Friday, September 26, 2008

The Mosaic Map of Madaba

The debate about protecting ancient sites while making them accessible to tourists is ongoing. One such example in Jordan is St. George’s Church in Madaba which houses the world famous seventh century mosaic map of the Middle East. This church is unique in another way as well because it is the only Greek Orthodox Church in Madaba. Not only do tourists visit it, but it is used for weekly services and various celebrations throughout the year. For those readers who haven’t visited it, I would say that the map covers about one tenth of the church floor. The moveable barrier that surrounds it is easy to get around if a tour guide or tourist wants to. During church services, weddings, and funerals, the map is inadequately protected by carpets. According to the Jordan Times’ article two days ago, 163,027 tourists visited this church during the first seven months of 2008! The article mentioned the good news that about $100,000 will be earmarked to promote and preserve several of the Byzantine sites in Madaba. Maybe enough concern will be generated to encourage the Greek Orthodox community to build a new church in Madaba for their congregation thus relieving some of the pressure on St. George’s. I do hope that special attention is given to protecting the Mosaic Map of Madaba. If not, Jordan and the world may lose an important heritage site.


Monday, September 22, 2008

when life comes to an end

We travel along in life not thinking how it is all going to end when suddenly you hit sixty plus (that's me!) and think hey, how are we going to manage and who is going to look after us when we cannot look after ourselves.

My mother has been managing very well on her own until a month ago when, at the age of 91, she had a minor stroke which she is recovering from but although her mental state is excellent she is weak physically. After two weeks in hospital she is now in a very nice nursing home trying to recover her strength. It is so upsetting and difficult when a parent is suddenly helpless and only wants to be at home and when her children live a long way from her and want her to be safe and secure.

How can we plan our later years so that we are not a burden to our children? Life expectancy is longer now. In Jordan the family tend to look after their own with large close knit relations who live relatively near each other but in UK, where I am at the moment, families are spread all over the country and the world. So there are many nursing homes, sheltered accommodation and residential homes that care for the elderly. If you have the finances some of these homes are acceptable but if you have to rely on the State it is very different. How do we cope with old age? T

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Scary Mall Movie – The real deal!

Scene 1 : Amman, City Mall – Claire's – the accessory store beloved of young girls to preteens for earrings, headbands, etc.

Date: Midday, midway through Ramadan 2008

Characters: girls aged 8 – 13 and their mothers, both local and foreign, taking their daughters out for a fun shopping treat, in preparation for the end of Ramadan festivities.

Soundtrack: heavy duty gangster rap with extremely foul and sexually explicit lyrics blasting in English from the loudspeakers, including the F word or a variation on the theme for just about every other word in the song.

Lights, camera, action ….. CUT!

What's wrong with this picture?

A friend of mine recently experienced this and reported how she politely and discreetly asked the manager at the cash register to please turn off the music or change it to something a little more suitable for such a young audience, and did he really think this is what his clients wanted to listen to when they came to Claire's in the middle of Ramadan?

At least the managed apologized and said "You're right" and told a staff member to turn off the music.

Fast Forward Half an Hour
: Returning to Claire's as the "meeting point" for the family, my friend was appalled to hear the same/similar kind of music with even worse lyrics blasting from the sound system! Again the manager was approached, but with total indifference shouted across the room for a staff member to do something about the music. The member of staff looked up at my friend from the work he was doing as if she was from another planet. 
Well I suppose ‘we’ are – the Planet of Mothers against Lurid Rap Lyrics - or MARL for short!

The manager apologized again – "My staff are very bad, ma'am." Then, quite unsurprisingly, he asked that quintessential Jordanian question “where are you from …”

…. so much for ‘management’ - must be an import from another planet then! J

Monday, September 15, 2008

I, Bedouin

Watching the documentary ‘Torfa’ about the life of a Bedouin woman of Petra, I felt a silent urge creep up on me; a yearning for the simple life. I surveyed my realm of consumerist pleasures within a comfortable home of beautiful limestone, and wondered why? Torfa had none of that. And yet she possessed an inner peace that was firmly rooted in her culture, that of Arab and Bedouin; possessing a bond with nature that I on the other hand, seem to have lost …. And as I watched her deftly spinning the goat’s wool that would be woven into her modest needs, I wondered if I could adapt to a life outside the comfort of my own home …and espouse the values of a woman I had only heard talk about; for Torfa’s home was vaste … from the simple traditions of life under a Bedouin tent, to the beautiful land whose mountains and valleys provided the walls and the terraces of her domain, where the goats grazed in green and semi arid pastures and the wild thyme grew.

Mother nature provided it all and Torfa, content with her lot, used it all to maximum benefit. But for her children that was another story, a sign of the rapidly changing times.

One would not be wrong to think that the boat had missed her by; that had she had a so-called 'proper' education, she would have had more opportunity and perhaps a better life … but what is a proper education in this context? This is Torfa and this is her life, a choice based on wisdom, a love of the land, of animal husbandry, of cultural heritage, of vaste knowledge of the flora and fauna of the region and a sense of who she was within the semi arid and ancient lands of southern Jordan. If that is not an informed and educated choice, then I don’t know what is. It’s just that it’s different. If only I could slow this train down long enough for my children to jump off and explore and understand another culture uniquely Beduoin of Jordan … perhaps I should start with this film! So my thanks to Maggie Kabariti for her love of film making and for bringing this documentary into our lives …


Monday, September 01, 2008

Vitamin D Deficiency

Last week the Jordan Times had a disturbing article about the extraordinarily high incidence of Vitamin D deficiency among Jordanian women who wear the hijab. Not enough of their skin is exposed to sunlight, the simplest, most natural way to produce Vitamin D. Without this vitamin the body cannot absorb and use calcium which is necessary for heart function and healthy bones. It’s been known for many years that women in northern countries, especially Scandinavia, have been prone to develop osteoporosis because they lack sunlight for many months of the year.

I was prepared to file this information aside with the thought that adults are responsible for the consequences of their decisions until I read another article – even more disturbing - “Vitamin D Deficiency May Lurk in Babies” NY Times, August 26, 2008. It seems that babies who are exclusively breast fed by mothers with a Vitamin D deficiency will also have this deficiency, and it may not be detected until the child begins to walk and his legs aren’t strong enough to support his weight! Hopefully, an effort will be made to screen Jordanian women, not only to help them, but to prevent them from unwittingly passing the deficiency on to their babies. Breast feeding is still the best nutrition for infants, but supplements of vitamin drops or cod liver oil should be given if the mother is deficient in Vitamin D. In the meantime, the sun shines nearly every day of the year in Jordan, and it’s free!