Iraq Al-Amir Handicraft Village

Todays little adventure starts at the 8th circle, we turn right and out towards Iraq Al-Amir to visit the handicrafts market, see some caves, an old Roman ruin, a Roman Aqueduct – I am pleased to say that we found all of these.

But, why is it not possible to place some very clear signs – brown ones, there is one! Anyway, if you venture out on the Wadi as-Seer road you will need to turn left onto the Iraq A-Ameer Street, which takes out to the market, if in doubt ask at the police station that you will find at an intersection – it is in the middle of the road, I think in the middle of the Wadi as-Seer township.

The markets are terrific, established by Queen Noor to provide employment for local craft makers, lovely hand made paper pieces, pottery and various other craft pieces.

About 3klms before the markets you will catch a glimps of the Aqueduct – there is a picture in the slide show.

One the hillside overlooking the markets you will find the caves, and about 1kl further down the road you will find a terrific pre- Roman Ruin called Qasr al-Abad.

The area is just outside Amman and you feel it is little changed, small farms are plentiful with pretty surrounding scenery and there are plenty of wild herbs growing: drill, some wild basil and nettles.

Enjoy the slide show.

Twinkle Toes

After a bit of a big night at the January Internations function held at the Grappa Restaurant in Amman a number of teachers and students from the Amman Baccalaureate School headed of to a refugee camp populated by people from Gaza who had been dispossessed of their land. This is not a small group of refugees and number about 35,000 and they live on the outer area of Jerash, which is about 50klms North West of Amman.

Twinkle Toes is an initiative to distribute shoes and clothing – the ABS students support the programme as part of their IB CAS committements.  We set off at 8.45am in two buses, one full of shoes, the other with us!

On arrival the buses entered a narrow lane and pull up outside some typical Jordan houses: square, flat roofed and made of cement and brick. The weather is kind, not cold and the rain has stopped. Children began to appear, smiling and with warm greetings. The bus was quickly unloaded and the shoes set out on the open roof of one of the houses.

The process is simple. Diagrams of shoe sizes one set for the boys and the other for girls are laid out on the cement surface which is still wet from the early morning rain. The plastic bags containing the shoes are placed around the perimeter – we are ready.

At first it is relatively orderly with children and their mothers or fathers queueing up the stairs to the roof. But within no time the crowd expands and there are some difficult moments on the stairway with young children crying and Mum’s getting agitated.  However, with a bit of intervention and crowd control we get most of the children fitted with a pair of shoes, socks and some clothing.

The ABS teachers and students keep cool under the increasing pressure and at about mid-day it is decided to finish up and leave the dispensing of the remainder of the  shoes and clothing to the leaders of the group – possibly this is a better way to arrange things, but desperate people are desperate.

It is difficult to comprehend the plight of this community, they have no rights and rely entirely on this type of provisioning. Apparently, Jordan does not want to grant citizen ship in the belief that come the negotiated peace with Israel over the occupied land, the Gaza refugees would be able to return to their country – this is a pipe dream and simply a very sad situation, a kind of case-22 in the craziest of senses.

Hope you enjoy the slide show!

Ma’In Refugee camp

Today I travelled with my wife Cathie and good friend Niki from the Amman Baccalaureate School, along with a number of other staff and students, to the refugee camp at Ma’In just outside Madaba. The experience was at the same time heart warming to witness the way both Cathie, Niki and all the ABS kids knuckled down and helped distribute shoes and socks to the children from the camp – it was no easy task, but also it provided a salient reminder of the problems of this region and the lack of justice in the world.

