Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Treasures of the faith

Saturday, July 25, 2009

When not to wear shorts …. when you have a car crash!

It was a case of son having a guardian angel this morning as he crashed his father’s car into an electric pylon and tree on that infamous road from Tala Bay to Aqaba at 4 in the morning; a road that has claimed the lives of many bright and beautiful people. But he is fine apart from a bruised ego. His seatbelt and the airbag saved his life. The car on the other hand is a wreck – as are my nerves.

So it was a bit of light relief to learn that Son is still going around Aqaba this morning, paying fines and filling out forms, having been taken to the hospital for a medical check up. This is part of the hard lesson to learn about cars. But when he arrives at the ASEZA municipality to have a form signed at 10 that morning, he is refused entry because he is wearing knee length shorts. He is also nearly refused entry to the hospital at 11am for a medical checkup because of 'the shorts' ... the fact that he was the patient seemed to have a reluctant but effective response; he was allowed in. Never mind the fact that son cannot get back home because the house key was in the car and he can’t find the car. Nope! Not allowed in wearing shorts!

What kind of illogical reasoning came into play that allows civil servants to abuse their authority and take it to extremes of stupidity in certain circumstances such as this one? And in Aqaba of all places, where the drive to modernize and develop and attract tourists is in full swing! Have Jordanians completely lost a part of their cultural makeup once so renowned … that of hospitality to a visitor? Afterall, my son is a visitor to Aqaba …. a city that likes to think of itself as a separate entity to the rest of the country.

One would expect tax paying members of the Jordanian public to be shown more consideration regardless of what they are wearing. It is high time to have some clarity in the political discourse over issues such as this and in particular over the recent debacle of passports/green or yellow cards issued to Jordanians of Palestinian descent that seems to affect everyone going back sixty years! Clear and simplified instructions needed to be handed down to the civil servants who have to deal with the public at large. This will ensure that they leave no room for personal interpretation that leads to authoritarian extremes. Alleviating misunderstandings and confusion has to be a win-win situation.

Is that too much to ask for?


Friday, July 24, 2009

The Precious Book on Noteworthy Dates

Just came across the  World Digital Library ... and thought you would like something a bit different to feast your eyes on ... at least the Arab readers out there.

This is a link to a document entitled the "The Precious Book on Noteworthy Dates" ... described as thus: 


  • This short work, entitled Kitāb al-yawāqīt fī ma‘rifat al-mawāqīt, and copied by an anonymous scribe in Shawwāl in June-July 1775 (AH 1168), is attributed to Ḥusayn (or Ḥasan) b. Zayd b. ‘Alī al-Jaḥḥāf, who is said to have dedicated it to Abū ‘Alī Manṣūr al-Ḥākim bi Amr-Allāh, the sixth Fāṭimid ruler (died 996). The manuscript lists the 12 months of the year, each on one sheet, in the form of an almanac. The last page is a one-page guide to the interpretation of dreams, reportedly prepared at the behest of Muḥammad b. Ḥawwā, a ruler in Asia Minor (malik al-rūm). A much longer work with a similar title, Kitāb al-yawāqīt fī al-mawāqīt, by Muḥammad b. Ismā‘īl al-Ṣan‘ānī (1688-1768), who lived at the same time this manuscript was copied, is known to exist."
Have a nice weekend!

Water wanderings ...

It shouldn’t need an editor of the Jordan Times to draw attention to our ‘shared responsibility’ in the question of water conservation.  What is the Minister of Water doing about the chronic state of affairs regarding our right to life and water?

But this goes deeper into the role of government and begs the question “do the ministries that serve us the people actually coordinate their strategies concerning this vital resource that impacts every aspect of our daily lives”.  The answer has to be an emphatic ‘no’ in view of the poor performance of public media agencies such as JTV in public service broadcasting.   Producing awareness programmes using eligible public and popular personalities to get the message across would seem a simple concept.  Some small attempts have been made in the print media and on tv; but small attempts within a limited timeframe is hardly going to tackle this colossal task.  With all the talent in this country from actors, announcers, musicians, artists, directors and filmmakers who operate outside the mind numbing uselessness of the artists unions, you would think that JTV would seize on the opportunity to do something right for once; but alas, JTV is just too slow on the uptake, overburdened with unqualified staff, lack of vision, red tape and a mountain of wasta … they wouldn’t know a good thing unless ‘it/they/them’ came up to greet them with a tray of mint tea and chocolates stuffed in large envelopes!

On a recent trip to Aqaba which admittedly seems to have a better source of water than the capital of Amman – although its once sweet taste has given way to chlorine - I was quite appalled to learn that the authorities  spend on average about JD 40,000 per annum on water for a relatively new ‘grass’ football field it has just built within the impressive sports stadium.  All sports facilities are a good thing…. but with advances in modern technology and Jordan’s ranking as the fourth water poorest country in the world … repeat in the world … and the expected population explosion over the course of the next decade, it begs another question, 'why don't they use Astro turf instead of grass? ' 

With popular and successful personalities in the arts in Jordan, one would think that a powerful network of individuals could be brought together by the Ministry of Water, Ministry of the Environment and JTV to produce such an important programme of public service announcements for the purpose of water conservation.   Social habits can be improved with regular, consistent, long term (ie continuous) messages.  Many an artist has had a creative idea for the public good consigned to the bin of indifference.   But alas again, that would imply cooperation and using the best of the best!  

The humble television can be found in every village and rural area of the country, even in the remote areas of the desert.   Is this not a sign that this is a far more effective means of communication than the print media for getting a message across?   

We seem to have lost a sense of moral courage buried under the burdens of bureaucratic corruption and red tape, that has struck a death blow to creative vision.    JTV is no longer an institution for the public good, but rather has become a personal fiefdom of self-serving interests and as a means to outsource employment to further embedded wasta.   An individually successful artist - part and parcel of the soul of a nation -  is deemed a threat to this status quo;  unless this attitude changes,   we will all be forced to sing in unison "water water nowhere, do you have a drop to spare?".



Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Australians for Palestine

With entrenched notions of what it is to be a Jordanian today,  and the recent misconceptions and manipulations about the issue of national status of Jordanians of Palestinian descent, the issue needs to be seen in its true political context and it is more complex than we might realise.  This is an issue that goes to the heart of the matter that erupted with the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 and prior political agitations of a 'foreign nature' that unfolded at the beginning of the twentieth century, and resulted in the ultimate and cruel usurpation of the State of Palestine and the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.  So it is quite heartening to read the following from Australians for Palestine which I post here for your opinion, whatever it happens to be;  this is an open forum after all.  Isn't that what the wars in the Middle East are ostensibly driven to achieve ... democracy and free speech?  Note to self .... 'the Palestinian fight for what is right has gained global recognition .... now if only we can get the powers that be to do what is right, we can all live on cloud number 9!'

“Every now and then one reads something that touches the heart and leaves a lasting impression.  This is a plea to people so caught up in their own world view that they have lost sight of humanity – forgotten that by and large people everywhere just want to live their lives in peace, enjoy the fruits of this earth and share them with loved ones and their neighbours.  

Tema Okun speaks to the essence of who we are as people and appeals to the very best in us. Her words are directed to her own Jewish community, but they are equally potent and necessary for all of us to contemplate because we are all guilty for what the Palestinians have suffered. And not just the Palestinians - although theirs is the longest running brutal oppression of an entire population – but all peoples who are being cruelly mistreated, violated and condemned for reasons that ought to shame us every waking moment.  How much more violence do we need to see, read and hear before we say “enough”, before we really mean “never again”? 

Please read Tema’s eloquent plea and then send it to others and encourage them to pass it on further.  We have no time to lose as the poisonous brew of racism bubbles over  threatening to contaminate everything we hold dear.  It is not the war on terror that we ought to be worried about, but the war on humanity. “

Tema Okun has worked with community-based non-profits for over 20 years.  Her work as a staffer for the Rural Advancement Fund, the Carolina Community Project, Grassroots Leadership, and the Institute for Southern Studies has formed the core of her organizational experience, where she has served in such varied roles as development director, training director, and interim executive director. Tema has a B.A. from Oberlin College, Ohio (1975) and an M.S. in Adult Education from N.C. State University (1997). She also teaches at Guilford College in Greensboro in their Justice and Policy Studies Department.  * See "Tema Okun & Tom Stern presented NC Peace Action’s Peacemaker Award for work with ICAHD-USA," May 18th, 2009  



Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Thought for the day

“Talk is cheap, action is costly; saying that the younger generation is our greatest asset means that we should provide for them, not make them pay for the sins of the fathers.”

Thought for the day by Jordanian economist Yusuf Mansur …. Always telling it the way it is … why do we not listen?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Moab musings of Morocco

Just returned from Morocco ... that sizzling centre of cultural wonders that warms the heart. Just as well, because the trip over there was borderline harassment of the heart! Our Turkish Airlines plane decided to develop technical problems 37,000 feet above the Mediterranean sea and did an abrupt u-turn back to Istanbul .... "just one hour before we transfer you to another plane that is ready and waiting" .... I should have known better than to trust the TA official who horded us onto hot buses and
dumped us at the the terminal without so much as a "check for announcements" parting gesture! 5 hours later waiting at some administratively forgotten plot at the airport with no a/c and staff who didn't have a clue ... tempers were beginning to flare amongst the 250 passengers who were tired of being security checked time and time again. Someone must have got the message as a tray load of cold water and cola began to arrive. Eventually we were asked to board, but we seemed to be taxing along the runway for a long time .... I managed to watch the setting of the sun as we finally became airborne, arriving in Casablanca five and a half hours later .... and waited and waited for the luggage ... guess what .... no luggage!

