Sunday, August 31, 2008

airport experiences

 I travelled through Terminal One at QAIA the other day to London and ended up with a severe headache and smelling of cigarette smoke with drilling being done at the entrance to the departure lounge. The noise was unbelievable and the men were puffing away at their cigarettes in a no-smoking zone.  Surely some sort of partition could have been put up.   The search booths for women were better than before except for stuff scattered around the floor and even a broken chair in one corner!
Then I got to Terminal Three at London Heathrow and decided that it was crappy too! Travelling is a lottery but airports that are well designed and maintained can really reduce the stress of flying.  Singapore airport is my favourite.  T

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Drastic plastic!

Morsbags anyone??


Moab musings

Woke up this morning and felt like this:

"O for a lodge in some vast wilderness,
Some boundless contiguity of shade;
Where rumor of oppression and deceit,
Of unsuccessful or successful war,
Might never reach me more".
William Cowper

But then, after a daily dose of the JT, whoooaooo! Things are looking a little brighter:


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Price of Olive Oil - As I See It

As a very tiny producer of olive oil, I have read with interest the various articles in the Jordan Times regarding the suggested price for a 16 litre tin of olive oil this year. The Ministry of Agriculture has suggested that the fair price for a tin of olive oil would be between 50 and 60 dinars, the same as it was last year. Those big producers who still have large quantities of oil to sell from last year may be able to sell at that price, but not so the small farmers. They have sold their oil and this year they will have to pay pickers more due to the increase in prices of just about everything from food to clothes. They will have to pay more to transport the olives to the press due to the increase in fuel prices. For the same reason they will have to pay more to have the olives pressed. In addition, everyone I know says this is a poor season for olives. Therefore, it is only natural that the tin should sell for more than last year.

The Ministry should review what they think is a fair price considering the facts above. I don’t make a living out of this business but there are many small farmers who live the year off what they get from their sale of olive oil. The government needs to take those farmers into consideration..........z

Sunday, August 24, 2008

why do we have to be assaulted by sound at the cinema?

We went and saw Mamma Mia last night at the Zara cinema. Most enjoyable film but the sound system in the cinema was appalling. The trailers and adverts are totally deafening and the film itself had a very uneven sound. Even with my ear plugs I felt assaulted.

It seems to be the habit for cinemas here to put the sound as loud as possible for some reason. This really puts me off going to watch a film. What can one do about it? Suffer in silence? Or do most audiences enjoy the noise?

While on the subject of cinemas how do they make any money? The last few times I have been to a film there has been a maximum of 20 people and sometimes just 3 or 4 and still they keep on building them! T

Friday, August 22, 2008

Free speech? Really Mr Westergaard!

So Mr Westergaard thinks he will not have a fair trial in Jordan …. I think Jordan has not been given a fair assessement by this obviously world renowned antagonist who believes that any expression of racism, hatred and intolerance is his democratic right, true to Danish traditions and law. Denmark are you listening? Do you really want to be represented by a bigot and a racist?

If the West can have a law that makes anti-semitic statements particularly against the holocaust, a crime against humanity and thus illegal, subject to imprisonment, then why should the same notion of what is right and wrong not apply to defamation of religious values for all faiths? Ooops forgot, this is a law enacted exclusively to protect semites of the Jewish faith only. So much for objectivity in the law.

Surely defaming other religions in the name of free speech is a red line too and has nothing to do with democracy, rather responsibility? After all, fifty people around the world lost their lives because of Mr Westergaard’s misconceived notions of free speech and he should be held accountable.

As Mr Westergaard is so concerned about his treatment in Jordan, while he is waiting for the reply of the Jordanian Embassy in Germany, allow me to offer some assistance while he is in our protective, hospitable custody:

1. Of course you can have pork in your meals Mr Westergaard, in fact to make sure it is pork, I shall arrange for a pig to sacrifice it’s life for you. But before this animal is offered up in peace, it shall share your single cell, so that you know it is actually pork, and when you get hungry I shall send in the butcher to slaughter it Islamic style. Then you can have the pleasure of turning it into ham yourself for your culinary delight, all within the comfort of your ‘cell’.

2. And of course you can have a tree in your cell Mr Westergaard, it would be nice for the pig! Although you say ‘christmas’, which specific type of pine tree would you like? Although Jordanians love Christmas celebrations too, as Christians rejoice in Islamic celebrations, we would like specifics as to the latin name of the tree you require. We can secure a Cedrus libani for you, would that suffice, is it big enough? Alternatively, as we are an environmentally conscious nation, we can send you a plastic variety instead, which colour, white or green? Hope you don’t mind.

