Thursday, June 29, 2006

Gaza, Israel and the US

Lately on this blog we have written about strange road signs, pavements/sidewalks, and ugly misplaced garbage bins etc. All these items are trivial when confronted with what is now going on in Gaza - a massively disproportionate response by Israel to a Palestinian ‘provocation’. Provocation! The Israeli soldier abducted by Palestinians was on active duty! One now begins to wonder why there has been such a deafening silence regarding Israel’s detention of hundreds of Palestinians, among them women and children.

May I also add that this ‘provocation’ comes after decades of injustice, brutality and occupation, which have been unhindered by international and humanitarian laws. The Palestinians too have committed despicable acts in the name of fighting for their freedom. But it is the US that angers me most. As the world’s only superpower they could and should do more to solve this conflict. Bush’s statement that the Palestinian government must ‘stop all acts of violence and terror’ while urging Israel to show restraint is pathetic. If America were an honest broker in helping to solve the Israeli/Palestinian problem they would not now be merely urging Israel to show restraint!

Previous talk by the US of peace between Israel and Palestine through implementation of the Road Map may sound encouraging. But the reality is that the ‘map’ the US is looking at bears no resemblance to the real map on the ground where borders are continually expanding and collective punishment by house demolitions, the building of the wall, arbitrary assassinations, the shelling and killing of civilians etc. continues on a daily basis. It is high time the US starts looking at the real maps of this part of the world and changes its direction before it is completely and hopelessly lost……….z

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

I came across this road sign today........z Posted by Picasa

Monday, June 26, 2006

where it is pavement paradise

I am off to pavement paradise tomorrow - Singapore. That place is so neat and tidy (too much so in some ways). The trees are planted sixteen paces apart and a taxi driver told me that if you have to get off the road quickly make sure you crash into a lamp post and not a tree as the fine is larger for hitting the tree!

Hope the toe stands up to the travelling and thanks to all for their felicitations! T

Sunday, June 25, 2006

More pavement paradise!

More expressions of personal space on the pavements of Amman - just in case GAM needed reminding! J Posted by Picasa

Pavement paradise!

Rules to remember in our beloved City - when in Amman, don't walk on the pavement;

don't attempt to walk on the pavement;

and caution pavements are not for pedestrians - so stay at home!

a very grumpy J - agitated by T's broken toe inflicted when attempting to walk on the assault course that pass as pavements in Amman. Posted by Picasa

can I sue Amman Municipality?

We all know how hazardous it is to walk, or try to walk, on Amman's pavements. Battling against trees planted in the middle, building works all over the place etc etc. I learnt this to my cost today when I fell over some builder's rubble on a pavement on Jebel Amman and broke my toe.

Now, can I sue the Municipality? Or is that a stupid question?!!! T

World Drugs Day soon

As I was sitting in a traffic jam at the Fifth Circle, I noticed this banner. Not quite sure what to make of the translation. It is World Drugs Day soon so lots of warnings on various banners have been put up. Wish the translations into English had been a bit more careful!! T Posted by Picasa

Blog question

Okay - just blogged "Veiled and Beautiful" but it appeared way down the bottom of the blog ... no idea why - any clues anyone? Could it have something to do with date first saved as a draft?? J

Where to now?

With the prevailing mood of gut wrenching trauma in our part of the world that has endured periods of continuous military invasion, occupation and a fair bit of in-fighting for the most part of five hundred years - is it not surprising that the West is blamed for all our woes? The Jordan Times is right to raise the following points - but the overall question is where do we go from here in practical terms ...... water supply permitting of course?

