Ahlan Ramadan

There’s a certain something in the air that you don’t sense any time of the year, except in Ramadan. And it’s that air of spirituality, like an invisible silky mantel of tranquility has been thrown over the world, it’s that feeling that’s so exclusive to the Holy Month of Ramadan that has always made me and still makes me miss it like I miss no other time of the year.

Perhaps the general unique atmosphere of Ramadan isn’t as strong as it was when I was a child. The world was smaller then, and y world was smaller as I would still go with my father and brother to get Hummus an hour before Iftar ad it would feel like a festival, as was the case with the other Ramadani family traditions. Yes, those were simpler times, yet there’s something that hasn’t diminished with the year, but rather gets better year after year, which is the ways I’m discovering to maximize on the benefits of Ramada, and the things to learn from it.

It’s the time for reflection, for thinking of others, for exercising one’s endurance  and looking for every way possible to help another human being.

Ramadan kareem

Now I know: Why Moms Don’t Sleep

I might not be a mother, but at least I understand the never-ending dilemma  of mothers and the lack of sleep, or so I thought. For after having to sleep beside my two nieces last night, I knew I didn’t even know the half of it.

I’m sure I mentioned this many times before but for those who don’t know, I have two nieces:  Ghazal, 3.5 years old, and Jana, who has just turned 1. To give you a glimpse of things to come, let me just say that Jana, the younger smurf-sized one, gives the phrase “sleeping like a baby” a whole new meaning.

You see, there is sleep-walking, and there is sleep-talking and then there is sleep-wrestling, which is the closest thing to describe whatever the heck Jana does in her sleep. One minute you’re trying to doze off and the other you’re being hit by a bustling rabbit-sized creature looking for her pacifier. Of course the best part is when she takes the pacifier and puts it back in her mouth, while asleep. And then of course you have to sleep with one eye open because at any given moment she could roll to any side of the bed and fall over. Sometimes you may be able to prevent it but other times you don’t realize it until you hear the a big BOOM sound that you have to wonder where it comes from since her head is slightly bigger than an orange and she seems to have more flesh than bones in her knees.

Let’s say I managed to survive Jana’s wrestling tendencies for a couple of hours, but that doesn’t mean it was over. Oh no it was far from over, for Ghazal had been sleeping soundly all the time Jana was fighting for survival, so at around 6 am when Jana decided it’s time to practice her newly acquired and clumsy penguinish walking skills, Ghazal woke up too and decided to take on the role of the “big sister” trying to call Jana to come back to sleep and teling her that if she didn’t come back to bed Swiper will come and take her. But that wasn’t enough, was it? Of course Ghazal is the Drama Queen so she had to do something more dramatic: she made up a song about a naughty baby and starting singing it out loud… at 6 am.

At around 6:20 my survival instinct kicked in and I realized I must do something because in a couple of hours I had to get up and drag myself to work and I’ve used my nieces as an excuse enough times already. So, I told Ghazal to take Jana and go to the living room where my father was sitting as he wakes up pretty early. Yes, I passed the buck! So Ghazal tried to take Jana by hand but Jana seemed to be so caught up in her newfound ability that she refused to hold hands, and there was Ghazal, the Prima Donna, complaining that Jana won’t hold hands with her. “Jana… hold hands with Zozo” “Khalas zozo let her walk by herself”.  And finally, on they went walking, or more of staggering in Jana’s case.

We love our penguins, don’t we?

The Man Who Killed the Cricket – 1

It was a few minutes past midnight, a silent breeze caressed the curtains while he sat there, a man who smelled of cigarettes and failure, staring at the ceiling, waiting for it to collapse under the pressure of his unwavering gaze, somehow.

It was a perfect moment of complete and utter silence, his long-time best friend, and as he felt the power mustering up and he could almost see the ceiling falling down over his head, with his eyes wide open, not so much as a blink, just before the bricks came cascading down, a cricket started chirping.

Now everything was in place again, but the silence was disturbed by one wretched creature, and it had to pay. He crumbled up to his feet, nostrils flaring, hearing the noise of a million passing trucks humming inside his head. And like any man who’s been abandoned by sanity would do, he set out to find that miserable six-legged transgressor.

He snatched the door open, kicked a sleeping cat off the mat, which had been sleeping there for as long as he remembered, and proceeded towards the tool shed. He hustled for a flashlight, no sooner he grabbed it that he turned around like a whirl of dust in the Arabian Desert in mid-May, and as he pressed a small rusty button to switch it on, 2 pair of red-eyes flashed in the dark, and he felt the ground pulling him down, and the walls of the shed closing in on him, while he struggled to escape, in a silence disturbed only by the chirping of one wicked nocturnal midget.

To be continued…

اللويبدة… ذاكرة المكان


في النفس حنين أزلي إلى زمن لم نعرفه، زمن عشنا تفاصيله في حكايات الأهل أو في ذكريات مبهمة لمدينة لبت نداء الغد فتركت الماضي ليتوارى في أزقة تقرأ فيها ذاكرة المدينة في انحناءات الشوارع ولافتات المحلات…

Continue reading here




Not-So-Ordinary-Jordanians: Sister Power

This series aims to shed light on the people who are the underlying driving force of change in the Jordanian society: The ordinary citizens with extraordinary ideas, stories or actions.

Have you ever talked to someone that made you feel like they’ve just entered your brain and opened the windows for sun and fresh air to come in? That’s exactly how I felt after a 2-hour conversation with Lana Abu Ayyash.

A non-stop researcher and a life-long women rights enthusiast, Lana can’t remember a time when she wasn’t preoccupied with women rights and women issues.  In fact, that could be one of very few constants about her mindset, because for her the mind is a constantly expanding horizon. That said, and learning about the big ideological transformation she went through, you will know that it wasn’t an overnight miraculous transformation, but rather the result of a diligent quest for the truth, where she decided to let go of all her predetermined prejudices and embark on a journey of in-depth research, as objectively and impartially as possible.

I don’t know if it was her down-to-earth nature or something else, but as Lana told me her story, she told it in a laid back manner as if it was something that happens to everyone, every day. Perhaps it’s because she sees it as the natural logical sequence of things, which made me quite humbled as I was listening intently, with an inner sense of amazement.

Growing up, Lana fell in the trap of mistaking tradition for religion. She was an intellectually rebellious teenager who refused to live by society’s rules and found herself somewhere between atheism and agnosticism. Later on she would decide to move abroad, thinking that living in the Western “modern” world would be the answer. Never one to take things at face value, she found that the status of women in those societies was a long cry from perfection and it fell short from the preconceived image she had in mind. Be that as it may, she decided to go back home, and to look for the answer there.

As she started digging through the books and doing more research on Islamic studies, she began to realize the gigantic amount of misconceptions surrounding Islam, and how Religion is used by some people to shape the society in a certain way that conforms to the image of the traditional male-dominated Arab society in their heads, marginalizing women and overlooking Religious texts and interpretations affirming the status of women in Islam and that could open new doors for understanding women rights and the issue of women empowerment in Islam.

According to Lana, extremism is a relatively modern phenomenon. Extremism didn’t exist in the days of the Prophet, peace be upon him, and many things that the Prophet used to do may now be frowned upon  by many; again due to the traditional mindset and practices that have been mixed with Religious values. What added insult to injury was that some religious people believe those things, and some women believe they were put second to men by Islam and they are okay with it. At that point Lana knew she has to do something, so she made it her cause to empower Muslim women to speak up for themselves and to know their God-given rights.

As a result, Sister Power  was born: a platform that’s all about Empowering Muslim Women by creating a space where their voices can be heard and their concerns made public. At first, membership was open for both genders, but then there was some sort of a male dominance to be noticed which made some reluctant to speak their minds and express themselves. Hence, membership was made exclusive to women.

As I toured through the website I was impressed by the different backgrounds of the members there. It’s like a common ground with a chance to learn, share and be understood. When I asked Lana about the impact the website has had on women, she said she’s had some women telling her the website had a direct impact on their lives, yet it’s not about changing lives overnight. It’s a continuous process of learning and expanding your horizons constantly, and being open to due change.

Of course Lana’s work isn’t confined to an online community, as she believes women who need empowerment the most are those who don’t necessarily have access to these online communities. She also believes that empowerment shouldn’t apply only to women, as in our society both men and women need to be empowered as individuals. One important point she stressed is how important it is to realize that we’re not the only ones who think in a certain way or have a certain interest. And this is one thing online communities are good for: they bring together people of common interest, and together they realize they can do something to influence change.

During our 2-hour conversation we’ve talked about many things, that I believe she should share with more and more people. Speaking about sharing ideas, Lana mentioned something quite interesting. She said that no idea you come up with and nothing meaningful you do goes to waste. Ideas are a form of energy, and energy never dies, it transforms. So never underestimate what you can do and never be discouraged to do something because you think it won’t resonate with anyone. Do it because you know it must be out there, sent forth into the universe.

Lana Abu Ayyash is one of the most impressive people I have met, and if we had more people with her passion, channeled the right way with such dedication and selflessness, I’d say it’s safe to be optimistic about a better future ahead.

Previous posts:

Not-so-ordinary Jordanians: La Captain Planet
Not-so-ordinary Jordanians: Change or Be Changed
Not-so-ordinary Jordanians: Towards a Smoke-Free Jordan
Not-so-ordinary Jordanians: Not Your Typical Geek

100 Days of Solitude – Day 19

It was that time of the day when you feel the world outside your mind ceases to exist, and the thoughts come cascading in like a downpour of summer rain. She longed for that, and as she closed her eyes, it was pitch black.

“Solitude is a self-induced state”, she told herself. But just when she thought she was out of the woods, her mind was craving solitude again, but she could no longer go there. It wasn’t her zone anymore, but she was longing for it.

Longing for solitude, she knew she had hit rock bottom

7 Places I Want to See Before I Die

Not  a long time ago I suggested a very plausible and completely implementable solution for the notorious problem known as “Summer traffic jam in Amman”. You know, with the expats coming home for their annual dose of Shawerma and Falafel Al-Quds, among other things. So this comes in the spirit of making room for our fellow citizens to quench their nostalgic whims and perhaps, just perhaps, make them take a little more time before they get bored and sick and want to go back to their “host” countries, especially our brothers and sisters suffering the Green Card Effect Syndrome or other related disorders identified by non-stop comparisons and the high  susceptibility to heart attacks at the sight of someone crossing the street anywhere without a zebra crossing.

The suggestion was to create a tourist exchange program. You know, for every person coming to Jordan we send a Jordanian citizen abroad to a country of their choice.      Of course as you obviously know Jordanians are very busy people and it could be hard to convince a Jordanian to leave Jordan in the summer and miss out on all the fun, right? Even if it’s a full paid vacation you know. Be that as it may, I am willing to make the sacrifice. Yes, I know, I’ve thought it through and I’m sure about it. Government: send me away, and you can pay for it too.

Yet, one problem remains. It’s that our government is quite busy reshuffling and stuff so they may not have the time to sort out where to send each of the volunteers who are willing to do this heroic act. So, again I am more than glad to provide the government with a list of the places I’d die… I mean, I’ll be willing to visit as a service to my country. Of course some of them are for the summer and others are for the winter since, you know, the program could pick up and be a year-round thing.

1-  Vienna, et al

I’ve been to Europe once so far and I’ve only passed by Vienna for transit purposes, but when I saw it from the air and then when the plane landed in Vienna airport I was like: you go on, I want to go live as an illegal immigrant in that forest”. And it’s not only Vienna, it’s Austria in general especially the city of Salzburg, the birth place of Mozart. Think of it this way, a country that produces a musician like Mozart must have something to offer!

2- Iceland:

Did you know that in Iceland there’s a horse for every four people? Yes, that’s the fact that has been stuck in my head ever since I saw that documentary called “Under the spell of horses – Iceland”, where they show you horses in Iceland moving in herds in the breath-taking landscapes of Iceland. I still have that documentary on my hard disk and it pops to mind whenever I’m thinking of a way to relax.  Got to wonder how much more relaxing the real deal could be!

3- Scotland:

Do I even need to provide a reason?

4- Kuger Park – South Africa:

Of course I would love to go anywhere in Africa where animals cross the street casually or where you can see predators running wild and free side by side with the prey, but one can’t completely overlook some safety precautions because obviously I’m not David Attenborough, though I wouldn’t mind having his job.  Hence, Kuger Park seems to be a good option if you want to experience wildlife without being devoured by wildlife.  Not to mention that I’ve seen a program about it that made me fell in love instantly, plus I’ve expressed before how much I would love to see a giraffe in person.

5- Amazon Forests, Brazil:

I would love to meet 1/3 of all living species in the world…

6- Mecca and Medina:

Obviously this isn’t about tourism, it’s more about spiritual needs we can’t even begin to comprehend. I’ve heard people talking about how overwhelming it was to see the Ka’aba and how their tears went streaming down their faces uncontrollably, even people who wouldn’t strike you as the spiritual type. It’s a spiritual journey in the cradle of Islam, to experience raw emotions and inner peace away from the material world.

7- Jerusalem:

The closest of all, yet the farthest of them. It’s literally a dream to walk in her streets and to breathe its very air. It hurts when you think that this is the city of you ancestors, this is where your father was born and the stage for all the childhood stories he’s been telling you and the city you feel a bond with even though you’ve never been to, yet you know you may die before you can set foot in it. But I also know there’s hope to the contrary. But you know what? Strike this out from the list, I don’t want the government to send me their because we all know what that means, I suppose.

So, dear reshuffled government, you’re spoiled for choice, and please don’t make it a surprise since I need to know what to pack. I’ll skip the medal of honor for this sacrifice, since leaving Jordan in the summer will mean missing out on Najwa Karam in Jerash, you know! A sacrifice I’m more than willing to make…