Archive for October, 2005

Ramadan Kareem

Ramadan is the holiest month in Islam. Depending on the cycle of the moon, Ramadan lasts approximately 30 days. For this period of time, devout Muslims go without food, water, sex, and smoking from the morning prayer, which is usually around 4:15 a.m., until the breaking of the fast prayer around 5:15 p.m. Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam and a way for Muslims to put themselves in the shoes of the less fortunate in the same way Mohammed did.
For most, even non-Muslims, this means a month of idleness—a month where very little happens. Most restaurants, stores, and businesses run Ramadan-friendly hours, which means they are closed during fasting hours and open in the evening. As a result it is most practical for one to fast, even the non-Muslims. Eating, drinking, and smoking in the streets is forbidden during fasting hours, so in order to eat one must visit a “western” hotel/restaurant or prepare breakfast and lunch at home.
This photograph was taken in downtown Amman of shopkeeper Ayed Abdul Hamid testing festive Ramadan lights before selling them. It reminded me of Christmas when our family would untangle the tree lights and plug them in to see if any of the bulbs were blown. These crescent moons are in the windows of houses throughout the city. In our Christian neighborhood you can tell which houses are Muslim by the lights in their windows.

Home Sweet Home

My blogging has fallen a bit behind do to a recent trip to Israel for work on my project, but I’m back and want to show some of you who will be visiting in the future and some of you who can’t visit where we live in Amman, Jordan.
The apartment is small but cozy and has everything two people could ever want. It’s amazing how little space one really needs to live. I reckon if I had all my belongings from the states I could surely fill this place up in a truckload, but it is so refreshing to live with so little.

Palestine and Jordan

One of the big surprises to someone not fully familiar with Jordan, like myself, are the issues between the “native” Jordanians and the Palestinians. Because of the situation in the occupied territories, Palestinians were forced to flee to surrounding countries. In places, Jordan’s Palestinian population is supposed to be near 90 percent.
From a number of Jordanians I have heard things like, “We let them come here, they get Jordanian passports and they don’t even have the courtesy to call themselves Jordanian.” Then you get others who say just the opposite and argue that the Palestinians are just using Jordan for all it’s worth and then leaving whenever they get the chance.
So, if the region wasn’t already complex in my mind, it just got deeper.

Wired to the World

Rooftops are covered with disks, wires and any form of metal that will pull down signal from somewhere far away. Sometimes it’s to watch soap opera’s from Egypt or Lebanon, two neighboring countries with a fairly developed entertaining escape from reality, although they’ve caught on to this international interest in “reality” programming.
Turning on the television here is like taking a trip around the world’s living rooms. You can sit in front of the boob tube and watch the same shows folks in Bahrain are watching, folks in Uzbekistan, UK, Iraq or even reruns of Friends from the US.
Like America you can walk down the street on a beautiful autumn day and see faces glowing in front of television sets as they watch life flicker by.
Unlike America, maybe because they have very few stations themselves, you get the feeling that the people here are not only watching themselves in reruns of reality tv, or tuning into newsy entertainment shows like “Good Morning America”, but they are watching the world.

Plan B

This may be true in most developing countries and often anywhere in life, but a friend here had some words of wisdom for sanely dealing with what is thrown at you in Jordan, “Always have Plan B.”
Our first trip to the southern Red Sea city of Aqaba was a lesson in tolerance and coming closer to the understanding of why people here use the phrase “in shah Allah” so often. Meaning “God Willing” in Arabic, this contagious phrase is used for situations from whether you’ll meet a friend for a cup of Turkish coffee at a local café to whether you’ll live to the ripe ol’ age of 85. In shah Allah.
Our bus had problems from the start, but it seemed as though the driver was determined to use the gravity of hills and of his faith to roll us towards the south and through the desert.
Well, Allah wasn’t willing to deliver us to our destination without trying our patience. We were stuck on the side of the highway waiting for the next hourly bus to Aqaba. It came and we were off again, into the dust and trapped in a non-smoking bus with chain smoking travelers.
Some day the people in this country will catch on to the idea that second hand smoke isn’t so healthy, in shah Allah.