Sunday, August 18, 2013


That last day in Jordan and I was headed back to the hotel.  A woman sat on the sidewalk with a bundle hidden in her abaya – maybe a baby. She was dirty and held out her grimy hand and pleaded with her eyes, saying something in Arabic which I couldn’t understand.  

I walked on.  Ignore them, I had been advised. 

One young Jordanian teacher told us that the woman and the dirty boy and raggedy man and the laden donkey digging through the trash bins – "that’s their job."   Huh? "That’s their job, they recycle stuff."
And about another woman in clean clothes who clutched a nice-looking handbag and a baby, "she’s got money, look at her purse."
So I walked on. It wasn’t my job to support these people.  Wasn’t the US spending enough money in the Middle East, why weren’t these people being taken care of. Blah blah blah.

But then something clicked in -  الحمد لله     

I went back and did the right thing.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Nabad Art Gallery and a Walk Downtown

 The Nabad Art Gallery is nestled off Rainbow Street in a converted residence.

The current exhibit is "Living on the Edge" by Serwan Baran, an Iraqi Kurdish artist.

Titled: The Last Survivors

Titled: "The Face of War"


Outside was a little seating area with a "tree" of resin baubles.

 Along the street...Trumpet Vine

And Plumbago.

 And Bougainvillea.

Jordan is really dry (about 10 inches of rain a year) and less than 2% of its land is arable.   But now and then I saw some walls where homeowners had taken the time to plant (and water) flowers.  And it's a magnificent sight.
And children's graffiti along the road with Amman in the distance.

 I stopped in the local book store cafe which also is a bar. Had a beer and some wings.

The city center is down the hill from Rainbow Street and I decided to walk.

 And then when Rainbow Street dead ends...stairs.

 And the bustling (and chaotic) downtown...

She's Knitting.

 One of my missions was to find a (pirated) DVD stall. I did and bought myself two trashy films for about $1.40 per.

Rode the bus home. Another good day.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Lest One Forgets

Jordan isn't a war zone like Afghanistan and I haven't seen many military personnel or even men with guns.  At one big mall here that has underground parking I saw trunks of cars being searched for bombs.  But other than that there is little sign of the unrest from two of Jordan's borders.

One border is with Syria where fighting has gone on for over two years against the Assad regime.  Refugees from Syria are now living in Jordan and are causing a huge drain on Jordanian resources, particularly water.  Zaatari camp is home to 160,000 refugees and is now Jordan's fifth largest city.

Jordan also has a border with Israel and the so-called occupied territory of the West Bank or Palestine. 

Refugees from Palestine have come to Jordan since 1948 when approximately 100,000 left their homes.  The children and grandchildren of those original refugees (and of the ones who have come since that time) are all considered Palestinian refugees by the United Nations. They also were given Jordanian citizenship. 

There are now an estimated 2 million Palestinian refugees living in Jordan - about 30% of Jordan's total population.

We met a lot of Palestinians here in Amman. Even though they might not have been born in Palestine, their parents or grandparents were and they still consider that their homeland, even though at this point they cannot return.

It is not surprising that many Jordanians are not fond of Israel or Israelis - or Jews, since many here do not differentiate being a Jew from being an Israeli.
Several Jordanians told us that Israelis are not welcome here.  One said her parents would not allow her to teach a class with a Jewish student.

That's what made the incident on the bus last week so upsetting. A young man in a yarmulke, the traditional Jewish cap for men, got on the bus with two of his friends. They sat across the aisle from each other and carried on a laughing conversation. I think they were speaking Arabic, but the cap gave  at least one of them away as being Jewish.

I saw people glaring and others looking down at their laps.  It was an uncomfortable situation.

I told one Palestinian and she found it unbelievable that such a thing would occur. 

I hope the young man wasn't an American who  just didn't realize how offensive it was for him to flaunt his Jewish-ness. But I bet he was.

In any case, I felt really bad for the passengers on the bus that day.

Fix or Repair

I never thought about a difference between repairing something that's broken or merely fixing it. But I think a difference exists and I noticed it in Amman.