Back to the classroom with a large dose of pluralism

... from the first day of the new scholastic year ....?? J

Editorial The Jordan Times
The right stand

According to a just released survey by an American research centre, suspicions between the Muslim world and the West are growing.
Westerners see Muslims as fanatical, violent and intolerant, according to the study by the Pew Research Centre in Washington.
Muslims, for their part, tend to view the West as selfish, immoral and greedy — as well as fanatical and violent.
Both consider the other disrespectful of women. All agree that relations between the West and the Muslim world are bad and that Muslim countries ought to be more prosperous. But on both counts they disagree over who is to blame.
The Muslim world solidly finds the West responsible, while opinion in the West is more divided, with roughly a third finding blame is to be shared.
So what do we learn?
Westerners certainly seem more sanguine and Muslims more defensive and insecure. But that is hardly surprising. After all, Westerners do not have Muslim armies in their midst; Muslims do have Western troops, in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Muslim armies are not threatening invasions, as Western armies are in Syria and Iran. Nor are Muslim countries blindly and hypocritically supporting the occupation of a Western people, as the West is doing in Palestine (in the latest instalment of such hypocrisy, the US Senate voted to boycott the democratically elected Palestinian government, but gives more leverage to the US administration to support Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian people directly, including, astonishingly, a $20 million “peace, reconciliation and democracy fund” to promote Palestinian democracy).
The West directly and violently interferes in the Muslim world, and the opposite is not true. Therefore, it is not surprising that the West is seen as being responsible for all the ills of the Muslim world.
That, however, is a dangerous attitude that only leads one to complacency and lazy analysis about the ills in the Muslim world, of which there are plenty.
It is a convenient attitude, paradoxically, for those intent on maintaining the status quo, because blaming the West diverts attention. It is convenient, too, for those who have no real policy and play only on the fears and prejudices of their people to promote themselves.
We have our own problems that we need to solve honestly, rationally and without unnecessary finger pointing. One of those problems is the West and our relations with it.
We need to stand by our principles in our context, applaud that which is right and stand up to that which is wrong, whether it comes from the West or from the Muslim world.
Sunday, June 25, 2006

Friday, June 23, 2006

Jara Market - Jebel Amman

Standing testament to a proud urban heritage that overlooks the Jebel Amman

A view down the street that is closed on Friday afternoons for the Jara Craft Market.

Khalid al Marashideh - teacher of arabic - jewellery dealer in Jerash by Hadrian's Arch - and philosopher of sorts - he spoke to me in prose and at first told me he was a sailor -"I am a liar" he then said, "walking the seas of life, but even the ocean is too shallow for my ships".
For him poets and poems are dead ideas; and here's why, "the alphabet has 24 letters in English and 29 in Arabic - there are 29 bars that jail a person with vision - like Othello - I like Shakespeare," he said. You should have been a writer, says me.
"As vision gets bigger, language gets smaller" says Khalid and as I bade him farewell he says "the most beautiful poem is the one not yet written".
And he didn't once try to sell me anything but told me to read 'Season of Migration to the North' by Sudanese writer Tayib Salih ... think I will. J Posted by Picasa

A stroll in Jebel Amman

More bourgainvillea - or majnounah - the mad one!

Beautiful old buildings around the first circle area of Jebel Amman that give character to our urban heritage and comfort our daily lives.

Stone - Amman's saving grace.

A view down Rainbow Street - to the left is the street where every Friday from 4pm, the Jara Market brings people out of their homes for a fun afternoon of admiring/shopping for handicrafts, chatting over coffee with friends while plates of turmus - a special summer snack of cooked beans - do the rounds. A great way to spend a lazy Friday afternoon. J Posted by Picasa
This mosque is quite beautiful but there is something about this picture I just don't like. How about you? z Posted by Picasa

two kings

To add to my previous post with the picture of King Hussein. The following is taken from a document written in the 1950s -

' In the midst of all this excitement, the two young kings sat side by side, evidently great friends, though in complete contrast to each other. (I should perhaps add that I have great respect for Their Majesties, and I hope that this frank sketch will not be read as implying the contrary.) King Feisal, red-checked, easy of manner, with a Savile Row suit and a Curzon Street type of haircut, made King Hussein, dressed by a tailor in the Salt Road (the local main street) and barbered by someone from the suq, appear by comparison the country cousin which he literally is. Yet there could be no doubt which was the stronger personality. King Feisal looked like an agreeable young English cavalry officer sitting beside a haggard, dynamic Bedouin prophet.'

