, me and our poor auntie who was babysitting us; as well as badly scorching his hand with a pre-heated cast iron bottle opener.  Why did I do these things?  No good reason really; the idea occurred to me and I thought ‘let’s see where this will take us.’

I am happy to report that he survived my thuggish attempts at causing him damage and I have long abandoned violent conduct as it was a bad career choice.

Our friendship was rekindled and strengthened when Samir left home three years after my own departure and joined me in Manchester, England.  He continued to be popular and make friends all around the city but, he and I, as young adults relied on each other for moral and emotional support.

Two years later we also found ourselves in London, him at university and me working in the City.  Although we lived on opposite sides of the River Thames, we always got together at weekends and holidays.  We went out on day-long excursions and developed a taste for midnight cinema movies where we would have our dinner, have a few drinks and then go to see art-house movies that started after the final show of the mainstream movies of the time.  Sometimes we saw the film all the way through but often we fell asleep until the cinema ushers threw us out like a couple of homeless tramps.

We shared similar tastes in food, drink, music and sense of humour, which was not always shared by others who often could not see where the joke was.  We even developed a short-hand for reminding one another of funny incidences, TV shows, people we came across in public and so on.  One of us only needs to use one or two words and that is enough for us to fall about laughing like a couple of hyenas who stumbled across a barrel of strong beer and finished it off in double quick time.  We also share a healthy disrespect for money where we refuse to be enslaved by it and to spend it like it is going out of fashion.

This is not to say we are not different, because we are.  To this day, Samir has a naturally sunny attitude who loves to have many friends and associates around him.  He is a fun seeker of the first order.  The mere mention of a potential trip somewhere and he immediately assumes responsibility for organising it down to a level of detail that might be used as a case study in project management.  A few years ago I called him and said ‘Eric Clapton is on a world tour and will be appearing in Istanbul in the Summer’.  Before I knew it, he had invited two friends of ours, contacted another friend of his in Istanbul to get us four tickets for the concert, booked flights, reserved hotel rooms, purchased four matching T-shirts for us to wear and worked out a budget for the entire boys’ trip.  We had a great time!

Samir is at his happiest when on holiday with family or friends wearing a silly hat and sporting a pair of long shorts, posing in front of an iconic location somewhere in the world.  He loves to please people he loves and showers them with generosity of gifts and attention.  I remember Samir once coming to me saying he was short on cash and could I lend him some money, which I did.  A couple of days later, he turned up with a package already wrapped up with a card and said: ‘Happy Birthday!’  It was an abstract painting of a mandolin player.  Almost certain of what his response was going to be, I still said ‘I don’t expect you to buy me a birthday present, you’re broke’.  Samir’s reply was: ‘I used the money you lent me’!  I thought that was the sweetest gesture anyone could make.

So, how do I differ from Samir as I describe him above?  Well, no one can accuse me of having a sunny disposition; fun loving and one who cultivates many friends.  I am satisfied with a very small circle of friends and happy to spend hours, even days on my own.

After graduating from The City University in London, Samir left for the USA partly for a break and partly to see if he could get a job there.  After a not-so-pleasant experience in California, Chicago and New York, he finally decided to go to Dubai and try his luck there.  He got a job as a teacher at a college for a while then went back to Jordan where he finally found his niche in the life insurance business.  He applied himself and went up the career ladder in double quick time.  He also got married to the impressive Hana and set up home in Amman for many, many years, producing three outstanding daughters Mais, Samar and Sara.

From the day he left for the USA to finally settling down in Amman, we never lost contact with one another.  If anything, our relationship got even stronger than when we lived in the same city.  Claire and I, with our own girls, visited them in Jordan and they visited us in England on many occasions.  Those were happy and carefree reunions.

Roll forward to more recent times, when I was diagnosed with cancer while living and working in Cyprus, Claire arrived first and then in quick succession, Samir, Leila, Rosy and Faye.  If I ever needed proof that Samir is the genuine article as a friend, his stand by me and my family was nothing short of exceptional.  I don’t think any friend could have invested as much emotion, effort and sheer determination in seeing me through those dark days than Samir did.

