Sipping Coffee At The Salon Seyasi

Knowing my love for political discussions and political sittings, my boss let me tag along to a “salon seyasi” at the World Affairs Council. I don’t believe “salon seyasi” has an actual English translation but it is basically an informal get together, meet-up, or forum, where people sit around the perimeter of an open room and discuss political issues, while sipping coffee. In Jordan, when large families visit one another, the men tend to form a mini-salon-seyasi, keeping in tune with social tradition. So, in any case, every Tuesday a group of well seasoned politicians and diplomats meet to talk shop at the World Affairs Council in Amman. It was an extremely enlightening and enjoyable experience for me, and I was especially interested in the way it was conducted.

First of all, there are a lot of big names in Jordanian politics in attendance. Abdullah Ensour is one such name as well as former Prime Minister, Abdel Salam Majali and the first female Jordanian ambassador, Laurice Hlass.

Traditionally, Majali concludes every meet up, by rounding up the topic, whatever it may be. At the start of the meet they generally ask what they’d like to discuss and topics are thrown out there until a quick consensus is drawn. Domestic issues tend to be avoided for obvious unknown reasons, although every now and then (such as two weeks ago) a discussion is forced to revolve around the elephant in the room, such as parliamentary elections or inflation. The WAC has been around since 1977, and many of its members have been active in the Jordanian political scene even before that time.

It is an open and informal salon as far as I know, so anyone can walk in and get a cup of coffee, sit on a chair or couch and listen or take part in the discussion.

Last week’s topic was about the US planned peace conference in Annapolis this autumn. Some of the members felt this was an unsatisfying topic to discuss but everyone eventually agreed.

Through out the discussion you get to hear a variety of opinions. Some of the opinion that Jordan shouldn’t attend and Palestine should boycott the conference if Israel doesn’t fulfill so and so demands. Others felt that in a situation where the Arabs are weak, powerless and in a bad position when it comes to negotiate, that there’s nothing left to do but talk. While others felt that the negotiations would lead to nothing, fulfilling their historic prophecies, and moreover, neither the Palestinians nor Israelis have governments which are strong enough to deliver on promises.

I don’t want to make this post about the conference itself, this was just by way of pointing out the variety of arguments made.

What’s interesting about this particular group of people, is the experience they bring to the (coffee) table. Almost every one of them has a story to tell straight from their political portfolio. For instance, Majali was one of the chief architects of the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan in 1994. So next to some keen political analysis, you get to hear some personal stories that apply to the topic at hand. And the topic will always digress to another before being forced back on track. So there’s always something new to learn, out of the pages of history that tend to omit the untold stories only the participants of that history can tell.


  • This is interesting. If it’s open to public, it will be great to attend their sessions. Huge names = Huge experience = Huge interest.

    We miss such organizations in Jordan.

  • huh ? 2awal tanee ?
    hmm sounds like a nice play to watch when there is nothing good on TV, and oh and ah about who these ppl are and what they did in the past:)
    might check it out one of these days

  • oh by the way i find it highly offensive that they are so slow to pay their respect to one of their members that passed away recently and not even mention anything about it not even under his picture

  • come to think of it nas please delete my comments i doubt they’ll add much to the conversation here 🙂 just a bit of touchy place and subject for me

  • Naseem,
    Anyone asked Majali about his role in the confederation talk, and him visiting israel regularly to talk about the issue?

    And what about his role(Bad management) in getting us where we are now?

    Can anyone ask him those questions or will he/she be sent to gafgafa? And can we also ask him and his brother where they their money from? Oh, I forgot, gafgafa is waving:)

  • Bambam, actually they added! Man, I would like to attend some meetings and see what they are talking about. Why should we only boycott everything? It could be for fun, or anything, just an experience! We all know what those people were and still are. Not all of them. But would like to hear the golden words of such x-highly-remarkable leaders.

    Bambam man, I like you…

  • i know nas, but i atleast was expecting some bio or a recap of his bio… something
    but then again i shouldn’t really be feeling bitter about it

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