Sunday, October 29, 2006

brave ice cream seller

A quote from an article in the Sunday Times by Marie Colvin -

"And then there is the bravest ice cream seller in Baghdad, a Sunni. When Sunni militants demanded he close because there had been no ice cream in the time of the prophet Muhammad, he told them: “I’ll stop selling ice cream when you ride up on camels to threaten me. There were no BMWs in the time of prophet Muhammad either.” T


An elder Cherokee Native American was teaching his grandchildren about life.

He said to them, "A fight is going on inside me...It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, pride and superiority. The other wolf stands for joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. This same fight is going on inside of you and every other person too."

"They thought about it for a minute and then one child asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee simply replied..."The one I feed." J

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


I always find it quite a shock whilst shopping for food in UK as the supermarkets there have an overabundance of goods and varieties. After looking at the potatoes today in Cozmo I just thought, ok they are potatoes, but what about King Edwards, Desiree, Maris Piper and the other nearly 80 varieties one can find in UK alone. We just get potatoes and I wonder where they are from? and if they are good for roasting, boiling or chips?

Well, in the great scheme of things I suppose it does not really matter?! T

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Buyer Beware

The market in Jordan has traditionally been one of ‘Buyer Beware.’ By this I mean there were few restraints on vendors to guarantee quality of the products they sold, and little recourse for the buyer if he found his purchase unsatisfactory. Of course this is changing, but one thing has not changed – the customer will not get his MONEY refunded.

About 10 days ago I bought an expensive coffee maker. After four days it wouldn’t work so I returned it to the shop. The man was most pleasant and offered to repair the machine, but after a few days he told me that the machine was faulty from the manufacturer and offered me a replacement. This shop stocked only one brand of coffee maker, but several models. By now I had lost confidence in the manufacturer and would have preferred to get my money back so I could buy a different brand. I chose a different model that was cheaper, and again there was no question about returning the difference to me in cash, so I bought two other items that I could use. Given the tremendous increase in products available in an ever expanding and competitive market, why is it still impossible to ‘get your money back?’


Friday, October 20, 2006

'Abandon hope, all who enter here'

Moazzam Begg, a British Muslim and book shop owner in England - a falsely accused "enemy combatant" - describes his imprisonment in Guantanamo. J

Thursday, October 19, 2006

fourth circle

Oh no! Not more fountains! Having been away for three weeks I have been missing the fun at the fourth circle. It looks like fountains are being fitted. Why??? Don't we have enough trouble with the ones that are already done? Leaks, dirt and rubbish and not working half the time. And in a country that is seriously water deficient.

Whilst driving through the tunnel towards to the third circle I noticed the run off which goes to our new wonderful suspension bridge (!). It looks incredibly dangerous to me with a narrow entrance and a sharp curve for drivers to contend with. And a slip road goes past the front door of one of the houses.

Hopefully I am wrong and it will all work like a dream!? T

religious symbols

Whilst in UK the subject of women wearing the niqab hit the headlines. I found it absolutely amazing that a few women wearing this veil should be viewed as a threat to community relations and the integration of people from different backgrounds and culture. The popular media just hyped it all up to make it look as if the country was going to be overwhelmed by women dressed with this covering.

Personally I do not like to see women dress in this way as I find it quite intimidating, but if they wish to do so it is their right, but they have to be ready to accept that employers have rights too. If I were living in the UK I would certainly not wish my child to be educated by a covered woman and the school that sacked the teacher wearing the niqab was perfectly within their rights. I wonder if she wore the niqab when she was interviewed?

As for the British Airways woman suspended for wearing a cross, that is another media hype. BA has a rule that employees are not allowed to wear necklaces, bracelets, rings (apart from wedding and engagement rings) etc outside their uniforms. A BBC newscaster has been allowed to wear her cross after much discussion.

So, should we all wear what we want? I don't think so, but it is not something that can be legislated. T

Sweetheart deal in Iraq

It's the oil, stupid! Remember that headline a few years ago? Well read on, this sums it up nicely: J

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Royal Jordanian

RJ flew me to London and back safely so I should be thankful for that. I have flown with RJ many times and have been pleased, annoyed and upset but that can apply to many airlines. BUT the state of some of their aircraft is appalling. With all the latest publicity about new aircraft and the previous advertising campaign saying we would be flying in 'royalty' (no comment about the grammer) I expected something better than the ancient aircraft we flew in. The outside looked dilapidated and the inside even worse. The two toilets on each side of the aircraft had large notices stuck on the doors saying 'Out of Ordar'! Luckily I was travelling with friends which helped to keep the nervousness at bay.

The aircraft coming back was in a slightly better shape though the window (see picture) I was sitting next to did not imbue much confidence in the state of the a/c. Many of the passengers could not use their earpieces as they were not working.

I just wonder how safe the old RJ a/c are and hope they will all be replaced soon. T
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Monday, October 16, 2006

Simple Pleasures

My Jordanian husband is excited about the approaching World Series competition. Since his days as a student in Detroit, he has been a loyal fan of all of Detroit’s teams and a bigger enthusiast than my entire family of native Detroiters. No matter the season he roots for each team in turn. The Red Wings and the Pistons (hockey and basketball respectively) generally compete well, but the poor Tigers and Lions (baseball and football) rarely make a good showing. But this year the Tigers will be playing in the World Series. I did some quick research on Google last night and discovered that baseball became America’s ‘favorite pastime’ around 1903 and The Detroit Tigers is one of the oldest teams. Although they contended a number of times for the pennant, they only won the World Series four times: 1935, 1945, 1968, and 1984. They must be due to win again.

When we settled in Jordan, there was no TV, and sports coverage on the radio and in the newspapers seldom included American sports, particularly baseball. Somehow my husband was able to keep up with his teams, and win or lose, he stood behind them. Now that TV satellites and internet make sports’ coverage easy, he will often stay up half the night to see a live game from the States. This year it looks like his support will be rewarded, the Detroit Tigers may be rewarded, and I will be rewarded - with a happy husband.


Increase the budget for the Dept of Antiquities!

Grace Peacock thank you - you answered my plea in your article of 16.10.06. Although the situation at the Department of Antiquities is much improved from twenty years ago, the obvious constraint to the work of this very important Department is a simple one: money.

Now here's a solution, let's sell all government cars and buy second hand ones, and the profit can go into the coffers of the Department of Antiquities. That way I won't mind when government cars are parked in my street loaded with kids and their toy bikes....yes, no, just a thought.... J

Bashing Blair

Blair gets a bashing from his own C. Yippee! At the end of the day though, does anyone think that the PM will ever assume the noble traits of a true statesman and put right a terrible wrong? Of course not, because people don't matter in games of war and politics. J,,1922787,00.html

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Something missing in our street

It's been a long, long time that the birds have not been singing in the trees – at least in my garden, where once the bulbul and the Palestine sunbird gave song. Gone too is the Blackbird that used to sit on the tall fir tree that I could see from my office, sending calming melodies in through the window to brighten my day. But something else has taken its place – a big unattractive bird with an awful squawk - I think it's a rook with a huge wing span that seems to like swinging on the branches of my large walnut tree up amongst the telegraph wires … yes, I know I still have the old type of wires as our street was bypassed when they mapped everything underground. I really miss that blackbird though …

In fact our street that encircles a small 'Tell' was built over an ancient settlement. In the digging for foundations of a few houses within a 2 km radius around us, many archaeological sites were found ranging from huge wine and olive presses to an assortment of very large stones and walls. Everything was coming up stone – but no pottery strangely enough.

Within our own front garden we found two stone pillars, and two large (60cm x 1.15cm) blocks of hand molded stone that now serve as garden benches! Of course we notified the Department of Antiquities in our excitement, but the Department is so overwhelmed with all things archaeological from one end of the country to the other that precious little would be developed if we stopped at every uncovered piece of old stone. Our little 'tell' had been designated a residential area, and thus of no interest. And so we kept our ancient stones in the garden for our own enjoyment, and the olive and wine press got covered over with cement – waiting ad infinitum for the next round of developers to discover and perhaps turn into an archaeological park when the houses no longer have any interest.