Over the three months following my cancer diagnosis, Samir made a number of trips to and fro between Amman and Cyprus, always looking to resolve problems and making sure Claire was able to dedicate maximum time to being near me.

On Claire’s birthday, Samir got up early and having given her presents and cards as instructed by his three nieces, he insisted, that he would come to see me in hospital and that she should relax and take her time, which she was very grateful for.   Samir came in and said he would keep me company.  All was going well as we chatted about life and our early memory.  Suddenly, I said to Samir: ‘Do you realise you are my oldest and closest friend?  In all the years we have known each other, we never, ever had an argument or falling out, not even a cross word.  I just want you to know how much I appreciate and value your friendship.’  I am not sure how much more I said but that was the general sentiment of my monologue.   I could see he was getting a little uncomfortable and embarrassed so, I brough the subject to a close.  We have always avoided sentimental talk like this, preferring to just get on with things because we were sure the other person understood anyway.

I felt cold so I asked Samir if he could get me another blanket.  He draped one blanket, then another but I was getting colder and very shivery.  Within two minutes I was going downhill very quickly with laboured breathing violent shivering and pain throughout my body. Sam was understandably worried and suggested we go for a little walk to try and warm me up.  The walk did not do the trick and he quickly decided to get me back into my room as fast as he could.  I genuinely felt I was checking out of this world and told him I was going die.  Samir dismissed the idea as it was a Sunday and heavens doors are shut for the weekend.

Shortly after that, Claire arrived and the two of them went into action, calling nurses, doctors, or anyone passing by.  Finally, the duty consultant appeared, took a quick look at me and said: ‘He is going into sceptic shock’.  Within three minutes a huge trolly arrived with multiple bags of saline solution.  The consultant asked Claire and Samir to leave the room and got me to lie on my left side.  He inserted a needle or tube through my back and began to pump liters of saline solution into my body, effectively flushing my system out completely.  I already had a pipe installed on my right side to extract excess fluids from around the liver area so, empty bottles were lined up to receive the rinsing solution he was pumping through my body.  He must have spent at least 30 minutes flushing me out.  One of the main thoughts going through my mind as I was being flushed, was: ‘I am glad I told Samir how I felt about him because if I don’t make it through this particularly episode, then he would know how I felt about him’.

In the meantime, God knows what hell Claire and Samir were going through waiting to be told the outcome of this brutal procedure.

Amazingly, the consultant’s intervention worked and he effectively saved my life that day.  When Claire and Samir were finally allowed to re-enter the room, they looked like they too had had the procedure!

Looking back over the years, I compare my plans to physically harm him to what I put him through with my recent illness, I think that experience must have scarred him more deeply than my feeble attempts as little boy.  I can only apologise to Samir for the heavy price he paid and continues to pay for our friendship.

Samir and Hana have spent the last couple of years in Melbourne, Australia and have decided to return to Jordan later this year.  I for one, am very pleased to have them back in the Northern Hemisphere, where we are more likely to get together than making the epic journey to Australia.

When my father passed away some 18 years ago, after 56 years of marriage, my mother felt bereft.  Heart broken and confused, she lamented her luck and wondered what would become of her.  Samir heard her lamentation and swore she would want for nothing.  True to his word, he has been her guardian and protector ever since.   Although we all contribute to the upkeep of our mother, none of us comes near enough to doing what Samir does.  He organizes every minor and major aspect of her life from paying her monthly bills to making sure she is seen by a doctor when the need arises.  He has also introduced a strict rule for himself, Hana, their girls and other relatives that at least one person visits her every day of every week, come rain or shine.  My mother is 94 years of age now and she is with us in relatively good health largely because of Samir’s guardianship.  I know how much she cherishes Samir’s efforts.

That kind of love and dedication is the mark of the man that demonstrates his ethos in life: loyalty, dedication, family values and going much further than most others to protect those he loves and cares about.  Is it any wonder he is so special to me?