A Tale Of Two MuniciFailities

There are times when the old Arab proverb: شرالبلية مايضحك, which roughly translates to: it’s sad that we find laughter in misery, will apply perfectly to life. The following tale is one of those times.

My father spends most of his days now in the Shunna area as we’re building a house down there. The house is situated on two pieces of land (or units), one of which is registered in my father’s name and the other in my mother’s. Nearing its completion the municipality’s surveyor was called in to look at the house and make sure it meets regulations. He discovered however that the house, which can only be built on one piece of land, was over the boundaries by 30cm. He gave my father the two available options: either pay a hefty fine for this grotesque violation or merge the two lands under one name. My father thus chose the latter option.

So a few days ago he dropped by the “Middle Shunna” municipality to get the paper work he needs in order to go back to the Ministry in Amman.

Imagine the Middle Shunna municipality as a run down, one floor home consisting of roughly 3 large dirty rooms.

At first glance the place appears empty; haunted.

My father finds the surveyor behind a desk drinking coffee, smoking a cigarette and reading a newspaper. He asks him for the paperwork.

The surveyor tells him he needs a map of the land so he goes digging in a dusty broken cabinet and pulls out an archaic map; the Treasure Island maps where “X” marks the spot. My father picked it up off his desk and was about to head out to photocopy it when the surveyor announced…

“Wein raye7 ya 3ammi?”, where are you going?

“To photocopy it down the street”

“No, you can’t do that without someone from the municipality going with you”

“Why? Do you think I’m going to sell it to Israeli intelligence?”

The surveyor decides to come along to protect the precious map but herein lies the problem: he’s the only employee around.

So he pulls out his cell phone, pretends to make a call but of course there’s something wrong and he then takes my father’s phone. The surveyor calls several employees to tell them they need to come (back) to work so that someone can look after the municipality building while he’s gone. All of them pretty much refuse. Why?

Because since the real estate boom a lot of people have been buying land in the Ghor/Jordan Valley region and since the municipality is made up solely of employees who live in the region, they’ve all become real estate agents, selling their many, many dunums of land.

The surveyor is stuck now so he makes one more phone call: to his 12 year old son. The surveyor’s wife tells him that their son is still in school, so no luck there. And before you can even say “municipality” the surveyor locks up the building and jumps in my father’s car.

The Middle Shunna Municipality is closed for business.

Several ‘blocks’ away, my father enters a ‘dukana’ or what can vaguely be described as a supermarket that is simply not that super. At the back there is an old rusty Xerox machine that offers nothing more than a cough when you press the green “Copy” button and takes several minutes to warm up.

Meanwhile the surveyor has taken the liberty of eating a Snickers bar and a bottle of 7UP on my father’s tab. Oh, and he also bought a 1 JD white-out pen so that he can correct an error he made on one of my father’s documents. He wrote the number “54” when he meant “53”. The dukana owner asked him if he wanted anything else and the surveyor quickly replied “oh no, el7amdulellah”, thanks to God.

Back at the municipality, the surveyor opens the building up for business.

All the forms seem to be in order and ready to go back to Amman, but one last thing is missing.

A stamp.

Not a postage stamp; no, the actual ink stamp.

But therein lies the problem.

The stamp bearer is a middle aged woman at home with her 4 little children and cooking lunch. So an argument ensues on my father’s cell phone between the surveyor and the woman who refuses to come to work.

The surveyor eventually pulls rank on her and the woman reluctantly comes into work 45 minutes later, with the stamp in her pocket.

She ties up the donkey she rode in on to a tree outside, rushes inside, brings the stamp crashing down on one of the documents and then rushes back home.

I. Kid. You. Not.

This tale actually came up several days after my father came home angry from the incident, but remained silent about it as he so often does. At the kitchen table we had been discussing inefficiency in municipalities, specifically the 4 employees for every one job dilemma and my father laughingly brought up this predicament.

What made him laugh a bit more was that looking back on it he had suddenly been reminded of a story he read in a newspaper 2 years ago or so.

It was one of those insignificant 6-liner stories that’s buried somewhere in the depths of the paper.

A man had been complaining about the very thing we were discussing at the kitchen table. To highlight what he was talking about he offered the reader’s an example:

In the Hasban municipality, there were actually 3 drivers but only one car available for driving.

Oh, and the car was broken.

(municipal elections are scheduled for July 2007)


  • God, that’s so hilarious but I bet very accurate details, I can see it happen in front of my eyes..sad..it is , but very funny indeed!

  • Your introduction say it best “it’s sad that we find laughter in misery”.

    You have a unique way when it comes to story telling 🙂 If this is to be transformed into a movie then: And the Oscar for Best Writing ,Adapted Screenplay form a Novel or Short Story goes to…Nas for (A Tale Of Two MuniciFailities: The Lost Stamp)

    I also think that anyone reading your post should respect your father for how patient he is.

    Do you think that a municipal elections will change any of this? well…ehhh…i hope they do.

  • Salam: it’s the details that kill

    Bashar: lol thanks. yeah he’s a patient man. and no the elections won’t change a thing

    Oula: only in jordan! (and probably several other countries)

  • Nas.
    I have this problem with merge the two under one name fee(aljofa)but the good thing i have to deal with jordan vale authority,lots of people on the job.

  • Nas,
    You see, if this didn’t happen with your father you wouldn’t have a story to laugh about..That is so freakin funny..I love jordan man!!we are a special country with special people..

  • Salaam Naseem! Your blog is amazing! keep up the good work… and I’d tell your dad- yatekel 3afiyah!

    if you dont mind, could i just ask you how you know Faraz Rabbani? cos i saw his blog on your blogroll… thank u

  • jad this is way beyond funny, more sarcasim maybe? i don’t know i can’t find the words to use. It’s real funny. and sad i guess.. sad in a funny way… i think you chose the very right saying.

    anyways Nas. I would want u to check my “make me famous”post. I don’t know why. But I felt like I would want you to read it:)

  • jameed: loool 😀

    hamede: good luck!

    mohanned: yup, exactly

    jihad: allah ya3feek…i don’t know faraz, just a fan of the blog.

    lubna: i’ll pass by and read it soon inshallah 🙂

Your Two Piasters: