A few months back I wrote a rant about how high the prices of shawarma sandwiches are in Jordan. I feel it’s still a relevant topic because like I argued back then, shawarma sandwiches are part of a socio-economic hierarchy of food the most common Jordanian can afford. This is only one of the many reasons you’ll find shawarma vendors packed with people in both abdoun (the rich part of town) and bag3a (or Baqaa) refugee camp (the not so rich part of town). The other reason is that shawarma rocks.
But it’s a topic that’s even more relevant now with the recent shawarma scare in the country. Hundreds fell ill and there was even one or two casualties, all from salomenalla. One guy even missed his wedding.
This has already happened twice in the past year but the latest incident, in bag3a, happened on a larger scale causing the government to essentially ban shawarma in the country.
If you listen to morning radio talk shows like Mohammad Al-Wakeel, you’ll hear a hundred shawarma vendors complaining about the move. But many citizens have praised the move. Opinions are muddled (hence my most recent poll over there on the sidebar).
Some have argued that it’s collective punishment.
Others see the government’s decision as an appropriate and responsible one.
Still, there are those who claim this is the failure of the government to monitor these places and make sure they are adhering to public health and safety codes.
(I should note however that many have since opened, especially in the wealthier part of town where I’m assuming it’s easier to get a clean bill of health. But it was still a rough couple of hours for west Ammanis.)
I personally have no idea where I stand. I’m probably in the ‘all of the above’ category. It is in fact a failure of ministry monitoring, especially since this is the third time it happens. They should’ve been on this since the start of summer when consumption increases as well as the potential of the bacteria to fester in the swelling heat.
At the same time, there are two things you can never mess with in a country and that’s health and security. You don’t want to take chances with people’s lives, hence a mass closure seems like a responsible move. Mass recalls happen all the time in countries all over the world; from food to toys.
Beneath all this there are mumblings in many social circles, about the Minister of Health who many see as inadequate for the position (especially when compared to his predecessor).
But at the core of all this…
The overall effect has been an entire population denied a very common staple (junk) food. The rich can afford it but many of the poor will resent it.
It’s kind of ironic how such a small thing can cause so much social discontent. People would’ve been angrier had this happened a few weeks from now, during Ramadan. And had this been a bread scare, I’m 99% sure there would have been rioting in the streets followed by martial law being declared.
It’s a costly decision economically speaking and I’m sure (or rather, I hope) articles will be written in the days to come about how badly vendors were effected. But then comes the question of whether monetary value should trump the value of life.
This is all the more reason for the Ministry of Health to take their jobs more seriously instead of waiting for something to happen first and then moving into to remedy the situation.
The most costly disruptions always happen when something we take completely for granted stops working for a moment.*
The other irony of all this is…I have never felt more like a shawarma sandwich in my life.