traveller in our country

Quite a nice article by a young American lady travelling in the Middle East. T

Veiled and Beautiful

Came across this website and thought I just had to post it – for all of us uninitiated lot who can't fathom out how these girls manage to put on a veil and look so stunningly beautiful. And aren’t we all tired of the western rhetoric that claims wearing of the veil is oppressive….. think again I say; what they are not seeing is that the wearing of the veil can also be liberating - economically, personally and of course spiritually. With more women out in the work force, at university, and being totally integrated, natural progression is taking shape - from what I see here in Jordan. But let us also not forgot there are many women who chose to remain at home, not just being 'housewives' - the western term - but rather being 'rabbatu elbeit' 'goddesses of the home' - the Arab term - nurturing the family. Dictates from afar should not be imposed on Jordanians by outsiders, ignorant of social and cultural sensitivities. It's time to look at the cup half full - and filling - despite some quarters politicising the issue, or denying others what is, after all, freedom of choice.
Is this an East-West issue? Not sure .... but one thing is certain, it is creating barriers where none should exist within the Western AND Eastern worlds.
Perhaps we all need to unveil the human conscience - because as one Muslim woman once said "I cover my head not my mind".

...okay, I know what you're thinking, it's not all perfect, but who said Rome was built in a day?? J

Thursday, June 22, 2006

theatres & amphitheatres

As I was driving to Marka yesterday I noticed the sign to the downtown Roman theatre written as amphitheatre so decided to educate anyone who is interested what the difference is! The following explanation was sent to me by Professor David Kennedy -

'There are no amphitheatres in Jordan and they are rare anywhere in the eastern half of the Roman Empire. The term is regularly misused. What you see downtown in Amman and at Jerash etc are theatres (usually a half circle). An amphitheatre is a circle (as at Pompeii) or oval (e.g. the Colosseum or Cirencester and many other places - this is the commonest form). The amphitheatre was normally the place used for wild beast hunts, gladiatorial fights, executing criminals for public entertainment, etc. The theatre would be for plays, mime, pantomime, etc. It all sounds much more refined but the reality is that in the Roman East they often used their theatres for the sort of bloody activities usually put on in the amphitheatre elsewhere.'

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Abundance of Water!

Good news to “J” and to my fellow bloggers!!!! According to today’s (June 20) Jordan Times, we are on our way to NO MORE WATER PROBLEMS! By 2020 Jordan is going to have an abundance of this precious stuff, so it looks like you can just continue to water away. Of course, there is nothing mentioned of what the total cost of this will be. First we are, by 2007 going to get water from the Zara-Maeen water treatment and desalination plant and in the following 13 years the Disi Water Conveyance Project along with the Red-Dead Project are also to be completed.

I guess that all of this is supposed to make us happy, even though this year we have a water deficit of 425mcm and we are still awaiting word from the Syrians as to whether they are going to give us the 15mcm that we have requested from them to meet this summer’s needs. We also continue to have 46% water loss from our antiquated and leaky pipes….but guess that that is an improvement over the 50% that we used to have. And another thing, we are supposed to be happy that the Disi Water system will provide Jordan for the coming 100 years. I suppose that I am showing my age since I am now able to personally recall nearly that many years myself through the stories of my parents and other relatives. One hundred years isn’t really that long, especially considering how ancient this land of ours is. Depleting the largest non-replenishable aquifer in the region is not a cheerful thought to me, even if it lasts 100 years!

What I think would be more helpful, particularly at this time of year, from our Ministry of Water would be articles warning us about water consumption and relaying messages as to how we can better conserve the precious bit that we have, not assuring us that we will have no more worries by 2020! Jordan is listed in the top 10 most water hungry countries of the world. Okay, by 2020, we might have an abundance…which at the rate of future consumption and growth I doubt, but at what cost both ecologically and monetarily?

