How To Support Amman’s First Community Built Skatepark



Over the years, the skateboarding culture in Amman has grown bit by bit. Seeing young Jordanians careening through Thaqafa st., in Shmisani on a midday afternoon has become a common sight, and a reminder that there are emerging subcultures battling their way past the mainstream. The people behind the country’s first skateboarding company, Philadelphia Skateboards and the German non-profit, MakeLifeSkateLife, are hoping to set up the city’s first skatepark in downtown Amman. This community-funded initiative is being done in collaboration with the Greater Amman Municipality, which, with the help of city councilman Hussein Alharasis, has contributed 300M2 of public land for something the community can actually interact with (as opposed to another skyscraper).

How You Can Help:

7Hills has been fundraising online at indigogo, and you can contribute as little as $15 and upwards, and receive a few cool perks in the process. They’re close to reaching their goal of $18,500 and just need that final push to bring this thing to life. There’s also a fundraising event this Friday, November 7th at Canvas that will be worth attending. So if you’re reading this, take 5 minutes of your day to contribute to something in the city that can become home to a growing community; something you can physically see with your eyes everyday.

(And if you’re broke, you can always spread the word about this project with the click of a mouse)


Kids in Copenhagen are stoked to donate to the 7Hills Skatepark campaign at Alis. source: facebook


When Jordan Cancelled Halloween


The No-Halloween-For-You conversation has been interesting to watch online in the past 24 hours. It tests a lot of assumptions, and speaks to the larger societal contradictions, ironies and catch-22s that we as Jordanians have been smothered by in recent years. Here are a few random thoughts on the matter:

– On one side of things, there’s hypocrisy – and plenty of it. The Ministry of Interior declares Halloween in violation of our “moral values” and our “traditions”. Night clubs and prostitution thrive, bars and alcohol thrive; but Halloween is deemed to contradict our moral values. This is to say nothing of the government getting involved in the most absurd things at a time and place where one would safely assume there to be bigger priorities.

These terms have been thrown around quite a bit recently, and from various sides, not just the conservative and/or Islamist side. I’ve seen people throw those words around when they react negatively to something local media has published that they don’t agree with – if they can’t counter it, they’ll simply say it opposes our “moral values and traditions”. Because it’s new; because it’s different; because it’s viewed as dangerous to the status quo. Conservatives come in various forms in this country: they could be religious, they could be tribal, and they can also be the conservative elite that has fought to preserve the status quo since the Arab Spring erupted in 2011. This is the same group that will cry “Freedom!” when Halloween parties are canceled, but have no problem seeing journalists go to jail for something they wrote, especially if they don’t agree with them. There are plenty of examples, but suffice to say, there’s plenty of hypocrisy to go around and it begs to be pointed out like the emperor with no clothes.


– Digging deeper, we obviously have a state that is keen on appeasing conservative forces whenever it’s up against the wall. This is nothing new and we’ve seen it before, and we’ve seen it repeated. But it’s also worth noting that seeing the government – and the larger apparatus that makes up the state – as this monolithic group of secular forces on par with the monarchy can be detrimental. Jordanian society, as a whole, has grown more conservative and/or religious in recent years, and there’s a whole spectrum of reasons why that is. What I’m arguing here is that, at the end of the day, despite all the “apple juice” drinking officials at the top of this pyramid scheme, the composition of the state, which employs over 40% of the working population, is largely conservative in nature. Their opposition to secular/liberal/western activities (whatever label the reader is comfortable with attaching) always find ways of manifesting – from the government bureaucrat sitting behind his/her desk, to dealing with the police – they will come at you with a certain mindset. From making it difficult to renew a license for a restaurant, to closing down cafes during Ramadan. Et cetera.

– Lastly, this conversation doesn’t really expand beyond the west Ammani bubble (let’s be honest about that), and I don’t say this to slap around this segment of society (although some times it does seem to beg for it), but rather to emphasize that where these conversations get stuck is telling of a larger problem. Halloween parties are for an elite segment of this society, and that segment does have a tendency to forget that there is a bigger Jordan that exists beyond the comparatively affluent geographical bubble it resides in. Does this mean this bubble must be subject to an antagonistic government that uses it as a convenient scapegoat to appease conservative forces whenever it needs to? No. Does this mean this bubble shouldn’t enjoy the privileges it can afford. No. People should be allowed to exercise free will. But it’s worth noting that the overwhelming majority of the population barely has access to some* basic resources, let alone access to parties or various other cultural activities that take place within the confines of west Amman.


This is largely why few are going to rally to support the activities of the privileged, especially when it is the elite class that has worked quite tirelessly in carving out these privileges and to some extent, ensuring that “the other” has limited access to them. Put aside the geography, and put aside the high pricing, but look to the unspoken policies and the messaging communicated to the people. From malls or restaurants or even at times the casual public space where security guards are positioned at entrances to throw up a palm and insist on “coubles only”, or the more PR-correct term, “families only”. To the luxurious St. Regis hotel being built on the fifth circle that is enveloped in signs reading “privilege of access”, while billboards elsewhere tell us that the new and shiny Abdali boulevard with all its glass towers and unaffordable luxury high-rises is now the “new” downtown.

There is a language being communicated, and since Amman isn’t fully quarantined with checkpoints to keep certain people out, or even hovering above the masses like a scene out of Elysium – everyday people interact with these messages, every, day.


It’s tough to draw conclusions, and I draw none here. The ironies, the contradictions, the catch-22s…all these things seem to intertwine and get so entangled that when they are tested, it feels like you’re being pulled apart in different directions. The sane mind that tries to see these events as bigger than what they are; that tries to make sense of them by factoring in all the angles (or as many as possible) – this mind is mentally tortured.

And if you really want to get all twisted up inside, simply add the following ingredients to the mix: Israeli occupation and the bombing of Gaza to the stone age; Syrian refugees flowing across our borders and in to desert camps, etc. Part of you will champion free choice, another part of you might say a party could be in bad taste. Another part might think the timing’s off. Another part might wonder when there’s ever been a good time to party in the past century. Another part could be thinking a sense of normalcy and even cheerfulness is in order. But another part might wonder if normalcy can ever teeter dangerously on aloofness, or societal detachment. And yet another part will wonder whether the government should be intervening at all in the cultural or personal activities its citizenry engages in. The twists and turns are endless.

So as I see it: the human side of being a Jordanian citizen in this day and age, is to be pulled in all these various contradictory directions, and to never be certain what is truly right and wrong. This could be the curse of the moderate, or this could simply be what it means to be human: to cherish complete freedom but to recognize the shortcomings it has to offer.
Regardless of the contradictions: what I do know is there needs to be a force pushing back.

Regardless of what the larger agenda is, simply relenting to conservative forces means this country goes no where but in one direction – and it’s a direction I would personally deem to be as unfavorable, to say the least. There’s a need for a clash between these two opposing forces – the kind that yields a critical discussion or even a great debate. Whether this manifests as physical protest, or better yet utilizing the Internet as a platform, producing much-needed culture-jamming, or finding ways to bypass the system – or all of the above, and then some. Simply put, anything short of this is just another lost opportunity to gain momentum, to even out the playing field, to fuel a movement. Anything short of this is simply one side clobbering the other until they all just give up and decide to move to Dubai.

How To Help Gaza From Jordan

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Photo Credit: Getty Images

With the Israeli attack on Gaza ongoing, and the death toll continuing to climb to over 700; between the headlines and the imagery, there is a fusion of emotions ranging from anger and frustration, to empathy and helplessness that I’m sure most Jordanians can relate to. While there’s little that can be done with the anger and frustration, the helplessness at least can be addressed, especially if you’re in Jordan. To the north we have Syrian refugees continuing to flee to Jordan by the hundreds every day; to the east we have ISIL attempting to purge Iraqi Christians (and women) from existence, and to the west there’s Israel and its continued bombardment of Gaza.

So 48 hours ago I posted a status on Facebook asking the community to suggest anything that can be done to help the people that are under attack. I got various responses and thought it would be good to compile them here, in a single blog post, that could serve as a useful reference point for anyone who wants to help, in any small way imaginable. This is not meant to be a final list – it’s a living document for the next while, and anyone who has any more information they can provide, feel free to post it as a comment and I’ll include it. While the main focus is Gaza, I’ll also try to highlight relief efforts geared towards Syrians and Iraqis.

I hope this can be of some use to some one: (scroll down for the most recent item)

1) Tkiyet Um Ali is sending 15,000 food packages to Gaza for internally displaced families. Each package costs 40JDs and having purchased a few myself I can say that the process is quick and convenient. Volunteers are also needed to box the packages.

2) My father-in-law, Dr. Hamde Abu Adas, having helped out in Gaza during the 2009 war, is heading back there in a few days as part of a team of Jordanian doctors volunteering through the Medical Association. So they will be collecting money and medical supplies. He is more than willing to help with the collection, so if there are any interested parties who want to make a donation ASAP, then send me an email with your information and I’ll forward the right contact details.

3) You can contribute funds through the Awqaf (Islamic Affairs) Ministry for Gazan orphans.

4) You can pay the wounded Gazans at the Medical City Hospital a visit. While I’m sure a lot of people have already given a great deal, providing some emotional support can still go a long way. These people have been to hell and back.

5) Educate yourself. Here’s a good post on how.

6) The Online Project and Visualizing Palestine just teamed up to launch a visual awareness raising campaign targeting the American public. Both organizations have done some great work in the past, and Visualizing Palestine has seen a. If you want to help with the initiative, contact Feras Hilal.

7) You can donate online through the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund.

8) You can make a donation through Medical Aid for Palestine (MAP) that are raising money for medical supplies to Gaza.

9) You can donate through UNRWA, which has launched aFlash Appeal to raise $60 million for affected families.

10) You can sponsor a child from Palestine through Al Monasara Islamic Zakat Committee for 25JDs a month (or 300JDs at the beginning of the year).

11) Attend a fundraiser for Gaza by Dozan Wa Awtar, on August 7th and 8th. Tickets for 20JDs.

Prayer For Gaza

12) Attend a candle lighting in solidarity with Gaza, on Sunday, July 27th at the King Hussein Park.

13) Attend Music from Amman to Gaza fundraiser at AlBalad Theater on July 31st at 7pm.

14) You can find out ways to donate food, blood, and medical supplies through the Professional Associations who are running an ongoing campaign to help Gaza. They are attempting to send volunteer doctors to Gaza. Phone numbers are provided in the link.

15) Yoga for Gaza: all proceeds will go to helping people in Gaza.

16) Amman Chamber of Commerce is raising funds, especially from the private sector. You can call them at: 566-6151

17) You can donate through the Welfare Association’s Gaza appeal. The independent non-profit is providing humanitarian relief to Palestinians.

18) Attend the AUB Alumni Gaza Fundraiser at the Zaha Cultural Center on August 22nd.



Footnote: Thanks to everyone who continues to send me links and contribute to the list!

Fear And Loathing In Jordan Lately

Between our collective fish-memory and the tendency to leap-frog steadily from one issue to another, it can be fairly confusing to keep track of things. Especially when it comes to the external threats that come with Jordan’s geographic fate of sitting ‘between Iraq and a hard place’.



Rewind to last year, when our eyes looked north to Syria. The waves of refugees and the economic impact concerns aside, promises of retaliation and Asad’s menacing cache of chemical weapons seemed to be on everyone’s mind. Obama’s mid-year posturing and the public contemplation of a strike helped turn the national rumor mill, which continues to spin, and our anxiety is fed infrequently with peppered headlines of Jordanian security forces defending the border from approaching danger, to say nothing of the more recent ensuing drama that came with expelling the Syrian ambassador for ‘insulting Jordan’.

Jordan strikes armored vehicles on Syrian border.

Jordan strikes armored vehicles on Syrian border.

The new year saw the ‘Syrian fear’ replaced largely with a reliable old classic: Israel. Suddenly, everything was about the conspiracy-laden peace plan that would surely see the demise of Jordan and the establishment of a Palestinian state on its soil (see: Who’s Afraid of an Alternative Homeland?). These fears quickly turned to anger with the rather cold-blooded killing of a Jordanian judge by Israeli forces. Protests in the street; Israeli flag burnings. Aside from demonstrating parliament’s impotence, demands for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador by Jordanian parliament was – much ado about nothing.

برلماني أردني يدعو لطرد السفير الإسرائيلي من عمّان

Fast forward to June, and the eyes of the nation turn to the eastern border, where ISIS in Iraq has taken the place of Israel and Syria, declaring their intentions to bring their Islamized mess to Jordan. A glance at all the headlines and the impression you get is one of Jihadi fighters marching towards Amman. The truth is, it feels like most of us simply do not know what exactly is going on, and the confusing scene just adds to the fear. Between the persistent flaring up of events in the southern governorate of Maan in recent months, where Islamists there declared it the “Fallujah of Jordan”, and potential blowbacks from the US training of ISIS members, to apparent infighting between extremist groups in Jordan  - the foreign threat of ISIS is perceived to be closer to home than ever before. And while security forces and people trade tear gas and bullets on the streets of Ma’an throughout this ongoing clampdown, the Border Guards gave a media tour to emphasize that all is calm on the eastern front (and that media is prone to exaggerations).

ISIS supporters in Maan. Source:

ISIS supporters in Maan. Source:

Look north. Look west. Look east. Fear Syria. Fear Israel. Fear ISIS. Fear chemical weapons. Fear terrorism. Fear having your country rebranded overnight. It’s enough to convince you that the infamous frown we Jordanians wear on our faces is really just a result of being in a constant state of apprehension.

There will always be plenty to be scared about. There will always be new foreign threats – this region offers few surprises in that regard. But these external threats also seem to come and go. They shift in importance, in size, in urgency, and in relevancy. Their actual impact is limited by the extent of our domestic threats, and those ones always outnumber and outweigh anything the region seems to throw at Jordan. Poverty, unemployment, education, public transportation, domestic violence, crime, etc – these are just some of the major domestic threats that seem constant, or at least have been for the longest time. Connecting these foreign-and-domestic threats together has centered on the conventional wisdom that tells us high levels of poverty and unemployment coupled with a conservative environment is (arguably) ripe for Jihadist recruitment.

Connecting these threats is something the state does all the time. In the past few months alone – perhaps with so much fear on our plates – terrorism has resonated throughout the political arena. We have seen controversial amendments introduced to the anti-terrorism law, with, in typical fashion, vague definitions.

For example, acts that “cause disorder by disrupting public order” can be considered terrorist acts. This is dangerous considering that at a time not too long ago 300 protesters were arrested and 162 of them were tried in Jordan’s State Security court.

[via: 7iber]

We’ve seen organizations like Reporters Without Borders saying: “There is a danger that the Jordanian authorities will use the fight against terrorism to gag civil society organisations and news media…” and that “the amendments… constitute a disturbing reinforcement of the already repressive legislative arsenal.”

We’ve seen Human Rights Watch say that “Jordan’s legitimate security concerns don’t give the government a green light to punish peaceful criticism of foreign rulers as terrorism,” and that Jordan “ought to be increasing the space for public criticism and debate rather than limiting it.”

We’ve seen a new telecom law that infringes on personal privacy rights, in the name of public safety; in the name of foreign threats. To say nothing of last year’s amendments to the Press and Publications law that co-opted online news media.

There will always be plenty to be scared about. But while I accept the existence of foreign threats as just another reality of living in a bad neighborhood, I can’t help but be more concerned with the manner in which the state leverages those threats on the domestic front. Raising prices in such an apprehensive atmosphere is a debatable move, but I can’t help but wonder, after everything Jordanians have to deal with, what happens when you further tighten the reigns on speech and expression; what does that do to all those foreign threats? Does it quell or compound them?

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When The Speaker Of The House Is Humiliated

jordanian parliament

“The Lower House on Sunday could not complete its agenda for the meeting amid MPs’ outrage over what the “government’s attempts to disgrace the legislative authority” by disrespecting its speaker, Atef Tarawneh, at the opening of the Jerash festival…

…Tarawneh said he felt “humiliated” when a staff member of the festival’s administration asked him to leave his seat in the front row for Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour, saying “no seat was reserved for the head of the Lower House”. Such incident reflects the government’s attempts to humiliate the Lower House, not just the speaker, he charged. Several MPs agreed with Tarawneh, with some demanding an immediate apology from the government.

“MP Yihya Saud (Amman, 2nd District) called for a revote on confidence in the government. Over 15 minutes of heated discussions over a topic not included on the meeting’s agenda forced the speaker to adjourn the session without discussing any of the planned items.

“If you wish, and in order to respect the Constitution, we will hold an informal meeting to talk about this issue,” Tarawneh said. His decision came after several MPs said discussing the incident is not in line with the Constitution, under which the House cannot discuss items not specified by Royal Decree on the extraordinary session’s agenda under the Dome. [source]”

Outrage? Disgraced legislative authority? Humiliated? These are awfully big words for any member of parliament to use, and while I have no idea how deep rock bottom is – surely putting the nation’s business on hold because the speaker of the house felt “humiliated” for not having a reserved front row seat at a cultural festival – I mean surely we must be scraping somewhere near the bottom, no? Or did we surpass that when a member of parliament tried to shoot a peer with an Ak-47?

While I’m sure that I’m not the only one who finds parliament entertaining – and this ongoing battle between the government and parliament has been especially pitiful – I can’t help but have a new-found appreciation for this legislative body now that the speaker of the house, along with other members, seems to have a keen awareness for what it’s like to be both Jordanian and feel “humiliated”…or “disgraced” or “outraged” for that matter.

A widening gap between rich and poor, with the majority leaning towards the latter. Syrian refugees. Iraqi refugees. Islamism. Jihadist threats: the real, imagined and exaggerated threats. An unsteady economy. A lack of jobs. Too many families beneath the poverty line. A diminished dinar in an expensive marketplace. A floundering political system rendering relative stability a moot point. A largely young and barely-employed population. A non-competitive education system. Arbitrary political accountability. Arbitrary application of the law. Artificial liberalism outmatched by evolving social conservatism. Tribalism. Nepotism. National identity crisis. Corruption. Brain drain. Burning tires and angry, armed people; governorate closures. Increasing campus violence. A security-minded state. Censorship. An energy crisis. A water crisis. To say nothing of threats vis a vis Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Syria…

But the speaker of the house felt humiliated for not getting a front row seat at the Jeresh Festival. An event worthy of an official apology, along with a government confidence vote.

So while our so-called public servants are humiliated over a chair, I feel humiliated every time parliament makes headlines. I feel humiliated by every vote that’s cast in favor of this non-representative political system. I feel humiliated by every dinar of our taxes that pays for this sideshow, and every piece of legislation they “discuss” in the name of the people. charity team building | seo outsourcing | cialis | Visit pretty London escorts in our agency.

A National Silence


There is a question that keeps me up at night, and it’s largely to do with our national distractions – the ones that have been so fascinating to watch, especially in recent weeks.

We’ve had a Jordanian citizen shot and killed by Israelis in cold blood, inspiring haphazard protests that quickly died down once the warm spring weather rolled around and the aroma of road-side barbecue overwhelmed. But not before a war-of-words unfolded over whether Israel really apologized or not; what the definition of an apology is; whether the Israeli ambassador should be kicked out or not; and of course, why a Jordanian soldier who killed a handful of Israeli children in a previous era should be released from prison. Dignity is lost, but silence follows. An opportunity to reassess a controversial relationship is squandered. We await with bated breath, the findings of a report destined to collect dust.

No matter.

The next scene features the son of a minister condescendingly insulting…Jordanians? The poor? Proud owners of Kia Sephias everywhere? No matter. An eruption of digital admonishment follows – in the form of a hashtag of all things. Even the elites come out to play, berating their fellow country club member in a scene reminiscent of a snake eating itself whole. Dignity is lost, but silence follows. The elephant in the room goes unnoticed, and an opportunity to discuss the abhorrent growing classism that continues to undo the stitching in our social fabric is squandered.

No matter.

Scene three is the dismantling of a major roundabout in the Capital, along with the hideous statue it once housed. A flurry of photos from the scene. But perhaps this issue of urban concern will ignite debate on the state of traffic, or the ongoing lack of decent public transportation in a city overwhelmed with more residents than it can carry. Perhaps even a critical discussion on the role citizens play in the developments reshaping the very place they live in? Instead: extensive digital exchanges on whether the statue was ugly or not is what dominates.

No matter. Next scene.

An aggrieved citizen, who was (apparently) denied a chance to speak during a public forum with the Prime Minister, throws a shoe at him in anger. Photographic evidence of the event is buried, but no matter. A surge of statements on Jordanian morality, traditions, and conventions ensues – a consensus on civility in these uncivil times is what follows. The citizen is berated for his lack of good manners. But what did the man want to say that was so important? Was it about farming assistance promised to Jeresh residents years ago? Was it about income inequality in his district? Or was it a question about what kind of jobs the JD15 million investment in an “industrial city” that the PM was there to announce, will end up actually creating? Silence follows.

In between all these distractions are headlines featuring both good and bad news. Signs of progress in some areas; obvious indications of regression in other areas. Like the spring weather in Jordan, one doesn’t know whether to wear a jacket or a t-shirt; be pessimistic or optimistic. More money from the IMF; more money from the World Bank. Billions of debt in the face of economic stagnation. Silence. New reform plans: an electoral law, decentralization of governorates. Silence. Continued media censorship, activists in-and-out of jail on catch-and-release basis. Silence. Dwindling education rankings, more refugees, political and corporate corruption. And silence.

When a country is so engaged in the microscopic, and often times insignificant – leapfrogging from one to the other – how long can it avoid tackling the major issues openly and critically? Is it out of ignorance? Fear? Uncertainty? Hesitation? A lack of passion? Apathy? There’s so much silence amongst the sane, the rational-minded, the educated, the critical thinking masses within our society, that all the noise comes in the form of the trivial, or worse – in the form of the loud and atrocious voices – the ones that spend most of their time vilifying other citizens, questioning their loyalty to the loud applause of their sycophantic crowd, and call themselves “nashama” – the brave; the honorable; the gallant. The ones that convert dignified leadership in to the worshipping of idols, and demand everyone kneel as a demonstration of allegiance; of obedience.

These may be uncivil times, but the biggest crime of incivility being committed in this country does not come at the hands of the politicians or the security apparatus or any other faction of the state – the biggest crime comes in the form of silence. Not the silence of the voiceless majority, but that niche-kind of silence that engulfs the minority that is historically responsible for any kind of progressive change. How does a nation progress in the face of that much silence? That much loss? How is it that so many are willing to allow the loud-and-crass elements of this society define who they are as citizens; as Jordanians? When they point and accuse and say you’re not Jordanian enough; not loyal enough; your motives always to be questioned – how is it that we greet this vilification with lowered heads? How is it that the people with the power and knowhow to collectively change things…disengage and retreat to safety?

But maybe all those questions are rhetorical, so here’s the real one – the one I have no answer to; the one that keeps me up at night now that I’m a fortunate father:

How does one explain to their child years from now why the country they’ve inherited is overrun by wolves simply because when things got tough we chose to be, as Einstein would put it: “immaculate members of a flock of sheep”…?

I honestly don’t know.