Monday, April 30, 2007

Time for a National Heritage Trust

Disi at dusk

That's it! I'm leaving this beautiful country in search of pastures green untouched by human hand ... hmmm difficult task, ok scrap that! But I despair for the land, every square pristine inch of it and mourn its passing under tons of cement ... no-where is safe anymore as 'they' have succeeded in demolishing the image that Jordan once had of a special place in this country - pristine, pure, peaceful and beautiful – the developers are moving in to one of the world's most stunning desert landscapes – Wadi Rum – albeit it outside the nature reserve – ok probably Disi with its wonderful salt flats and stunning environment.

It was only a matter of time I suppose, simply because the national government in its infinite wisdom rescinded its rights and therefore mine, over southern Jordan (including Aqaba, Wadi Rum/Disi and beyond) and handed these national icons over to an entity (ASEZA) whose remit is purely economic development – ie investment,
so that big business who hold such compassion for the locals, can create jobs, apparently; how 'big' of them.

'They' are going to build a tourism resort with hotels et al in the heart of the desert - how can that be ecofriendly? It's still development for the benefit of the investor, big business should leave the desert alone. This is a place where people can escape the mad hussle and bustle of twenty first century consumerist living – to a world that is pure and simple.

…So pray, what is so wrong with camping? If I want to stay in a hotel, I will go to Aqaba or Petra or the Dead Sea - I go to the desert for camping and to look at the lay of the land, the undulating sand dunes, and listen to the silence of large open spaces and watch the phosphate train meander slowly through the mountain range. Full stop.

That is why people come to the desert in the first place … to escape all that development, because at the end of the day … the desert is one of the few remaining places on earth where we can escape notions of development … ooooppppps silly me, I forgot this is a tourism project, so it's not designed for me anyway, rather all those foreigners who come to the desert to camp and to emerse themselves in local culture - ie tents, climbing, camel rides and tea with the locals!

Do the people of Wadi Rum or Disi have a say in this, or even the National Minister of the Environment for that matter? – and what of all the little projects that the locals wanted to do … or are they not good enough for the likes of ASEZA?

Time for a National Heritage Trust - one that has clout.

PS this ranting post is in response to an article in today's Jordan Times … you had better check it within seven days … otherwise it will disappear … despite all the profits the Al Rai newspaper group is making these days, they can't seem to get their act together to create an online archive … so much for development.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Condolence Customs

When I first arrived in Jordan, I found the condolence customs overwhelming. Because they were steeped in rigid tradition and duty, I thought they were hypocritical as well. I have changed my mind since.

My husband is related to several thousand people who all live in Jordan. When someone dies in his family or tribe, which happens quite often - he had three deaths in his family this month - he may spend the three days of official mourning sitting with the close male relatives of the deceased to receive condolences. However, if the deceased isn’t closely related or known to him, he will make one brief condolence visit to the family which is the more common practice. The obituaries in the daily papers dictate which visits he must make on any given day. These will include the Jordanian society at large as well as his family. He considers making a condolence call his duty and one that he and all Jordanians seriously honor.

Years ago the mourning period lasted for 40 days. It was the men who traveled from one village or tribe to another to make the condolence calls and the women stayed at home. The women of the grieving family had to cook and take care of guests throughout that 40 day period. The burden on the grieving family was monetarily and emotionally exhausting. My mother-in-law used to say that at the end of 40 days their grief was completely spent, and they were eager to get back to their normal lives. I’m sure they were. Of course 40 days of official mourning isn’t compatible with modern life, but sadly in America the family of the deceased is generally left alone to struggle with their feelings as best they can. Their grief is private and probably more difficult to overcome because of it.

As inconvenient as mourning customs can be, they are healthy and supportive to those who are grieving. That is what they are all about. If my presence will momentarily relieve the pain of someone who grieves, I feel grateful. And when I grieve, I am comforted by the touch and embrace of each person who has made the effort to see me. For a moment I feel the universal connection that binds me to others, and this is compassion when we need it most.


Monday, April 16, 2007

Graffiti in Jordan


Moab Musings … or What the Bleep …?

Reading the news and sensing that common, nasty, gut feeling swell up in the pit of the stomach at the state of the world and his aunt; at the state of the world's climate (snow in the Jordanian desert on Friday 13 April and flash floods and mud slides in Ma'in Hot Springs that sadly killed two Russian tourists); and the harrowing mystery of bee colony collapse on a massive scale – I was in need of a change.

So I turned to something completely different: the documentary film, "What the Bleep Do We Know?" – a film where science and spirituality come together in a 'mind-bending trip down the rabbit hole' -

'Time to get wise', were the words on the front of the DVD cover, which was in essence the message from the Conference of the Academy of Latinity currently under way in Amman. But when the delegates were reminded of the principles of the UN Charter and of UNESCO … all I could think of was 'how sad', 'you're preaching to the wrong audience '. I would have staged this conference in Washington, or 10 Downing Street; but at least the point was made.

'Time to get wise'; unless of course the plan is to follow the bees into oblivion, along with the Black Iris? J

Jordan Times Sunday, April 15, 2007:
Prince Hassan calls for culture of compliance

AMMAN (JT) — HRH Prince Hassan on Saturday said that a culture of compliance with international humanitarian law was essential to healing rifts and bringing justice to the Middle East and elsewhere.
Addressing the theme of “The ‘Universal’ in Human Rights” at the opening of the 15th Conference of the Academy of Latinity, the Prince said Arabs are labelled as humiliated and angry by many in the West, but few ask why this might be so or acknowledge that any community or race would react in a similar fashion when confronted with the unfair policies of leading powers.
Echoing Prince Hassan’s sentiments, Federico Mayor, president of the academy and former head of UNESCO, reminded delegates of the principles of the UN Charter and of UNESCO.
He called for an honest recognition of the diversity of people and an enforcement of the post-World War II call for promoting peace in the minds of man.
Dignitaries and scholars from across the Mediterranean and Latin worlds attending the four-day conference will examine the universal nature of human rights, explore the topic in a variety of ways and ask if a universal understanding of human rights is a precondition for a dialogue of cultures.
Enrique Iglesias from Uruguay painted a bleak picture of the state of the world in the early part of the 21st century.
The secretary general of the Ibero-American secretariat lamented that hope had turned to frustration, optimism to despair and tolerance to violence, calling for increased efforts to involve religious leaders in a search for a workable structure for universal rights and values.
The Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies is co-hosting the conference.
Jordan Times Sunday, April 15, 2007

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Black Beauty

If you want to see the Black Iris, Jordan’s national flower, this is the time of year to look for it. Soon the season will be over and the flower won’t appear again until next year. The most likely place to spot these flowers is in the area between Madaba and Kerak. The black color is striking and you can see the flowers from quite a distance. They are often growing in clusters. A closer look reveals a velvety flower with a glossy luster and at its base three petals curving downward. The leaves have a slight curl.

North of Amman one can find the Gilead Iris, which is also black, but don't confuse it with the Black Iris. It is a larger plant, the flowers lined with more veins and the leaves straight and sword shaped. South of Tafileh you might find the Petra Iris, which looks similar to the Black Iris but has a slightly different color and a shorter stem.

Unfortunately, many people are digging up these endangered species and trying to plant them in their gardens. In fact on Saturday I was near Madaba and was told that some minister along with his crew were digging up the black iris plants and putting them in boxes to take to his house-garden. Usually they do not do well under such circumstances due to the different environment and change in soil conditions. So if you find them please leave them where they are for all to enjoy!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

One Year On

One year ago we started Jordan Journals. Our readership according to the ClustrMap on the blog site shows that people from all over the world visit us. Most of the comments left by readers seem to come from Jordanians or people who live in Jordan now or have lived or visited Jordan. We at Jordan Journals would like to hear from you and what you think about our site. Is there some area that we haven’t touched upon and you would like us to? Do you find information about Jordan that is useful? Do you enjoy the photos, links, and comments? Take a minute and let us know.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Ancient Jordan from the Air

This is the marvellous book showing pictures of Jordan from the air. You just never know what is there from the ground but the treasures that appear when looking from the air are amazing. The picture below shows First World War trenches near the railway station at Ma'an (taken September 2002). Hopefully they are still there!

Ancient Jordan from the Air by David Kennedy and Robert Bewley (ISBN 0-9539102-2-9). If it cannot be found in a bookshop it is certainly available at the Council for British Research in Levant (CBRL) in Tila'al Ali tel no 5341317. All the photos that David and Bob take are available to look at at the Department of Antiquities and the CBRL. T

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

the scourge of the bulldozer in Jordan

I have just been to an interesting lecture by Professor David Kennedy who has been coming to Jordan for 30 years and is an aerial archaeologist. He has been taking photos of Jordan since 1997 which are the first since an earlier survey in the 1950s.

What is so scary is the rapid speed of the degradation of our antique sites. The bulldozers move in and flatten sites without any restriction or comeback.

Jordan is the only Middle Eastern country that has allowed this remarkable access from the air and Professor Kennedy and Dr Bewley have produced a wonderful book titled 'Ancient Jordan from the Air'. T

Monday, April 09, 2007

A Beautiful Weed

If you venture out of town these days you can easily spot this wildflower called the Common Mallow. It is considered a spreading annual or perennial depending on its location. It grows in fields, gardens, and in disturbed areas such as along the side of a road.
Its flowers are white to lavender and have dark violet veins. The flowers grow in clusters of one to three from a thick straight tap root.

There are said to be many uses for this plant. The leaves and young shoots can be eaten raw as in salad or cooked as a vegetable. Having a mild pleasant flavor they are said to be highly nutritious. The dried leaves can also be used for tea. The leaves and flowers also make a good poultice for bruises, insect bites or can be taken internally as a treatment for respiratory problems or inflammations of the digestive or urinary systems. Lastly, cream yellow and green dyes can be made from the leaves and the seed heads.

Interestingly, in the US the Common Mallow is on a Weed Alert in the Western, Northcentral, Northeast and Southern areas..........z
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Saturday, April 07, 2007


We all know that the instinct for survival is one of man’s strongest instincts, but only on an individual basis. Collectively the human race doesn’t do so well. During the first half of the last century Bertrand Russell, the British philosopher and prolific writer, warned of the overpopulation of the earth. In 1922 he gave a lecture on Birth Control and International Relations and I quote:
“--- the one real remedy is birth control, that is getting the people of the world to limit themselves to those numbers which they can keep upon their own soil ----.” And in 1951 he wrote, “At present the population of the world is increasing at about 58,000 per diem. War, so far, has had no very great effect on this increase, which continued throughout each of the world wars --- War --- has hitherto been disappointing in this respect --- but perhaps bacteriological war may prove more effective. If a Black Death could spread throughout the world once in every generation, survivors could procreate freely without making the world too full --- The state of affairs might be somewhat unpleasant, but what of it?”

Unpleasant is hardly the word. It would be absolutely tragic when we have been warned and have the means to stop the population explosion. Attention to limiting global warming and to protecting natural resources is essential, but without tough national policies on birth control working side by side, they will never be enough to protect our planet. Education about the necessity of birth control and the availability of products to practice it is the first step. Stringent laws that make having large numbers of children uneconomical wouldn’t hurt either. Wars, bird flu, HIV Aids, malaria, TB, and other disease killers may take their toll, but enormous numbers of people will continue to be born unless there is a conscious effort to put some effective controls in place. How many thousands of babies have been born into this world during the few minutes that it took you to read this blog? In Jordan one is born every three minutes!


Union of Concerned Scientists

Planet earth calling!

What with climate change, pollution, desertification, wars, more wars and murders galore - thought we should add another thought - why the rush in Jordan of all places to go 'nuclear' ...
(along with rumblings from Gulf Arab states about nuclear energy ... )

... and meanwhile, back in the good ole' U.S of A.... something ominous is at work, brought to our attention by the American based Union of Concerned Scientists.