3. Library? Of course Mr Westergaard. No problem, as this is the Arab world, we can have a huge library sent over, but our books will be in Arabic, so you had better hurry up and learn the language, as you are obviously going to be here a very long time … I mean, you must have so much evidence to reel off .... otherwise, you will be miserable trying to decipher our beautiful calligraphic script, a true work of art. But art is something you know all about, isn’t it Mr Westergaard, so this should be an easy assignment for you!

PS: good job you are seeking legal advice Mr Westergaard, your understanding of all things judiciary and Jordan leaves a lot to be desired … !


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Almost naked in the Jordan

The article in today's Jordan Times, "Bethany Beyond the Jordan becoming global pilgrimage destination", prompts me to write of my own experience of visiting the site, approximately two weeks ago.

When we approached the deck above the Jordan River and the Baptism font, our eyes were treated to the rather full body of a young woman clad in the briefest of white bikinis, thong and all! A group of women were to the side, in various stages of undress, having just climbed out of the river. And, the crowning glory, a woman of probably 55-60 years of age still in the water, clothed, or rather unclothed, in a soaking wet black negligee-style dress, which left nothing to the imagination.

The majority of our group were truly offended, particularly an Arab nun accompanied by younger relatives; and a couple of German ladies, one resident in Jordan, and one visiting. They verbally attacked our guide, who explained that this was a recent occurrence amongst Russian tourists, and when he had expressed his reservations on previous occasions, had been told by the "bathers" that to submerge themselves in the holy waters was part of their culture. The independent guide, i.e. not of the Baptism Site, said that the tourists were entitled to behave as they wished.

Clearly, something has to be done so that the Baptism Site is a positive experience for all. Many members of our group had come for a spiritual experience, and were really distraught. My visitors were offended, and slightly bemused, at such a sight that would not be acceptable on a seaside beach, let alone at a holy site.

This was my fifth visit and I was truly disappointed. I felt that the Baptism site has been forgotten despite the grandiose building projects of churches, seminaries etc. The Orthodox Church was once again closed. It is an absolute disgrace that people can not enter a church at this holy site, and should be vigorously pursued by the Ministry of Tourism with the church authorities.
If "Bethany Beyond the Jordan" is really to become a global pilgrimage destination, drastic action needs to be taken.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Power of Words

Nermeen Murad’s thoughtful tribute to Mahmoud Darwish in the Jordan Times yesterday reminded me of how I first heard of him. If I remember correctly, one of his earlier poems about Palestine, probably written in 1967, was called Identity Card and it began with the words – I AM AN ARAB. I am not an Arab, but I was given an identity card along with the tens of thousands of inhabitants of Jerusalem and the West Bank soon after the Israeli occupation of those lands. The identity card labeled me and all the others as ‘less than’ and certainly ‘other than’ those who issued them. This was one of my first experiences with racism. I am not a reader of poetry and in the intervening years I forgot much, but never his name and the impact of that particular poem.

Nermeen’s tribute to him was heart felt and personal, although she wrote that she never met him. I was interested to know that Mr. Darwish wrote the fantastic speech that Dr. Abdul Shafi gave at the Madrid Peace Talks in 1991. I listened to it then applauding his words with all my being.

The idea that eloquent words will produce change in others’ thoughts and actions is a concept that authors and movie makers exploit frequently as themes for their stories. Only in their dramas, the hero exposes the TRUTH and society demands justice! If only that were so! But I will not despair. The great words of thoughtful people survive them and are added to the wealth of literature and knowledge and will continue to influence others.


Monday, August 18, 2008

Litter Bug!

It was with a sigh of relief that I read in today's Jordan Times that a clean up campaign is to take place in Aqaba ... for long I have felt saddened at the total contempt our citizens have for the environment and for their cities where littering has become second nature, an integral part of life - and not just in Aqaba, but everywhere, especially after a public event, such as the various festivals at the King Hussein Park for example.
A beautiful old store front on a main road opposite the Mosque and the Municipal town square of Kerak

So when I read, "Jordan is taking part in the campaign, which is held in conjunction with the United Nations Environment Programme, for the 15th consecutive year," I get even more disturbed! Now, one could argue semantics here or one could really be worried. Does this statement mean that for the last fifteen years Jordan has been waging a losing battle .... or even worse does this mean that the UNEP has been running a programme that quite obviously doesn't work - in Jordan specifically?  

