Friday, August 31, 2007

Tower of Babble

Madaba, the 'City of Mosaics' famous for its 6th century map in the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George, is one of Jordan's chief historical and religious sites. Thousands of tourists visit this church and the environs of Madaba each year. For years I have driven in this area and marveled at the Madaba skyline with its church spires and minarets. Many times visitors have remarked on this skyline as well, especially that these symbols of Islam and Christianity are so close together in the same town.

But it has been for some time now that the communication tower erected so close to the church has really changed that skyline. How ugly it has become! Today I was passing by and decided to take these pictures so you could see what I mean. It was hard to get a good picture, but if you go there it is all to clear to see.

Can you imagine such a tower next to the Washington Monument or on Mount Rushmore? Or next to the Taj Mahal or the Great Wall of China or in the grounds of Stonehenge or the Tower of London? I can't believe that most Jordanians and especially the people of Madaba and the Ministry of Tourism really like this. Then again, maybe they haven't really noticed due to the abundance of so many misplaced ugly billboards. Ah well.......that's a subject for another blog........................z

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Lack of Mutual Respect

A photo in today’s paper shows the female members of a German orchestra wearing head scarves and shawls while performing in Tehran. I’m quite sure that if female members of an Iranian orchestra were performing in Germany, they would be allowed to wear their Muslim, traditional clothes if they so desired. Why the lack of mutual respect? I can’t imagine that German female performers in an orchestra would wear anything offensive to anyone. This kind of narrow-mindedness verges on racism as far as I’m concerned and is a scary and unattractive side to official Iran.

I remember Easter 1968 when Jerusalem had been occupied by Israel for less than one year. We saw Christian pilgrims return to our hotel for the Easter holidays and felt delighted to have some normalcy return to our business and our lives. As usual, Easter week coincided with the Jewish Passover week, so we also had some Jewish guests in the hotel as well. My husband had bought boxes of Matzah, unleavened cracker-like bread, to serve to his Jewish customers since we were told that Jews do not eat bread during Passover. However, when we served regular bread to our Christian customers, complaints rained down on us from the Jewish clients and their Israeli travel agents. It seems that no one is allowed to eat bread! This reaction to our serving all of our customers in the best way we knew, was our introduction to Israeli intolerance toward others who are different. I disliked the intolerance I witnessed then and will continue to abhor it whenever I see it.


Thursday, August 30, 2007

Moab Musings 20 August 2007

Before the day had even begun, my mind began to wander to a blog I wrote a year ago … someone please stop the world I want to get off … and I realized I still do … the world is even worse today, with 'war' on everyone's lips from Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and eventually Iran …. The great mythical rapture is 'a-comin', I mused with husband across the kitchen fixing a venetian blind whilst reading the paper.

"Hmmm", he says, "Angelina Joli is visiting a refugee camp on the Syrian/Iraqi border". That's good of her said me, thinking of those poor families, probably of Palestinian origin who are doomed to be branded 'refugee' for all eternity. But what can she do ... can she change the demented policies of Bush and his neocon Zionists that put them there in the first place …

And then Husband tells me the King's college has been officially opened …and all I could think about was that the kids who go there have to wear blazers all year … in this blazing heat!

"What's wrong with you, is there anything you havn't grumbled about this morning" he says with that gorgeous cheeky grin as his hand comes thumping down on the kitchen table to jolt me back to our own little reality; sending the bowl of sunflower seeds flying in all directions. "That's their business, leave them alone", he pleads. And while he sipped his Chinese tea, he paused and said, "and what about all those poor Chinese women who picked these tea leaves for a pittance while some fat cat gets rich on the pickings"?

Quite – and I continued to sip my Indian black tea … as the words of Antoine de St. Exupery came into mind "I know but one freedom and that is the freedom of the mind" ….

Note to self: of relevance only when that freedom is used for good … well, at least the venetian blind got fixed and then my mind began working overtime, so I decided to stay in this world another day …

"Husband dear, the washing machine's not working well, the bannister's coming off the wall and I think this kitchen needs a new coat of paint. I'm off for coffee, see you later!".

"Ok love, have fun …."