Friday, June 16, 2006

Sunday in my garden

Sunday today, woke up early and had my tea in the garden. The sun was shining, the air was crisp, and the sky was blue. Shame about the incessant noise from the jack hammers removing the mountain along the Wadi Sakra Road. However, as we sat and admired the wilderness I have for a garden, I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of birds that came to pay us a visit, the bulbul, the pigeons, the sparrows ..... And then wonder of wonders, a Palestine Sunbird arrived with its mate and for a good five minutes this fluorescent blue tiny bird with the curved beak darted in and out of the bougainvillea growing alongside the house. I had only seen them before down south in Wadi Dana.

In a word, peace!

Peace from all the hassle on the roads, the lack of controls on foreign investors, the poor excuse for politicians, and the insanity of war in our midst from Asia to Africa.

…so I shall take the arrival of the Palestine Sunbirds as a good omen … and I shall let you know the outcome in due course. J

PS – next time, shall also keep my camera on hand but here's one taken in Jordan in 2005 by Duncan Dine

insult to the innocent

It is said – don’t believe everything you read in the newspapers – so I am basing the following thoughts on what has been reported in the Jordan Times.

I think the four Members of Parliament, who visited the Zarqawi family to pay their condolences and then made reported remarks about him being a martyr, were totally out of order and behaved disgracefully. As public servants they have a duty to act in a responsible and dignified manner and to insult all the innocent Jordanian victims of the hotel bombings is beyond belief.

However, I do feel that the Government has trodden very heavily on them and is making a rod for its own back by having them arrested by security police in their homes and sending them to Jafr prison. I hope the House will impeach them and suspend their positions as Members of Parliament and that the Government will tackle the roots of the problem and try to concentrate more on positive than punitive action.

Why did these MPs (or any other person for that matter) think it was right to pay condolences to this family whose son murdered innocent women and children, not only in Jordan but in Iraq as well? What and who can justify the loss of an innocent life? I really cannot understand how any human being can justify, in any way, the slaughter of innocents. T

Thursday, June 15, 2006

absolute chaos on the roads of Amman

We have heard all about the plans to reduce chaos on the roads but it seems no action. Today was just unbelievable with a friend of mine stuck in her car for two hours for a ten minute trip home. The police and municipality HAVE got to do SOMETHING. Drivers are just acting in the most uncivilised and impolite manner by blocking roads without thinking of anyone else. Can't they wait 2 minutes to let people through? Where is the legendary Jordanian politeness? Gone out of the window when they get in a car it seems. And I seem to spend my time shouting at people coming down roads the wrong way. Does ANYONE obey the law here???? and does anyone care???

I can sit at the traffic lights and watch the cars going by me and can guarantee that about 90% are breaking the law in some way. The only way to get people to obey the law is to stop and fine them and it should be for large amounts as well.

WHEN are the police going to get their act together?? Heaven help us in the coming months if nothing is done. T

The First Casualty

I was shocked to hear President Bush saying he was inspired to visit 'a free and democratic Iraq'. What freedom?!! And what has this so-called democracy done for the ordinary Iraqi?

I have just read a marvellous fiction book (The First Casualty by Ben Elton) about a war in the past, this time the First World War or, as they had hoped, the war to end all wars. What soldiers had to endure over those four years for just a few metres of ground is unbelievable. I would like to share one quote -

'Brutality, it was clear, had a cumulative effect on the people who perpetrated it and on those who witnessed it, numbing their senses to decency, until in the end it was difficult to remember what decency was.' T

Thursday, June 08, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

This blog site raises the issue of climate change - through the recent documentary of Al Gore "An Inconvenient Truth", I wonder if it will be shown in Amman? We understand exactly what he is talking about - it is becoming very, very hot too soon after the Spring, and the May temperatures seem to be increasing with every passing year. My garden doesn't like it one little bit - pansies and peonies are not looking so well.

This can only have one catastrophic result for the future - excessive water usage - in a country that is currently ranked among the top ten countries of the world deficient in water resources for its own citizens.