Fossilised sharks teeth - Morocco is the place to go for fossils!

So frazzled and fatigued, we slumped into the car, for the two and half hour trip to Marrakech ....needless to say we slept all the way having been awake since 4 that morning; just cannot do these 'all nighters any longer'! The only consolation to all of this was that we were meeting up with our daughter who had been working in Marrakech for the previous three weeks on the production of a children's television series. She, on the other hand was having a marvelous time of things, secure in the knowledge that she had escaped the excruciatingly hot Doha summer, and was enjoying the sights and sounds of the Orient that are so special in Marrakech.

As for hubby, well, it would not be appropriate to put into words his thoughts on the trip ... so I shall just leave it up to your imagination along with a few photos!

The one lingering impression of Morocco was that this was a country that respected its cultural heritage; the old stood proudly side by side with the new; change was an evolving affair that respected Moroccan traditions, and development 'appeared' to be tightly controlled, specifically in the old quarters and souks of Marrakech and Casablanca or 'Deir al Baida' as it is now called. A stroll around the old residential and handicraft centre of El Habous in Deir al Baida was a delightful walk into Morocco's heritage. A place where young and old alike mingled, men and women and the youth integrated, whether muslim, christian, jewish or atheist ... a world at peace, immersed in the business of life and handicrafts, from leather goods to ceramics, brass and copper works to carpets and caftans; the call to prayer and the business of books. A feast for the eyes. Maybe if one were to scratch the surface, a different picture may well emerge, but for the time being I was content to watch my 'moroccan' experience unfold before me with a sense that they were doing something right. That 'something' seemed to be confirmed in the following picture of the airport at Marrakech ... a simple, sophisticated deed that needs no explanation .... why is it that we cannot achieve that 'simple something here'?

And one final thought for the day, why has RJ cancelled its route to Morocco .... ? J

Smoking room outside the Marrakech Airport - simple, effective and respected!

PS ... sorry about the disarray of photos on this post ... blogger just would not behave itself!

PPS .... and why do we have such a small space to 'post' into ... must get blogger to enlarge it!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Can someone explain this?

'They came from all over the world -- Kuwait, Pakistan, Dubai and even Erie.

There were 50 of them there. They shopped, ate and gathered in the streets of Amman, Jordan, and everywhere they went, men stared at them.

"It was like they've never seen a girl before," said Erin Dakas, 18, of Erie. "I feel like there isn't much respect for women. That's something that needs to change........."'

This was a report I just read from the Erie Times News (USA).

In 1965, when I lived on the RJAF base at Mafraq, we would go into the village (that is what it was then) and the car used to be surrounded with children staring at this strange foreigner, as we were a rare species then. Even in Amman my husband got into a punch up with a man who had looked at me and said 'hello'. I was completely oblivious to this until I was pushed into a shop and told to stay there while he dealt with the man!

But now with television, internet, cinema etc why does this habit of staring (plus, plus) persist? T

Any comments and/or explanations?

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Moab Musings on a Wednesday

North Jordanian sunset - photo by J

“Did you know that frequent air travel increases your risk of a brain seizure?”
says hubby as I began packing for our trip to Morocco! “I didn’t make it up, just read it in the local Arabic press”!

“No more excuses” says me … “the world is not going to stop because you take a week off!”

“What a pity” sighs hubby as he wades through the newspapers thinking out loud “I wish it would”, as he reads:

“Half a woman found in suitcase in Morocco ….

Hmmm … that got me thinking! It also got me thinking that people will never change …. violent as ever, whether just plain physical or politically motivated ….

“Knives scar the lives of 72 people every day in UK” .. Sunday Telegraph, 5.7.09

Demolition orders reach Convent homes inside the Old City

Ethnic cleansing as a state policy of Israel’ doh! Could have told you that!

And meanwhile in Amman, our greatest concern seems to centre around the issue of water availability and the disorganisation of numerous festivals here and there. We did not receive our weekly water rations this week, and our well is empty! Is it any wonder that the average citizen gets mad when they see their cities in a permanent state of flux with towers and 5 star hotels sprouting like mushrooms, those notoriously wasteful institutes of tourism that abuse our precious resources for a few bucks in the bank! The same corporations that pay lip-service to ‘eco-friendly’ water saving policies but forget to train their own housekeeping staff on the virtues of leaving towels on the rack for another day! I have yet to find one hotel regardless of star status, that leaves my towel on the rack ....

Basically, it’s kid’s stuff …. and if the kids are aware of it … when are the adults going to catch on?

On that note I wish you all a pleasant summer vacation, wherever you find it! .... J

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Safety at the Roman theater

The last time I attended a performance at the Roman theater I decided that was it. I would not do that again. Parking was impossible, crowds were uncontrolled, people pushed, and to top it off the show started 45 minutes late! It was chaos verging on dangerous. Two nights ago my granddaughter went with her cousins to the opening of the Annual Children’s Congress in Roman theater. The following is her account of that experience:

“The walk towards the theater was expected to be a rough rocky road, but the entrance however, surprised me to be a fight of the bulls. People were waving their tickets screaming at the guards to let them through the doors, but all the guards pushed the crowd towards one small entrance. Twenty angry heads turned into a countless angry mob all on a small platform, forgetting about small children and steps behind them. Fights broke out and guards carelessly shoved intruders  back into the crowd causing a domino effect where husky men fell on women and children and left them screaming in pain on the floor. Instead of having an organized line, the guards simply yelled for only women and children to pass through making the men of the family angry for being left behind. Once through this tornado of fear in the one small entrance, the crowd was led into a small tunnel. Being claustrophobic, I was hoping the riot passed me, but I was deeply mistaken. The scene made people go mad; men no longer cared if they pushed women and hurt them. Everyone became selfish to get him or herself first to the entrance, by elbowing, stepping over youngesters, and screaming their way through. At the front of the tunnel,  men surrounded the door and the guards were yelling for only females to enter but where were all the men supposed to go? Were they supposed to just grow wings and fly out of the way? No one was entering the gates and the tunnel was getting hotter and smaller by the seconds. People were sandwhiched onto each other in agony. There was no turning back for those who wanted to escape this horrific scene. I started to panic. I had room for only one arm and had to keep my other one in the air as more men and women shoved their way against me to get through. Elbows were in my chest, hard shoes were on my toes, and I had strangers breathing down my neck. I started to scream. I became an animal, losing all human respect, to reach safety. As I finally reached arms length distance to the door, one of the security guards wanted to pull me through the gate. My cousin was trying to lift me to aid me to my rescue, but the tough army guard yelling at everyone was too busy pushing men that his elbow dug straight into my cheek bone! Tears streamed down my face! Did I actually just get hit in the face and go through a dangerous mob to see my friend dance for ten minutes? If Julia Roberts was handing out gold flowers at the end of the tunnel, I would still not go through the riot again. Holding my cheek in pain, I breathed fresh air. Finally I was out!”  


Jordan Festival

I cannot see why the Minister of Culture bothers with putting advertisements in English for the Jordan Festival as there are no programme details.  If you try to get to their web site it goes through and a warning comes up saying that the site contains malware a malicious software.  T

Sunday, July 05, 2009

How embarrassing!

I wondered why all the Jordan Festival adverts on the roads were solely in Arabic and I got my answer in today's Jordan Times.  Unfortunately I cannot link to the page as it is an advert but here is a flavour -

.......We will host the participants and guests of Jordan tourists and falsely Mqmin to share the joy of Jordan on this Earth that are landmarks, culture and spirit of the contributions made by the human civilization and the global cultural Building ..............Proud of the Higher Committee of the festival and all the Jordanian cadres working for the preparation and implementation that the effectiveness of more than 240 free Bukha citizen to enjoy and guest and resident in the elite world of creativity, music and singing, the peoples of the world Vlchor..........Once again we invite you to participate in and enjoy the cultural advancement of the status of which are to foster our development and the pursuit of Jordan seeks to accelerate the pace of rescue.

I bet the minister Sabri Rbeihat is furious, that is if he knows, as he speaks perfect English.  I found it funny and sad at the same time.  Firstly that the Ministry of Culture allowed this to happen and secondly that the Jordan Times accepted the advert.  They even got the website address incorrect as I tried to access it.   Hope this is not all a reflection on how the Festival will be run!  T

Thursday, July 02, 2009

I am not an Arab therefore I am not a Jordanian

Yesterday I was walking to a doctor's appointment when I passed some men on the sidewalk and they said, in English, 'Welcome to Jordan', so I said, in Arabic, that I had lived here for 45 years and they were shocked. Today I went to a police department and the guard took my Jordanian id and said 'are you from the British Embassy?' So many incidents of the same kind over the years.

So it made me ponder and realise that however long I live here I will always be a foreigner. T