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Attacks on Doctors and Nurses

Not long ago there was another article in the Jordan Times about an attack on a doctor and a nurse at Al Bashir Hospital. Understandably emotions run high for people who have brought a family member to an emergency room. Watching helplessly while someone you care about is suffering is terrible; however, it is no excuse to become abusive, physically or verbally, toward a health worker. People actually attacked these two health workers because ------ ? Did they think that the care the patient received was too slow or negligent? Whatever their reason, physically attacking the doctor will not improve the situation for the patient, and any reasonable person must know that. What I found even stranger in the report was that the health worker would be arrested if the attacker raised a counter complaint. I have always understood that self defense is a universally accepted concept. In order to prevent the threat of our hospitals and clinics disintegrating into chaos, maybe more security personnel should visible.


Monday, August 27, 2007

pin numbers for credit cards

Now I have seen everything! Out at dinner this evening we paid the bill with a credit card and the waiter said 'sir if you like to give me your pin number I will enter it to save you from coming to the office'. Can you believe it??? On leaving the restaurant we told the owner what had happened and she said 'oh, so many people give the waiters their pin numbers that it is just normal'.

I was so amazed to think that people would entrust their pin numbers to total strangers. T

The preponderance of plans

Experts discuss mechanisms to protect consumers’ interests regarding energy
AMMAN (Petra) - Industrialists and energy experts on Saturday examined
means to arrive at appropriate energy prices as well as mechanisms to protect
consumers’ interests. During a workshop organised by the Jordan Consumer
Protection Society in cooperation with the Jordan Cement Factories
Company, Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Khalid Shraideh highlighted the need to make use of alternative and renewable sources of energy. Due to pressures exerted on this sector, the ministry plans to set up an energy fund to extend subsidies and soft loans to energy projects and studies, the minister indicated. The fund will finance energy projects and studies to improve energy production in all fields, Shraideh said. Discussions also focused on the effects the rise of energy prices have had on cement prices. Jordan Times, 26 August 07

So the government realizes the need for 'alternative energy' ie solar, only when it hurts the pocket … so I suppose twenty years late is better than never at all. We just don't seem to get beyond the talk/study/plan stage though….. Note in the above "Due to pressures exerted on this sector, the ministry plans to set up an energy fund to extend subsidies and soft loans to energy projects and studies".

Operative word here is "plans to" …. Why the need for more 'studies' … the technology is there, the citizens are crying out for it, so why not just set up a government subsidized industry to provide cost effective, mass produced, solar panels for the public?? Can't be that hard to do when we can build bridges, roads, overpasses and underpasses, towers and gated compounds at break neck speed. Why the fear of a few solar panels??

This 'drive' should have started years ago as we have the infrastructure such as the Royal Scientific Society, not to mention the various science departments at the various Universities, and the governmental Natural Resources Authority. Repeat: Natural – Resources – Authority, the entity that thinks only in terms of oil, copper mining, shale oil mining and nuclear energy … the most costly and destructive of all energy resources. Am I missing something here??

Winter is coming … another year of miserable cold for those who cannot afford to go solar on offer from the private sector; and the boilers and kerosene heaters work less and less throughout the long winter months.

If there is one thing Jordan has in abundance it is lots of sun … it also has the technology and the manpower, so where is the political will? Pity the government cannot see this; must be blinded by the light …. J

Sunday, August 26, 2007

paying Orbit subscription

I went to pay my subscription for Orbit TV yesterday and found that if I want the same package as last year it would cost me nearly JD 100 more!! So now am paying the same as last year but for less channels. They advertise that their super mega package is JD 26 per month but in reality it is JD 30 per month once tax is added. Surely there must be a law to say that advertised prices should include the appropriate tax? And there is no discount if you pay a year's sub or monthly. I wanted to go to Showtime but think that is even more expensive and inconvenient to change over. So what can one do? Pay the bill and get on with it I suppose! T

Friday, August 24, 2007


A well-respected hard working professional is on his way to work in the morning when a car pulls up in front of him and he is forced to stop. Three men get out of the car in front of him, walk back to his car, address him by name and tell him to come with them. They are taking him to the 'mukhabarat' (intelligence bureau) for questioning. As he had several important appointments at his office that morning his secretary soon starts calling his home asking of his wherabouts. Neither of his cell phones are working. The family begins to check with friends to ask if they have seen him. When he doesn't show up to lunch in his punctual fashion his family gets increasingly concerned. Eventually they are checking with the police, physically checking in restaurants, hotels, and in hospitals to see if they can find him. In the late afternoon his frantic wife finely receives a telephone call from him and he arrives home having been held at the intelligence bureau all day for questioning.

Does this sound like something that happens in Russia or some repressive Arab regime? Unfortunately, this happened in Amman a few days ago. I simply can't understand why the 'mukhabarat' has to resort to these 'gestapo' tactics. I am sure the said gentleman, who has nothing to hide, would have gone to the 'mukhabarat' quite peacefully on his own had they just called him up and said they would like to ask him a few questions.

Rami Khoury's recent article (Aug. 15, 2007) about reform never rang more true. In it he writes: 'Reforming prevailing political, economic, security and administrative systems in the Arab world is a critical prerequisite for any hopes for stability, prosperity and a normal life for the majority of citizens.....Jordan's track record is important because its leadership has trumpeted reform as a major goal and achievement, it has made impressive progress in some areas, yet is has suffered serious shortcoming in others' ...................z

Sunday, August 19, 2007

what to do whilst waiting in a traffic jam

One can drive all round the houses looking for quicker ways to get from A to Z but however clever you think you are you still end up in a traffic jam. As I was sitting in one this morning it brought me to thinking how can one amuse oneself sitting in a car going nowhere? The traffic going in the opposite direction was moving quite freely so I started watching to see how many cars were breaking the law. Twenty went by and EVERY SINGLE ONE was breaking the law in some way. Then the traffic started to move so I got up to the lights which turned red and four cars sped over. Well, that was the end of my amusing myself in that way! Just makes one more frustrated.

I just cannot understand why the traffic police do not start applying the law more stringently. People just disobey traffic rules because they know they can get away with it. T

Saturday, August 18, 2007

A land of promise

I learnt today that the term 'refugee' originated from the French when in the early 1700s thousands of French Protestants, known as the Huguenots, fled religious persecution and spread out over Protestant Europe – 50 thousand of them landing on the British shores in search of refuge and thus the term 'refugie' was born.

'Refugee' is a term we know well in Jordan.
The word may be new;
But the process is not.

People have fled persecution since the dawn of time
Towards our land of promise;
Hope everlasting.

For the land 'beyond the Jordan' has always been
A place of refuge;
A 'blessed neighbourhood'

Of silence and the sounds of survival
Thousands of years and counting.

And so it continues ...

But a strange wind is now blowing down the King's Highway
Taking the sheath from the husk
Of our existence.

For how much longer will our neighbourhood be blessed? ...J

Friday, August 17, 2007

Chicken Shawerma

Collective punishment certainly describes the government’s reaction to this week’s unfortunate salmonella poisoning of over 200 people in Baqaa. This is one incident, one area, one case. It is too bad; it shouldn’t have happened, and wouldn’t have happened if the guidelines concerning food preparation, storage, and serving had been followed. But, it happened, and those responsible should be held accountable. I am sure that the incident was a reminder to all other licensed food outlets that sell chicken shawerma to review their standards and check their premises for cleanliness. Closing them all down will probably prevent another outbreak of salmonella for the time being, but it should be illegal for the government to punish everyone in this way. Anyone found to be in violation of correct food handling must be fined or censured by the government on an individual basis, not by some blanket order. I am shocked that there is no ‘due process’ and apparently little recourse open to licensed vendors. Those who operate within the law must have their rights respected. I find this collective punishment a bizarre kind of logic reminiscent of a tragic hit and run accident some years ago. A child was killed by the driver of a BMW. One comment I heard at the time was that the government should ban BMWs to be imported into Jordan and somehow that would lower the accident rate!


Moab Musings

"At this critical point in time, the international community has a moral obligation to continue its support for [Palestinian Authority Chairman] Mahmoud Abbas, and those who wish to bring peace to the region", said Israeli Ambassador to UK Zvi Heifetz recently, while condemning comments by a British parliamentary committee, which said that the boycott of the Palestinian Hamas was counterproductive.

Heifetz has a funny notion of how to bring peace to Arab and Jew, but he is not alone.

Take for instance the Christians United for Israel zealots and their nasty little convention antics captured so cleverly on video by Max Blumenthal. This is a CUFI yearly meeting in America under the maniacal leadership of 'Pastor' John Hagee - that got rich quick tv con artist cum evangelist, now multi-millionaire. Their mantra is Armageddon … the end-times scenario …that great historical political con job, or in other words, worldwide nuclear war that will save the Jewish people and open the doors to the second coming.
The 'thing' that Tom Delay "lives for" …..

So for the sake of the Jewish people – a few million of them - the whole world has to suffer. Because, as one of the participants said, "our common enemy is the Muslim, if we don't take out Iran, the Muslims will take over and come here". And then his wife butts in with this little gem "the one who forces Israel into a peace treaty with the Arabs is … "the beast" … ie the bad guy …the force of evil personified who will be consumed by fire and brimstone in hell for ever and ever Amen.

And then I got to thinking, wow, Tony Blair, look what you've got ahead of you … now that would be a legacy if you achieved victory – Blair the Beast!

But the sad reality is that these demonic fools are the ones who influence foreign policy in America, along with their political lackeys Tom Delay, Joe Lieberman Rick Santorum and AIPAC et al.

Israel, are you listening … because when Armageddon does start … you had better be prepared to enter the pearly gates of heaven, because that is where these nutcases want you to go. Don't worry we shall be there to keep you company along with the rest of us 'who wish to bring peace to the region'!

Oh by the way CZs at the CUFI you obviously don't read
… all peacemakers go to heaven …doh! J

Rapture Ready: The Christians United for Israel Tour by Max Blumenthal
Llink that challenges Christian Zionism with some interesting commentary on the Jordan scene

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Delectable delights of an Arab Kitchen

Egyptian karkadeh - darker in colour than its Sudanese counterpart

One of the good things about this big melting pot of a world we live in, is that local delicacies cross borders and cultures and enter the kitchen through the back door. Jordan, being at the crossroads of rich cultures and ancient trade routes, has a fascinating back door into the spice trade of the orient – one that can be found at a moment's notice in the souk's of the city centre or the up market spice shops of Western Amman. As a young mother in Amman, it was a joy to be exposed to my husband's vast knowledge of local herbs that have long been a staple in my kitchen cupboard. One herb that stands out in my kitchen is the dried sepals of the singularly beautiful flower, hibiscus sabdariffa, or 'karkadeh' that takes pride of place. I have also enjoyed trekking downtown to buy supplies direct from the merchant out of sacks direct from the Sudan; something I have been doing on a regular basis for the last twenty five years. A way of life now hanging in the balance.

Downtown Souk, Amman

Native from India to Malaysia, hibiscus s. is now widely distributed and cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions all around the globe. Here in Jordan the dried husks of the hibiscus s. have been a part of the important Arab spice trade since the time of the Nabataeans and probably before. The preferred drink of the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt, the husks (or flower sepals: the group of sepals, around the outside of a flower that encloses and protects the flower bud) give us a wonderful herbal drink, known in this part of the world as 'karkadeh', popular as a hot tea in the winter or a refreshing cold drink in the summer.

Rich in vitamin C, calcium, niacin, riboflavin, and iron, karkadeh is easily digested and distinguished by its crimson red colour and piquant flavour. Karkade also goes by an assortment of other names, such as rozelle, African mallow, sour-sour, Queensland jelly plant, jelly okra, lemon bush, Florida cranberry, Guinea sorrel, Indian sorrel and Jamaican sorrel. But did you know that in the Sudan, fermented hibiscus seeds are used to make furundu – a sort of meat substitute which is traditionally prepared by cooking the karkade seeds and then fermenting them for nine days?

Apart from culinary uses, 'karkadeh' has many medicinal properties, such as maintaining a healthy digestive and urinary tract system, and inhibiting lipoprotein lipase, an enzyme indirectly responsible for the storage of cellular fat. Hence the use of karkadeh in anti-cellulite products.

Whatever it's use, the warm, rich colours of dried karakadeh husks is a welcome sight ... it's a pity that my mum never gets to see it on a regular basis like this - she gets it powdered and neatly packaged into tea bags, sitting on supermarket shelves; at least once a year her kitchen cupboard get's an overhaul from me and my friend's from the souk.

So for a refreshing jug of cold or hot infusion, simply put one handful of karkadeh husks in a large teapot, add boiling water and leave to stand for 5 - 10 minutes if you wish to drink it hot. Allow to cool in the fridge for a refreshing cocktail at sunset. To take the edge off that piquant flavour, add honey or sugar to taste or simply adjust the quantity of karkadeh husks. For a slight variation try adding lemon/orange peel, cinnamon, cloves or Chinese star anise seeds.

Or, as suggested by one of my breakfast buddies, "it goes remarkably well with a slug of gin or vodka".