So, sorry pansies and peonies - I am going to let you die - you are being replaced with plants that thrive in the desert and grass will be replaced with stone.

My life is changing and so is my city. I remember Amman in the eighties, when clean air wafted in through my window; a clear radiant blue sky crowned a gradually growing and developing city in stone all by itself in tandem with the lay of the land and its environs; a dry and pleasant summer during which the heat was dampened by a cool breeze and numerous plants that have grown in this semi arid environment for centuries gave beauty to inner courtyards and city gardens - of particular note the bougainvillaea, honeysuckle, jasmine and pots of geraniums and herbs of all colours and varieties.
Ammanites have to wake up to a changing reality, Mother Nature is not happy - we hardly want to see our beloved city become a dusty desolate place with tumbleweed roaming its seven hills and seven valleys. Yet all this development in the form of gated compounds, glass towers (that need to be cleaned with water, I presume) resorts and unwanted five star hotels that wreak havoc on our fragile environment does not appear to take on board the seriouness of the water issue - and one day soon may well be seen as opportunist, commercially dubious, and an environmental resource wasting disaster - another inconvenient truth?

Water, water is NOT everywhere - we simply don't have a drop to spare. J

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

military parades

I love military parades with marching soldiers, colours, horses, camels, tanks, missiles and roaring aircraft overhead! Great spectacles. BUT do we have to have one outside a major hospital in the country and on a main road?????

Good luck to them all on Saturday. T

Monday, June 05, 2006

Concert at the Citadel

The Citadel, Amman, 4 June 2006

The Temple of Hercules, today known as the Great Temple of Amman,
built in the reign of the emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180 CE)

Last night was spent at the Citadel; Amman's crowning glory of an ancient past that towers over downtown. And as I walked towards the Great Temple of Amman, camera in hand, a blue signpost caught my eye to the left – an Islamic cemetery – I had never noticed it before.

Hundreds of people had gathered at the Citadel for an evening of classical music in the open – a yearly event eagerly anticipated by throngs of Jordanians and foreign guests alike.

Concert in front of 'Al-Qasr' - The Umayyad Palace

Although a celebration of Europe Day, it seemed more like 'International Communal" day to me as we were all lulled into a few hours of peaceful, soul satisfying contemplation by timeless musical masterpieces. It was a joy to see the talented young violinists of the Jordanian National Music Conservatory play alongside the outstanding European Union Chamber Orchestra, as they charmed the night away with a repertoire of Vivaldi, Bach, Shostakovich, Mozart, Britten and the Egyptian virtuoso Oud player of the twentieth century, Mohammad Al Qasabji with his "Thikrayati". Superb!

View over downtown Amman

And Thursday we are off to Jerash, for another night of magical music in the open, this time in opera form - a Jordanian-German joint production. J

Friday, June 02, 2006

More Courage Needed

I am flying home to the USA in a few days. When I read in the Jordan Times the announcement that all passengers flying to the States need to check in at least three hours before flight time, I asked the ticket agent the reason. He said that this is a new requirement by America for all passengers, world wide, flying into the USA. Knowing that Jordan isn’t being singled out for additional scrutiny takes out some of the sting. However, an article in the New York Times: Hurdle for U.S. Getting Data on Passengers, NY Times, May 31, 2006, points out some interesting details regarding this new regulation.

Three hours before a flight give the American authorities access to 34 categories of information about passengers planning to enter the USA. The extent of this information includes names, addresses, phone numbers, itineraries, and payment information – including credit card numbers. Due to the excessive amount of private information that the airlines are required to divulge, the European Court found that the European Council lacked the authority for making the deal with America in the first place. They are insisting on re-negotiating the agreement soon. In the meantime, any country refusing to cooperate with America faces the possibility that their airline will be refused landing rights in the USA.

This subject begs an important question: Why do nations cooperate quickly with the US on issues that are clearly distasteful or morally repugnant to their cultural values, and worse yet, when issues are illegal according to their national laws? Thank goodness the European Court has the courage to condemn this agreement.