…what am I thinking? … an archaeological park in West Amman?

But where would all the roads, cars, offices, banks and tower blocks go if we dedicated all that wasted space to antiquity and the odd bird or two?

I just thought, maybe, it would be nice for the kids ... seeing as they don't come out to play on our street, they have nowhere to go … the 'arab harra' never stood a chance in the face of all this development – and neither did my blackbird. J

I have since discovered that what I have in the garden is a 'hooded crow' (Corvus cornix) (sometimes called Hoodiecrow) and it is a bird species in the crow genus common throughout Europe and Asia, including the Middle East. . Well I wasn't far off as the rook is also of the same genus. Here is what wikipedia has to say about this bird:
"The Hooded Crow, with its contrasted greys and blacks, cannot be confused with either the Carrion Crow or Rook, but the kraa call notes of the two are almost indistinguishable. The flight is slow and heavy and usually straight. The length varies from 48 to 52 cm. The diet is similar to that of the Carrion Crow and it is a constant scavenger. It drops molluscs and crabs to break them after the manner of the Carrion Crow. On coastal cliffs the eggs of gulls, cormorants and other birds are stolen when their owners are absent, and it will enter the burrow of the Puffin to steal eggs."

So when I master the art of photographing birds I shall post a picture of my new visitor's mugshot .... so until then, check out the photo of a Hooded Crow at Mansour Mouasher's Birds of Jordan site:

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Saturday’s Newspaper

Since the Jordan Times doesn’t publish on Saturdays, I always buy an International Herald Tribune for that day. In case you don’t know this paper, it is an English language newspaper that began publication in Europe in the late 1960s. As a combination of the New York Times and Washington Post, it has a distinct American flavor, and I like it. I think it began in Paris but now it is published simultaneously in most major cities world wide.

For a long time Jordan relied on the Paris publication for its supply until a few years ago when Beirut began printing it. Israel’s attack on Lebanon this past July put a halt to that. Every Saturday I am sadly reminded of the destruction of Lebanon and my absent newspaper with a measure of shame at my own helplessness.

This morning, with no paper to read, I read an article by Robert Fisk about Israel’s attack on Lebanon. It’s called The Anatomy of a Massacre and you’ll find it at:

Robert Fisk is a British journalist who writes for The Independent, and as far as I know, American papers don’t pick up his articles. They should, especially the International Herald Tribune! I wonder how ‘my paper’ dealt with Israel’s latest aggression and slaughter during the summer. I wonder if they even mentioned the fact that their Beirut press was out of commission due to Israel’s attack on Lebanon. I should try to find out. In the meantime, I have alleviated some of my helplessness by encouraging you to read this candid account of the dreadful events that happened in the Lebanese village of Marwahin last July.


Saturday, October 07, 2006

A Way of Life

Jordan Journals is published by six women, four of whom are out of the country at the moment. It’s possible that their trips are related to the fact that we are now observing Ramadan. For readers who don’t know much about Islam, this is a holy month marked by fasting during daylight hours. This rigorous practice slows the pace of life in Jordan, and one might travel more conveniently when his routine schedule is put on hold. Since the onus of posting has been left to J and me, I thought I would write something about Ramadan.

It was Ramadan when I came to Jordan in 1959, so my first impressions of this country are uniquely bound up with it. We had spent a few days in Beirut and from there drove through Damascus enroute to Amman. In Beirut and Damascus I wasn’t aware of Ramadan at all. Restaurants were open; life hummed normally from what I could see. However, we arrived at Ramtha, Jordan’s border, just after sunset. The border guards barely noticed us since they were intent on eating. How clearly I remember the four guards sitting on low stools in the light of a kerosene lantern, hunched over a tray of food. As soon as they finished, they offered us a small glass of very dark, very sweet tea, and we drank together. (Drinking tea with border guards was another first for me as well.) After tea, they finished our papers and we continued on to Amman. For the rest of that first Ramadan I was repeatedly startled by the canon firings at sunset every day, when the fast ended, and again, one hour before sunup so people could eat before the day’s fasting began. Every year since then I have learned a little more about this holy month – the importance of special prayers, self sacrifice, and charity. The daily gathering for iftar, the meal that breaks the fast, must certainly strengthen love and caring in families.