This group had been here since 1967, they are Bedouin-Palestinian’s from Bethsheba who had been dispossed during the war. They are stateless with no rights as we would understand them. The slide show below shows some of the sights. What can’t be shown is the work of the freelance journalist that accompanied the group and videoed and interviewed people at the camp – clearly a very committed person. The single picture below shows the smile on a young boys face after he had been interviewed, he was asked ‘what things would make you life better?’, he replied ‘a good school, a good clinic and lower food prices’.
A picture of hope, I hope!
The other picture of note is in the slide show and depicts the proud nature of the people, it is of a mum and dad, they were intereviewed and also showed us through their tended house – it was warm, clean and basically just like a normal home. But when you reflect on their plight you wonder if you would behave with the same dignity!

Young man of hope

Snow and some things to do in Amman

It is SNOWING – see the pics below. Now I believe what people say. The day preceding the snow was just terrible – strong biting winds carrying sand from the Sinai. Took me a while to figure out there was snow when I awoke, but then the SMS’s from the school started – end result, we have a day off, that is a result!

On Saturday my good friend Niki took me shopping – I needed a coat and some Xmas pressies. First stop were the clothing Souks of 2nd Circle, these are amazing, cheap and good quality. I got two coats and will be going back for more – best place we found was Hassan Clothes. Niki was well pleased with a full length designer coat – cost 15JDs!

Then it was off to Xmas Bazaars at the Zara Centre, this was also great despite a crush of people. There were stalls offering regional treats such as food and handicrafts  from Palestine, Russia, Jordan and Romania, and plenty of other places as well- another result, I was able to get the rest of the Xmas shopping done and helped a good cause at the same time.

Father-Daughter time in Jordan

Nicola arrived safely and we enjoyed a great time travelling around some of Jordan and sampling some of what Amman has to offer.

Her flight from Heathrow was delayed nearly two hours, but she was out so quickly at the Amman airport I nearly missed her. On Tuesday she was woken in the morning by 2 hours of call to prayer to mark the Eid holiday celebration.

We ventured up to Jerash and enjoyed the sites and had lunch which was very nice. It was lovely weather and not too crowded. Jerash is just fantastic and now that I can get in for 1JD with my residency card I will go back often. The North West of Jordan is full of interesting places: Jearsh, Pella, Ajloun, Umm Qais to name a few.

After an early night we left for Petra at 6.30 and made it down by 9.30 – the highway, especially after the turn-off passes through some of the most inhospitable terrain. The weather again was kind and although Niki was not too impressed with the treatment of the horses and one amazing scene with a donkey, she thoughly enjoyed chalking up number 4 on the list of the Worlds Wonder she has seen.

The incident with the donkey deserves mention. The boy rider was trying to get the donkey to move, it would not, so he got off and grabbed a small boulder about 1foot in diameter, jumped back on and banged it onto the donkeys head. Well I let the boy, his two adult minders and who else cared to listen that this was just not on! It occurred to me latter that this was obviously learned behaviour and that probably the animals were not as well treated as we might hope.

Petra was left behind and off we headed to the Movenpick resort on the Dead Sea – we were upgraded to private suits with a private pool and patio area, which you got to via double opening doors. This was a highlight in Nicola’s eyes, and mine I have to say.

The trip back to Amman was over the mountain range to Madaba and then onto Amman, this, like all trips down or up the range to or from the Dead Sea provides spectacular vistas of the West Bank and other occupied areas, as well of the geographic landscapes in general.

Thursday night was a trip to books@cafe for dinner and an early night – Niki is getting tied these days and needs her rest.

In the middle of this fun we got the news that my younger daughter was ill with of all things Glandular Fever! Flowers and a teddy bear were dispatched to cheer her up.

The Friday was a quiet rest day, but thanks to my good friend Niki (can be confusing as they have the same first name) who took us to the old town at night, Nicola was able to sample the delights of the famous Hashem eatery and to have a look around the souks and markets – thanks Niki for taking us.

Arising at 5.30am for the trip to the airport, Nicola has flown back to London.

A great experience for both father and daughter – possibly our last holiday together on our own.

By the way, on Friday morning I received the news that I had been awarded my Doctorate from the University of Melbourne – well done me!