So much for nuclear non-proliferation! ...J

Friday, April 06, 2007

Moab musings 4/07

The sun shines through my office window today;
my blackbird has returned.
Flying from one tree to another, singing its little heart out,
it is indeed a sign of spring, a new beginning;
but alas, lurking on the neighbour's fir tree is that raven ...
as distant clouds assemble, I wonder
for how much longer will my blackbird sing?

It's funny how nature replicates life;
a powerful metaphor
for the state of our world.

And if that is not enough,
something extraordinary is about to happen on
April 15;
Parliament is to endorse several bills,
with one on nuclear energy no less ...
no mention of solar energy though ....

.... and as the raven flies over its domain,
so too do the clouds begin to shut out
the rays of the sun
fragmenting through my window.

Happy Easter .... J

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Horns of the Gazelle

Here is a picture of my favorite wild flower in Jordan: the Cyclamen. They are a genus of plants containing 20 species and which are native to the Mediterranean region, western Asia and parts of North Africa including Somalia. They are hardy tuberous plants that can tolerate very cold and also very dry conditions. Their habitats range from beech woodland, through scrub and rocky areas, to alpine meadows. The genus is notable for the fact that although it is small, there are species which flower every month of the year.

This species, Cyclamen persicum, found in Jordan flowers in the early spring and dies down during the hottest part of the summer. The Cyclamen in this picture were found in the northern part of Jordan near Ajloun and a little village called Ishtefena. They were growing in the rocky wooded pine area which is suitable for them as the pines shade them from the hot sunlight and the rocky crevices shield their bulb like roots from grazing sheep and goats.

The Jordanians have several names for this flower, my favorite being 'the horns of the gazelle'..z

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Solar energy from plastic ...

Here's an interesting article that appeared in Canadian press in 2005

"New plastic can better convert solar energy
Updated Sun. Jan. 9 2005 11:54 PM ET"

TORONTO -- Researchers at the University of Toronto have invented an infrared-sensitive material that's five times more efficient at turning the sun's power into electrical energy than current methods.

The discovery could lead to shirts and sweaters capable of recharging our cellphones and other wireless devices, said Ted Sargent, professor of electrical and computer engineering at the university.

Sargent and other researchers combined specially-designed minute particles called quantum dots, three to four nanometres across, with a polymer to make a plastic that can detect energy in the infrared.

Infrared light is not visible to the naked eye but it is what most remote controls emit, in small amounts, to control devices such as TVs and DVD players.

It also contains a huge untapped resource -- despite the surge in popularity of solar cells in the 1990s, we still miss half of the sun's power, Sargent said.

"In fact, there's enough power from the sun hitting the Earth every day to supply all the world's needs for energy 10,000 times over,'' Sargent said in a phone interview Sunday from Boston. He is currently a visiting professor of nanotechnology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Sargent said the new plastic composite is, in layman's terms, a layer of film that "catches'' solar energy. He said the film can be applied to any device, much like paint is coated on a wall.

"We've done the same thing, but not with something that just sit there on the wall the way paint does,'' said the Ottawa native.

"We've done it to make a device which actually harnesses the power in the room in the infrared.''

The film can convert up to 30 per cent of the sun's power into usable, electrical energy. Today's best plastic solar cells capture only about six per cent.

Sargent said the advance would not only wipe away that inefficiency, but also resolve the hassle of recharging our countless gadgets and pave the way to a true wireless world.

"We now have our cellphones and our BlackBerries and we're walking around without the need to plug in, in order to get our data,'' he said.

"But we seem trapped at the moment in needing to plug in to get our power. That's because we charge these things up electrically, from the outlet. But there's actually huge amounts of power all around us coming from the sun.''

The film has the ability to be sprayed or woven into shirts so that our cuffs or collars could recharge our IPods, Sargent said.

While that may sound like a Star Trek dream, venture capitalists are keen to Sargent's invention.

Josh Wolfe, managing partner at Lux Capital, a New York City-based venture capital firm, said while such a luxury may be five years away, the technology knows no bounds.

"When you have a material advance which literally materially changes the way that energy is absorbed and transmitted to our devices... somebody out there tinkering away in a bedroom or in a government lab is going to come up with a great idea for a new device that will shock us all,'' he said in a phone interview.

