So when she accepted a job with the Jordan Tourism Board on a Monday in August 2009 and left that Friday to play tour guide for a group of Spanish-speaking journalists in a country she’d never visited — well, that seemed about right.
“I’m a little bit random,” she admits. Her friends always expected her to eventually bring home an equally eccentric husband. She came home two weeks later to find her front door decorated with a red carpet, a crown and a card from a friend that read, “I hope you found your Jordanian prince.”
Porterfield didn’t realize then that she had.
The Arlington native had been exhausted and unkempt when she showed up for a gathering of Tourism Board employees at the end of her trip. But she perked up when she heard Yamaan Safady, a man with salt-and-pepper hair and his own adventure travel company, give a presentation.
“I just loved the way that he spoke. He was very honest, very respectful, but he didn’t necessarily just tell you what you wanted to hear,” Porterfield says.
She giggled when she saw him roll a cigarette, thinking he must be “some kind of Jordanian cowboy,” and smiled as he sat down next to her at a conference table. They flirted a little, exchanged business cards and said good-bye.
Safady had always walked his own path, as well. After getting a mechanical engineering degree, he worked in marketing and then quit to start a trekking company that led six-day hikes into the city of Petra, Jordan. At the conference, Safady had been struck by Porterfield’s beauty and charisma. As soon as she left, he began to think about how he could “get her back into Jordan again.”
But after trading a few friendly e-mails, Porterfield stopped replying. She was running back-to-back marathons that year, had a full schedule of travel and was still learning about her new job.
Still, when she needed a guide for a group of journalists the following February, she reached out to Safady. He was already booked, but they agreed to meet while she was in Amman. On her last night in the country, the two sat down for coffee and talked for four hours. “It started with business but shifted very much to family and personal talk,” she recalls.
Porterfield came home determined to return to Jordan and join Safady on a trek to Petra. That week, a journalist told her he was hoping to do the same thing. “I felt like someone was telling me, ‘Make this happen,’ ” she says. Porterfield found sponsors, and the trip was set for May.
Just as the hike was getting underway, Porterfield fell ill with a stomach bug. “I’m vomiting all over Jordan, and he’s literally holding my hair back,” she recalls. “It was amazing to watch and think, ‘Wow, if a man will take care of you when you’re sick.’ ”