 There was, of course, the faucet fixing previously reported. (See Living Conditions.)

Maybe that was just that particular hotel and that particular room.  

But I am now in a new place (4th one in Amman) and we have a similar arrangement to stop the leak in the kitchen faucet.  It doesn't.

At school the door to the classroom was impossible to open without jiggling the handle and banging/shoving the door.  

First idea, tape the latch so it wouldn't engage with the plate.  That didn't work. Then go back to jiggling/banging/shoving. Then jam a wad of paper into the latch hole so it wouldn't engage.  That worked.  The door knob mechanism, which was the problem, was not replaced.

  Here's a solution to a water drippage problem.


The hotel was missing its portico for all of our  two month visit.

And here it sits, off to the side of  the building - waiting.

This bit of fixing occurred right next to our hotel.  

 There was slight hole in the driveway into the parking lot (AKA party central) next door.

After the hole was fixed, it was marked off by bricks and the cement bag

and then the "gate" was closed and flagged by something or other.

Here's the big picture.

And now it's fixed!

Sidewalk's next.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Women in Jordan

Jordanian women have equal rights under their constitution.  They can vote, work and go to the law.

But sometimes culture trumps all.

When we were at the castle in the north one of the Arab women talking with us would not stand with us to have her picture taken.  Her husband wasn't there and thus, he hadn't given her permission.

Most all (perhaps all) unmarried women live at home.
A family considered sending their daughter away from Amman for protection - from her brother.  He was caught hitting her for going outside the house with nail polish on.  Apparently the father was too "liberal" and so the boy had been told by his uncles that it was his duty to protect the family honor - which included ensuring that his sister did not shame herself or the family.
The hijab is the head covering worn by many women in Jordan. It is more than just a scarf; it consists of a tight band that covers the hair in front and then a scarf which is then wrapped around the head and often fastened with a pin.

No hair shows. 

Many women also wear sunglasses, obscuring their eyes and a good part of their face.

Some women wear an extra "piece" under the hijab on the back of the head to give the impression of more hair underneath.

One young woman decided to start wearing an hijab at the start of Ramadan this year. Apparently her family did not encourage her and in fact did not want her to wear it. She said she wanted to make the commitment to her faith and I heard comments that sounded like she was being welcomed into womanhood or taking her vows.

We talked with a young woman (on the day we visited the Jordan Museum). She was dressed in a jilbab (which looks like a trenchcoat) and an hijab. 

She had lots to say about her life in Jordan and how confining it was for women. (In fact she referred to her house as Abu Graib and her father as the jailer.

We asked her how come she was wearing a hijab if she felt that way. She told us that she wore it because women who chose to show their hair are viewed by some as lower class.  

She found out that we were Americans and wanted to talk about free speech. Come to find out she wrote out secret thoughts about her life and her frustrations, but she said she didn't feel safe in publishing what she had written..."too dangerous," she said. 

We suggested she start an anonymous Facebook page and start posting her story.  I'm sorry that I didn't get an email address from her - we both might have learned a lot from staying in touch.

Here's a picture taken outside the gate to the University of Jordan.  The woman in the middle is wearing a niqab or veil that covers the face except for the eyes. She is also wearing gloves.

Many of the devout women wear skirts rather than pants...showing one's crotch is not considered proper by some. Sometimes under the skirt a pair of leggings are worn - in case the wind blows the skirt up and legs might show.

Not all women wear hijabs or cover their butt.  Many of these women are students and some are Westerners.

I went to a lovely bookstore yesterday. (Amman may have more bookstores than Charleston!)  The salesman was doing his job and trying to interest me in books to buy.  One was, as he described, a "coffee table" book on Jordan and was published by the bookstore.  And, indeed, it had beautiful pictures of Jordan - places I've been: Wadi Rum and Petra and the Dead Sea.  There were also pictures of women in the book - women with long blond and flowing hair and sunhats and capri pants -- sitting in the ruins or strolling through the parks.  Not an hijab to be seen.  No black shrouds.  No hidden faces.

I asked why there were no Jordanian women pictured.  The reply was "I guess the scenery was the important thing."