And then I remembered a businessman who took action to solve the litter problem around his factory.  He called into his office the young street vendor who set up shop outside the factory gates; he called on his five hundred employees and told them all one simple statement that went something like this: "I want you all to work and to live happy, fruitful lives with a good income.  I also want you to live in clean and beautiful surroundings with respect for one another and for the environment. But this won't happen unless we all work together.   So I am donating all the rubbish bins for our site inside these walls and outside these walls so that our working environment stays clean, please use these bins for all your rubbish.   But should any one of you continue to litter our public space and throw your rubbish under our feet, then I can and will make life very difficult for you."  And so with that, attitudes were changed practically overnight, the factory premises remain clean and the staff are happy.  And the boss did not have to lift one piece of litter off the floor.  This is corporate/social responsibility at work but on a small scale.  Just one question springs to mind: if we continue to clean up after people, how can we make them responsible? 

... and so it's time for another piece of prose:

The Litter Jitters

Look around the country and what do you see?
Nothing but rubbish surrounding me!
From North to South
East to West
The plastic bag rules the best!

The tin can slung from car and bus
and don't forget the boat!
For all around, near and far on land and under sea
What do we see? What do we see?
But nature struggling to be free.

As the mountain of junk grows wider
so too the turmoil of the mind;
the refuse of economics politicised
and greed and contempt sanitised,
as the shadow is caste over the land;
Yet we see it not; we see it not!

So where is the thought
before the toss
so callously defiling me ...
on TV? 
in print?
obviously not!

For it has gone, gone down the drain
15 years in the making!


Saturday, August 16, 2008

Rainbow Street

Sitting on the balcony of a friend's house at the end of Rainbow Street this evening set me to thinking how the lives of residents can be changed when an area is allowed to open cafes, restaurants etc. You cannot park your car, in fact you cannot even drive in or out of the area without encountering badly parked vehicles, cars waiting to be valet parked, signs in the road that stop you from parking (I did not know that commercial premises could own their piece of road). And the noise! Revving engines, loud radios booming out, impatient drivers using their horns and people shouting and talking. And all this until well into the night.

I hope that my street does not get a makeover! T

"I Am Not Mine"

Words are the refuge at times like these when life seems to mean so little to so many holding the strings of our existence over the abyss.

Just when will I be me?

Perhaps we can find solace in the words of the renowned Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish,
for we all know the answer.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Travels around Jordan

I felt like a kid on a picnic as I unexpectedly accompanied hubby on a tour of Kerak and Tafila with a trip to Petra added for good measure.

Nothing quite like taking tea and breakfast on a hotel veranda that overlooks the magnificent mountain range of Petra, the Great Rift Valley that meanders on southward bound - beats my kitchen walls anyday! And all this while the rest of the world celebrated the opening of the Olympics, commemorated and remembered the people murdered by the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, the largest city of Japanese Christians at the end of WW2; and watched dumbfounded as Georgia and Russia were slugging it out on the embattled lands of South Ossetia while the Americans and Israelis looked on!

Meanwhile, back in Jordan .... it was a pleasant break from daily life; a 'dose of life beyond Amman'. as I played with the kids from Kerak, admired the artwork of a sculptor from Wadi Musa and enjoyed the effervescence of the young people of Tafila for traditional music and song.

There are no other words for it, except "on on"! J

Breakfast morning view over the mountain range of Petra

The kids of Kerak

Kids will be kids in Kerak

Stop! No Entry! Barber gone byebye (Dodo in arabic)!

Wadi Musa sculpture

Wadi Musa sculpture - pity the water fountain doesn't work!

Bagpipe player of the Foklore troupe of Ma'an, playing at a function in Tafila with the renowned debkeh dancer and trainer, Abu Khalid.

Ma'an Folklore Troupe, performing in Tafila
photos by J

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Something New

I can’t keep up with all the new places and buildings in Amman, but I am learning to accept that changes are taking place daily in our city. One new thing that did surprise me was the sight of two mounted policemen splendidly riding tall on their horses down Queen Alia Street just after dusk last night. They were leisurely promenading against traffic toward the Gamal Abdul Nasser Circle. I wondered what they were authorized to do, but whatever it was, I wished them and their horses good luck.


Licensing traffic laws

A few questions and answers that may be of interest -

Q: Can you drive a white number plated car with a foreign driving licence?
Q: If a car is tax free can anyone drive it?
Q: How do you get permission for other drivers of tax free car?
A: Go to the Customs Department
Q: Is it legal if someone rents you a car with/without driver with white number plates?
A: NO, it is not legal
Q: What age do you need to rent a car?
A: 25
Q: To rent a car, what licence is needed?
A: Any
Q: How long can you drive in Jordan with a foreign licence?
A: Open if it is rental