Cheers! J

PS and for all you culinary kings and queens out there, suggest you get yourselves a copy of a great little book now available: "Jordan, The Land and the Table" by Cecil Hourani, published in the UK by Elliott & Thompson, 2006

Monday, August 13, 2007

A visit to the Sharia court

I am going to write a blog about inheritance and the many problems that arise when care and thought are not used. But that is for another time.

Today a friend and I went to the Sharia Court on Jebel Hussein and met a lovely Sheikh who was so helpful and kind. BUT what squalor they work in. I was shocked that the building was absolutely filthy and in a terrible state. How can you dispense justice in such terrible surroundings?

As an aside it was interesting to note that in 2005 there were approximately 51,000 marriages and 9,000 divorces. It seems the divorce rate has risen steeply in recent years. T

A Visit to Saarland

It’s been some weeks since I published a posting because my normal schedule evaporated with Jordan’s dry summer weather. My summer began with a medical visit to Germany for elective surgery for my husband. Thankfully the surgery went well and the time I spent in the small German town of Saarlouis was a pleasant change from the traffic and congestion in Amman. Saarlouis, founded in 1680 by Louis XIV of France, is a quaint town located in the southern German state of Saarland. One can easily envision walls and fortifications that may have surrounded the town centuries ago, although they are no longer there except for the outcropping of small sections of stone walls here and there. The narrow streets in the old town are cobble stoned and one can easily walk everywhere within minutes. Early in the morning vendors sell fresh flowers and produce in stalls on the town square. By noon these shut and people begin to fill the small restaurants and cafes for lunch. I know that Saarlouis shares many charming characteristics with other small towns in Europe, but I discovered one amazing fact about it. Saarlouis belonged first to France and then to Germany. Apparently it was traded back and forth without much bloodshed several times. However, in the early 1960s the people of Saarlouis held an election to choose the country that they wanted to belong to. Apparently there was a lot of discussion and considerable discord, but in the end they voted to become part of Germany. How civilized! How grown-up, and certainly a far cry from the experience of the people in the Middle East!


Friday, August 10, 2007

the problems of living in an apartment building

I live in an apartment building which is divided into 12. We all pay monthly for the guard, electricity, elevator, cleaning and routine maintenance etc and occasionally have to pay more for painting the stairways, plants and other things that crop up. Now we are having to come up with JD 400 each for some major repairs in the garage area. Everyone is very cooperative except for one person who has not paid the monthly charges for over a year and has not come up with the maintenance payment. In fact he now owes about JD 1,000.

The apartment he owns is not his main place of residence so he is not there most of the time. He uses it for various activities. He is the owner of a bank and is extremely wealthy - how do we get the money out of him?????? T

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Who reads the Jordan Times?

I have been reading the Jordan Times for many, many years but have been wondering lately why do we have an English language newspaper and who reads it? Well, I imagine the readership is all foreign spouses of Jordanians, diplomats from embassies and all other foreigners working or holidaying here. So what do we want and expect? Personally I would prefer more local news. The internet is so widely used that foreign news is easily available so we do not need so many foreign stories and pictures. The opinion and analysis page could do with more of Nermeen Murad and Randa Habib who take on local happenings and comment on them. I certainly could not do without my daily dose of the crossword.

So come on JT think who your readers are and give them a Jordanian service. T

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Political satire

Brilliant article that will bring a smile to your face ... and god knows you need one! J

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Moab Musings

America the great, the humanitarian, has found a way to solve the 'perceived' problems of the Middle East, by giving our duped governments unlimited weapons of mass destruction so that we can all shoot each other, and die, die, die. Then, Israel gets the lands of Arabia to roam on at will, America gets a clear conscience, and Palestine and the face of the Arab 'terrorist' is wiped off the map.

Hark, the Neo-cons, Zionists and Fascists of this world sing in unison: 'free at last, free at last, free at last' ….

We would do well to recall the warning of Jean Paul Marat, the eighteenth century French 'People's Friend", physician, philosopher and journalist, who wrote:

"Don't be taken in when they paternally pat you on the shoulder and say that there's no inequality worth speaking of and no more reason to fight because if you believe them they will be completely in charge in their marble homes and granite banks from which they rob the people of the world under the pretence of bringing them culture. Watch out, for as soon as it pleases them they'll send you out to protect their gold in wars whose weapons, rapidly developed by servile scientists, will become more and more deadly until they can with a flick of the finger tear a million of you to pieces"
Jean-Paul Marat
born in Switzerland 24 May 1743; murdered in France 13 July 1793.