Apologies for the non-blogging status lately, as well as the failed promise to do some live blogging from my Dubai trip due to technical difficulties. However, I’ve written a feature on 7iber about everything we did at the Learning From The Future workshop in Dubai these past few days, which I hope satisfies the curious minds that have emailed me lately. I’m finally back to Amman, and after a long, long sleep, things are back to normal. While the feature is more along the lines of what happened on the stage, this post is more about the behind the scenes events and how I personally felt about the whole thing; so you might want to read that one first as a prelude to this.
First of all, the weather was pretty decent so I was glad we could actually go out. The Jordanian delegation – consisting of Lina, Jamil, Moamar, Ala’a, Hanan, Mais and myself – were all fantastic (especially myself) and over the course of these past few days we got the chance to bond nicely. Our schedules were so packed that few of us had to time to get a decent nights’ sleep.
Secondly, I had a blast getting to know other Arabs, and members of our delegation bonded very closely to members of the Egyptian delegation who had us laughing endlessly, particularly in the final days. Getting together at a cafe meant engaging in everything from actual debatable topics to just telling jokes, and in the process of both, we would discover how similar we all are.
Although much of the session-based discussions were very regional, and Arab, you could also see the things that every group considered to be the most relevant to it. Many of the Saudis were concerned with women’s rights, one is even aiming to be the first female minister (inshallah), while people in Egypt and Jordan were concerned with unemployment. Emiratis were concerned with the loss of their national identity, while Yemenis addressed the health impact of qat and the Lebanese focused on their political situation. Meanwhile, certain realities would seep in to the conference and we’d be reminded of them. Palestinians for example, traveled with us from Amman to Dubai, but their journey to and from home meant also taking a bus from Amman to the valley where they would have to cross over to the Israeli side and go through checkpoints. Elsewhere, the Iraqi delegation only had two representatives as their other members couldn’t get visas.
Moreover, many of the people who attended were people I consider to be “substantial”, based not only what they’ve studied or even their fields, but the way in which they think openly and creatively. They are not constricted by old ways and hopefully some of them will get a chance to lead. The way discussions were carried throughout the sessions and even outside the sessions during lunch and coffee breaks, was just a brilliant display of substantial explorations and lively debates. The large group of 120 young Arabs, was dynamic, interactive and mostly friendly; engaging with each other during every opportunity they got. So it was interesting to both partake and observe some of these discussions.
Also, getting to know these people and what they do was also a chance to explore new opportunities for (NGO-type) projects that Jordan is missing and could be benefiting from tremendously. There were a handful of people, who upon telling me what they do in their own countries had me thinking: hmm, why can’t this work in Jordan?
The workshop was very well organized, and lead chiefly by Jordanians as the British Council’s regional office is based in Amman, so I tip my hat to them. The after-session activities they organized, such as a trip to the desert, were phenomenal and really pushed us all to become more interactive with each other on a personal level.
Lastly, as related in the 7iber story, the last day required us to think up initiatives/programs/projects that could address the problems we think we’ll be facing in 2025. There was no ceiling for funding so some of us went all out. At this point we had been pushed to thinking outside the box and that’s exactly what we did. I do hope that many, if not all, the initiatives and programs we designed in the end will see the light of day, some day, and I hope they’ll be sustained.
And now, for what you’ve all come here for, some monochromatic curiosities…