"When the Internet was created nobody envisioned that the killer app (application) would be e-mail or instant messaging.''

Sargent's work was published in the online edition of Nature Materials on Sunday and will appear in its February issue.

So why the need to go nuclear? ...J

Solar, not Nuclear

Due to the one sided editorial in the Jordan Times of 3 April 07, promoting nuclear energy for Jordan - (question: who actually wrote that piece??) - I felt the need to do a bit of research to get a clearer picture of what we are talking about, especially regarding the pros and cons of nuclear technology. I also strongly feel that this issue should be debated in public considering the 'fallout' or negative aspects of the nuclear industry. It's bad enough that Israel, Iran, Pakistan and India all have it - do we really need it too?

We would do well to heed the message of the 'cons' of nuclear technology when we realise nuclear 'waste' and its disposal continues to be an unsolved dilemma; it's going to be around for thousands of years polluting this tiny planet we all live on. Read 'cancer' for ever. I can't help but wonder why no serious effort has been carried out to highlight the obvious, alternative and renewable sources of energy that do not pollute the environment, such as solar and wind energy? Why the rush to go nuclear? The political dimension of this issue strikes me as quite ominous. Surely costs involved in developing non polluting alternative energy sources are cheaper than those related to setting up nuclear power stations?

And what of the solar energy research station that sits all alone along the southern Aqaba highway and has been there for decades? Does anyone know if the research has been published?

The following comment on the Time for Change website, promotes the use of CSP (concentrating solar power) as a viable, cost effective alternative - an untapped resource that Jordan is blessed with in abundance;

The question is: is Jordan even considering this option? J

The Time for Change website: Solar, not nuclear energy
Regarding "Pros and cons of nuclear power " (2007-01-09), it is surprising that anyone should be considering building new nuclear power plants in the US when there is a simple mature technology available that can deliver huge amounts of clean energy without any of the headaches of nuclear power.
I refer to 'concentrating solar power' (CSP), the technique of concentrating sunlight using mirrors to create heat, and then using the heat to raise steam and drive turbines and generators, just like a conventional power station. It is possible to store solar heat in melted salts so that electricity generation may continue through the night or on cloudy days. This technology has been generating electricity successfully in California since 1985 and half a million Californians currently get their electricity from this source. CSP plants are now being planned or built in many parts of the world.
CSP works best in hot deserts and, of course, these are not always nearby! But it is feasible and economic to transmit solar electricity over very long distances using highly-efficient 'HVDC' transmission lines. With transmission losses at about 3% per 1000 km, solar electricity may be transmitted to anywhere in the US. A portion of the Mojave desert would be sufficient to meet the entire current US demand for electricity.
In the recent 'TRANS-CSP' report commissioned by the German government, it is estimated that CSP electricity, imported from North Africa and the Middle East, could become one of the cheapest sources of electricity in Europe, including the cost of transmission. A large-scale HVDC transmission grid has also been proposed by Airtricity as a means of optimising the use of wind power throughout Europe.

Further information about CSP may be found at and Copies of the TRANS-CSP report may be downloaded from

The many problems associated with nuclear power are summarised at

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

When is the Right Time to Talk?

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's visit to Syria seems to have created quite a controversy in the US. The administration is against the visit with the State Department spokesman saying, 'In our view, this is not the right time to have these sort of high-profile visitors to Syria.' I wonder when they think it would be the right time to talk.

At an early age we are taught to do things in a certain logical order to prevent or solve problems or to make our lives less complicated and to accomplish things with our best performance. Some simple examples: we are taught to take precautions before a storm or before a fire, not afterwards. We practice running before the race, not afterwards. We are urged to talk before a divorce, not afterwards. And so it seems only logical to talk with those we disagree with before these disagreements or misunderstandings bring us to a violent confrontation, not afterwards.

Nancy Pelosi, this is the right time to talk with the Syrians! And perhaps after this visit you should go to Iran! The US hasn't had diplomatic relations with them since 1980 so is relegated to shouting at them rather than talking to them when they disagree with what they are doing. Doesn't that remind you of children in kindergarten?...........z