So, I'm here to say.  Jordanian women generally don't have blond hair.  


We're right in the middle of Ramadan which is the month of fasting and one of the Five Pillars of Islam.  

During this period Muslims don't eat or drink (even water) from dawn until sunset. (Also no smoking or sex.) It began here in Jordan on the 10th of July  and ends on August 9th. 

I'm guessing most Muslims fast. Those who don't, at least in this part of the world, don't brag about it.  

Most restaurants are closed during the day.  Some food is available, but you can't eat it on premise.

A Handy Mart-type store (called appropriately SNAX)  down the street sells coffee, candy and stuff.  It also has wi-fi and I used to study there.  They still sell food, but no one eats there during Ramadan. No one even drinks coffee there - or water.

In fact, no one seems to eat in public at all, even the non-fasters.  Kind of an extreme form of politeness, perhaps. Like eating a meal in front of someone who has no food.

What this has meant for me and many other students...there's no place to study during the day. I used to go into one or the other of the local cafes, order a sandwich or ice cream and study for a few hours.  One of the other students and I even went downtown one afternoon and studied in a cafe overlooking the street. (I went out to study mainly for the company,but also because in the hotel room there was no table and writing homework on the bed or bent over the coffee table was back-breaking.)

Now there are a couple of other places along the road where one can buy drinks and snacks, but only one where you can actually buy a meal during the day.

And that's at the local McDonald's.  

One afternoon in a fit of desperately finding somewhere to sit, study and look at people, I decided to try the McDonald's down the road.  Yes, it was open and, yes, you could buy food, but no, you couldn't eat it inside and no, you couldn't even eat it sitting at the  outside tables. And it was expensive.

Here's Rainbow Street midday during Ramadan...usually a bustling "happening" place -


And a popular restaurant on Rainbow Street.

 Empty chairs waiting for customers across from school.

The fast is broken at sunset, the time of which varies each day. Iftar is the name of the meal and generally refers to the end of the fast. 

For many Muslims the first "meal" is soup and dates; a big meal is then eaten later in the evening. For others, Iftar means a huge meal at a restaurant.

These drinks are set up on the street for the fasters - their first liquid in many many hours.

We were in a taxi at Iftar one night and a man along the road was giving all cars a box containing water and a few dates. 

This restaurant has already set up its cart which will offer wrapped plates of food to their customers for Iftar.
These chickens are being prepared for their role in 
 the celebration.  

More preparations...plastic covering the tables being readied for their customers.

And when the announcement comes or the call to sunset prayer begins: the fast is over  -- water, food and cigarettes. Not necessarily in that order.

I had the misfortune to hail a cab just before Iftar one night.  He wanted to charge me 10JD, about three times more than the going rate to take me back to the hotel. Nope, said I, and starting walking down the street. 

The driver changed his mind and we negotiated a better deal. He told me that Iftar was coming up and he was anxious to get home for the meal.  He was listening to the radio for the signal that the fast was over. And that's when he immediately lit a cigarette.

We soon learned not to get in a taxi when Iftar was approaching.  The lack of water (and cigarettes) and maybe food makes people crazy and it makes cabbies (and others on the road) go very very fast!

And about alcohol. The liquor stores are closed all day and night for the whole month. One cabbie told us that if we wanted alcohol during the month, he could get it for us -- for a price, of course. I stocked up ahead of time with a bottle of vodka or two.

The rule about bars/restaurants being opened is that if you have a 3 to 5 rating, then you can be open. Those ratings, apparently, go to bars connected with a hotel.

The little pub I found (Piccadilly) has a 1 rating which means he can't be open during the month. The owner told me that he was the oldest bar in town and that mostly the newer ones were allowed to stay open. He didn't mind being closed, was a month-long vacation for him and his girlfriend. 

But then there's another bar in town which is open and not part of a hotel.  I asked about this apparent contradiction and was told that they "have connections."

In any case, those of us who still want to drink can.

Fasting, particularly the "no water" part, would be very difficult in this hot climate. Napping is suggested in the afternoon and hanging out with pious people.

I like the napping in the afternoon part.