There is nothing in my background that remotely compares with Ramadan. The religious observances that I know are not arduous, do not last long, and for the most part have been commercialized outrageously. For most of us in the West Christmas has changed from a strictly religious holy observance to a time marked by a frenzy of shopping and gift giving. Little children have fused Santa Claus’s arrival and the birth of Jesus into one happy event.

Since my husband is a Christian Arab, we do not fast, but we are caught up in the customs of the country nonetheless. I find it fascinating that a modern nation adheres to a month long religious practice. Ramadan is a way of life in Jordan, one that allows people to take time out and reflect on their spiritual life, if they so choose. I will always be a foreigner in this land, but I admire many customs here; Ramadan is foremost.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Watch this space

We have decided to launch a competition to see how well friends at home and abroad know Jordan. It will be photography based - so please allow me the time to roam the country, record it and post it. First correct answers will be acknowledged, so contestants beware! J

Moab Musing 2

I glanced over the coffee table at the light permeating the trees, the old stone buildings and the woman in a beautiful hand embroidered abayeh ambling down the road, lost in thought – and I wondered how she would fare in a world bent on destroying her Arabic culture and sense of identity. As if reading my thoughts my friend said:

"Look at nature" she said "take a tribe of highly intelligent elephants – very social in nature where the role of the mother is an all important one for she socializes the young. Kill the mother, and the tribe of elephants is broken, the young wander in endless circles of fear and depression acting out of character on the road to extinction".

I paused and remembered a passing comment I heard last year when talk of the World Bank and its antics entered the discussion. They were reviewing Jordan's labour laws and wanted to 'reform' women's rights particularly those affecting maternity leave … to reduce it. And I saw a disturbing reality that has been weaving its evil ways undetected and foreign into the culture of my adopted homeland – 'divide and rule' whether political, social or cultural.

Jordan's labour laws have been under review for as long as I can remember. And yet, the World Bank were not concerned about what was going on in the QIZs, rather more about controlling an important part of the labour force: women – predominantly mothers - an important part of Arab culture. It may surprise you to know that the rights of Arab women today outflank those of American women that have been on the decline for many years; a point acknowledged by Elizabeth Fernea, prominent writer/film-maker of the 'Guest of the Sheikh' fame.

While Elizabeth is busy making films and writing about the Arab World she loves so much, I've come to the conclusion that I think too much. So I bade farewell to my friend, got in the car and drove home to find hubby doing some gardening. He smiled and said:

"Salamu alaikum from on high to down below, from one side to the other, but the best salam I wish you is inside your head – and that is guaranteed to happen if you laugh in the face of it all" …. J

Monday, October 02, 2006

Smeed’s Law

Yesterday’s Jordan Times carried an article by Gwynne Dyer called Smeed’s Law. R.J. Smeed was a professor of traffic studies at University College London who proposed a statistical rule in 1949. His theory goes against common sense because it says that traffic accidents actually decrease over time, although the number of cars and miles of roads increase. By way of explanation Mr. Dyer says that the highest accident rates are in developing countries while in developed countries, the accident rates are actually falling steadily each year. He attributes this to the fact that almost everyone in the developed world is a third generation driver. So there is hope for us in Jordan.

One frequent topic of meetings in the country is Jordan’s traffic problems, and it certainly is a popular subject for conversation in general. Relax everybody! Given enough time, customs and traditions of good driving will kick in, and Jordanians will steadily become better drivers. Now that is good news!


Sunday, October 01, 2006

Return of the Mesopotamian Marshlands

It's nice to hear some good news coming out of Iraq ... just goes to show what can be achieved when people work together: