Jordan, Where The Grass Is Not So Green

“What are you doing here?!” That’s usually the first question I get asked by those who discover I have a Canadian passport. The idea that I would choose to live in Jordan is unthinkable. There’s a long list of reasons and they usually run through my head the moment I’m asked but my answer tends to be physically articulated in the standard shrug and a mumbling of “idunno”.

Although I hate the question when prompted for an answer, I do enjoy its aftershock, the way it lingers in my head for days, letting me compile top ten lists in mind. And every now and then a new entry will makes its way into that list.

The latest one came one night during a political-economic-social-cultural discussion with friends at around 3am on a balcony somewhere on a hilltop in Amman. And when assessing our “Arab Condition” I discovered that despite all its massive shortfalls it is utterly boring to live anywhere else.

A highly developed and industrialized first world nation is done. It’s already accomplished, it’s already there. All that’s left is continued progress. It’s like coming to the party late. There’s really nothing left do here but enjoy the fruits of other’s labors.

The way I see it, if you’re a person who has an interest in issues, be they political, economical, societal, historical, current; issues that involve human rights, women, religion, ethnicity, the environment or what have you, then there’s probably no better place to live than in a third world country like Jordan.

You get to not only bear witness to the struggle, but play a role in it, be it a passive or active role; being a member of this society is a de facto implication of one’s involvement in its evolution.

You get to see the changes; the superficial changes, the real changes. Some times you really have to take a step back from the painting to appreciate it; to acknowledge or even accurately observe that change in its proper historical context.

And as for the things that don’t change, they are the most beautiful of the bunch. They represent a struggle. They personify the desire, on whatever level, to inspire change. And change is inevitable. Progress is destiny. We evolve. It’s our natural directive.

And Jordan has changed; parts of it for the worse, and parts of it for the better. There are still people who are struggling. There are still issues to be championed, battles to be fought, campaigns to be won.

If you have that active and restless soul that simply thrives on this evolution, this process, these issues, then living in a first world country is not the best place. For example: it’s great protesting something half way around the world where there’s free media and freedom of speech, but it’s even cooler to be on the front lines fighting, or at the very least experiencing the fight for freedom of speech and free media. The same can be said of every single issue that plagues the region; that plagues Jordan.

But let me emphasize that this is my world view and my world view alone. People reading this, especially Jordanians who have chosen to live outside the country or even those currently residing in it and wanting nothing more in life than to leave; these people should be cautious when coming into contact with these very words. Because this is not me shaking my head at them or even me tilting at windmills. This is not me being naive nor is it me being hopeful. This is not me telling you how to live your life or how to see things.

This is just the way I personally experience this world. It’s not a view that is easily sustained nor is it one that is easily imposed on others, which is why I don’t. People are free to makes the choices that they make in this life, without the burden of caring about certain things; especially of all things, a country such as Jordan that has probably failed to sustain them. I can empathize with that. Even though I never understood the correlation between those who leave Jordan and their incessant need to attack it from the outside when it always seemed to me that choosing to leave a country is a choice that includes forfeiting the right to attack it, given the fact that the choice of departure is also a deceleration of disengagement from the process, leaving the rest (usually the poor whom they always claim to champion) to deal with it. But that’s besides the point. A topic for another post.

I will say this though, as a final note. There is a difference between knowing that the grass on the other side is greener and wanting to be part of the process that improves your own side of the fence. Or to use another cliche: it really is easier to cast stones at a glass house, than help to actually build a home from the ground up.

And if anything, just being there is historical.


  • Bingo, Bravo, very well said!! It’s exactly what I love about being here, a chance to be on the cutting edge of positive change.

    I hope this could be a 7iber contribution in some form. πŸ™‚

  • I get asked the same question all the time, but I don’t think I’ve ever answered back with “It’s boring everywhere else.” I’ve been to a lot of non-boring places where I wouldn’t mind living. But as you said, it’s fun to contribute positively to an evolving society.

  • My family and I also have the canadian citizenship, and we choose to live in Amman. We’ve lived in canada and in the states, but Amman is our home. It doesn’t feel the same when you’re living on strangers’ land. There’s no place like home.

  • Excellent subject Nas……this is half the reason I left the US and moved back. The other half is because I strongly disagree with what is being cooked up in the western hemisphere and I feel like I want to stand on the right( just) side of the equation.
    I would like to ask you and the other commentors, don’t you feel like you are wasting your time sometimes, do you see a “business case” or a “political or social case” for the effort you are pouring in? the other question is, do you think that this is an issue of people coming back to aid a “society evolving” as Dave put it, or is it actually a society being under pressure to conform to the master, do you find yourself sometimes contributing to the demise of this society by un-intentionally aiding those who are trying to whip it into the queue? An example of this is the laborer rights in the gulf states, its a Nobel cause, and the laborers right need to be protected, but the problem is that the main advocates are people with hidden agendas, their concern is the economic boom that is materializing in that part of the world, the rights of the laborers are an afterthought to them. I personally feel that I was contributing more to this society when I was away, when you are away, you identify more with Arabs, of different affiliations and ideologies, you stick together, you form a camp, in the Arab world, its tragic, everyone is at odds with everyone else, there is no consensus on any issue wether its political, social economic or even tribal. Its beyond repair in my opinion, I think it needs to be left to a future generation for things to dip out of its nose-dive. The thing i dislike about todays “Arab situation” is its complete non-existence, what the hell is an Arab? Its tragic really, how everyone is so ultra-national today, in the name of national identity people are super fascist in the Arab world, and the funny part is not a single “Arab country” is self sufficient in any imaginable matrix, the borders drawn by Mrs. Sykes and Pico are a joke. These were put there for a reason, and the fruits are being picked today, non-viable city states, from coast to coast, even the oil rich states are non-viable because of their demographic woes for example. So I feel that the efforts will be in vain, they should aim much higher, the bar is not even visible from down here, and if you dare to look up you might see a security persons boot closing down on you.

  • Thank you for this post Nas … that’s exactly how I feel when people ask me why I came back to Amman and give me the “you are nuts” look for leaving Dubai and choosing Amman over it …

    I think this feeling has been living inside me but I never blurted out in so many words but as Deemco said: there is no place like home even if this home was a tent in the desert ..

    Bless you πŸ™‚

  • THANK YOU MARKUS for not making me the only part pooper here πŸ˜€
    This post comes off as a typical ideological 20 something, I was there before but I think now I know better.
    The problem with this outlook is that you are standing so far out to see the bigger picture that you end up standing alone. meaning; as markus pointed out the “Arabic” & especially the “jordanian” society is so fragmented that there is so little to base any form of movement for change from. Plus even if you try to implement social change in any manner the people who will benefit from that are xenophobic and change resistant.

    It does get frustrating knowing that you want to do something, and you try to do something but in the end you find it is hopeless to do anything (and if you have any ideas for things to be done then please do share).

    speaking about change, there are a lot of changes going on in this region & in jordan especially, and personally i believe that those changes and the direction they are heading in will be the main reason for me to start looking for a way out again !

  • I just wanted to commend you for the introspection it takes to really think about what draws you back home. And, while I think it’s alwasys extremely easy to write off someone’s thoughts as typical of an age group, the reality is that some of us are simply idealogically hopeful. I have a strong belief that change happens one person at a time (and I assure you I left 20 behind long ago). What’s more exciting than being in a place where you can not only make the change, but see it as well? I’m not sure boring is the word I’d use for the other living options in the world, but exciting is definitely a word I’d use for Amman…

  • Maybe this issue does not need a lot of complex analysis. I have not lived outside Jordan for more than one month, but at the end I always enjoy the feeling of sleeping on my pillow at home. If you are satisfied inside, do not put a lot of energy to explain yourself.

Your Two Piasters: