December 26, 2005

Jordanian English “Life Style” Magazines: Elitism manifested, deluded & superimposed!

When I sample through such magazines, I immediately imagine an English single mother dating a Frenchman with a troubled sex life and a financial leverage to drink tea at the Dorchester hotel in London, in contrast with the profile of their potential readers from Jordan’s upper spheres!

First of all, why are they in English? I feel the big “I am Hypocrite” superscript floating on top of me right now since I am blogging in English, yet I still don’t get it, many magazines around the world are specialty magazines with limited readership that targets a limited specifically-interested niche willing to pay a premium for a magazine that wobbles about the bizarre interest they may have, and I know for sure that there’re business that exploits such interests whom are willing to pay a premium to advertise on these specialty magazines…. Nothing wrong with that (in terms of business)

But this is not the case with “life style” magazines; by definition they should be generic, variant and diverse in essence, as the sum of its material and editorials should have the widest circulation and appeal possible! So how could this be the case when the first thing such magazines do is minimizing their readership circle to the English-speaking niche only!

Perhaps they publish in English in order to "reach out" to the assumed-to-exist like-minded mindsets? and I ask; since when does mentalities can be profiled based on language?

They might be profitable for some awkward reason that mostly has to do with the conjured dynamics of the Jordanian marketplace… but definitely they have no clue who are they selling their magazines for and who's reading it.

I still feel mystified whenever I have the opportunity to vigilantly read through these magazines (frankly to avoid obscene imagery) as I am not sure who are they targeting? Just for once, I would like to plot a pattern of potential readers that fit a certain trend in our Jordanian society that can be identified by the publishers as a potential customer?

I feel disgusted every time I quote glimpse of the disgraceful publication “Layalina”, though I applaud the way they have conceptualized the magazine and how it gained steady foot in the market, the people behind it obviously did their homework, they identified a paying niche that would like to see people and be seen with people around town, and envisaged a magazine that fits their level of intelligence and involvement; minimum reading and maximum visual stimulus at a rather small premium with lots of potential advertisers! Later on, the poor "Layalina" punters are now paying to get their pictures floated on it while the magazine itself is being franchised around the region… a fine entrepreneurship example... alas in the wrong direction.


But the case of “Layalina” is solid even in the face of a fundamentalist like myself, I can confront its editors and ask them “Who reads your magazine?” and they’ll have an answer ready for me; I’ll give away my new car for anyone who can concisely outline the profile of the potential, say “Luxury” or “living well” magazines readers without referring to the fact that they have money to fork around on pointless publications!

Then comes the issue of content: The etiquettes of eating deserts? How to dump your boyfriend painlessly? 10 ways to enhance your sex life? 54 ways to know that he was cheating? Things to consider before buying a Yacht? How to get over an affair? Choosing the perfect Cigar to go with your cocktail party?… Oh’please… where do they think we're living at, my stomach is aching!

Thier professoinal look and feel, and the high caliber writing they may sport is not in question here, it just doesn’t make sense, which part of our culture do these magazines represent? What background do they come from? Do they reflect our reality as a whole society or just samples of unique individuals or phenomenas from it, or perhaps a mere imaginary society that is assumed to exist in the superb of Amman?

Why can’t they address serious issues rather than mimicking editorials and superimposing them upon the helpless niche that barely understand proper English yet alone to comprehend what it means to have a genuine “life style” in the first place?

Why can’t they tackle issues that are truly crippling the niche society they are targeting and the society as a whole: issues like the social inequality we live in, the surge in divorce rates, premarital sex, teenage pregnancies, insect sex, and tragic stories of gambling & alcohol poisoning… mind the cant-see-but-pure-evil rhetoric here

This might be too much to ask from a revenue seeking magazine, a publication full of such gibberish won’t sell for sure, but at least, when these magazines decide to get serious with their editorials, then at least they can pick issues and stories from our local environment!

At the end of this indiscriminate bash on a whole industry, I find myself obliged to credit “Jo” Magazine for they truly stand apart from its peers, despite the fact that they suffer from the same confused image they reflect, in general however; they exhibit sincerity, objectiveness and a professional editorial feel throughout the magazine, as they mostly seem focused on whom they’re targeting… I wish they do away with the semi/naked imagery and pointless articles!

December 25, 2005

A Speculation: MobileCom’s shy “Orange” rebranding!

I am a loyal MobileCom customer, though I do find myself skeptical of how they ran their business ever since they entered the market 5 years ago with a favorable duopoly that could have been better utilized to rapidly capture market share and block the polarization of the market to avoid creating a mammoth out of the first operator Fastlink!

Beside that, it seems they have finally understood the dynamics of the market despite their years of shameful financial performance and ridicule market penetration, a bit latent perhaps; but in no contrast to Fastlink's practice, who only realized the true potential of the market when it felt the nearing of competition, which proved to be impotent at the time!

It is no secret, MobileCom is JT’s baby, and JT is France telecom adopted baby, the latter have many operations around the world, and most of it’s mobile networks are branded as “Orange”, a brand that originated in the UK.

For the past two years, I was aware that MobileCom was enjoying a degree of technical backing from France Telecom through its Mobile arm “Orange”, especially with the entrance of XPress as a new player in the local market with incomparable set of technological credentials, as they tried to patch up a service similar to the latter’s push-to-talk offering...

But only recently did it become apparent that Orange is now influencing MobileCom in terms of marketing and branding!

MobileCom website had a recent facelift, and not surprisingly, it used the exact template used by most Orange websites around the world (there are 15+ of them). And despite the different tone of the color orange that is used in the coloring scheme, everything else is almost identical…

Enter their running ad campaigns, they have standardized the use of black background and a certain font and layout that are also consistent with Orange branding throughout their operations around the world. My speculation would be that MobileCom are in the middle of a shy rebranding, perhaps in the coming months they’ll boost the tone of the orange color to match Orange’s distinct level, and later use the same packaging style, price-plans structures dictated by Orange until the switchover becomes a matter of a mere overnight logo swap -almost.

The benefits will be that MobileCom will enjoy the powerful synergy stemming from the utilization of an international brand (perhaps mobile content blah blah), and enhance their market penetration and segmentation capabilities.

On the down side, it’ll definitely loose its local feel as a Jordanian operator, as well as the perpetuating benefit for being the first to dedicate a portion of its resources to offer tailored packages to the service men and women of the Armed forces. A major backlash can also be expected if it was associated with Orange's Israeli operation, as the brand "Orange" in general is widely recognized as an Israeli brand here in Jordan, this is not the case for sure, yet such misconception would require heavy campaigning in order ot be addressed, without anticipating it to be cleansed any time soon.

Yet another twist in the Jordanian mobile communication sector that will only enforce its utter uniqueness!

December 10, 2005

Typicalism

Since everyone seems to be in the business of coining terms these days, I’d like to have a go on that and perhaps credit myself with some novelty while I'm on it!

I’d like to coin the term “Typicalism”... It is already underlined with a red scribble by the spell checker, and Google returned no credible references for it, so I’ll entertain no claims over it, perhaps I can prefix it with the tag “Jordanian”... Now, allow me to dwell upon you with what I mean with it!

Basically, it can be either a syndrome that people who are usually identified to be “typical” suffer from, or it could be the social phenomena of being unable to identify the people around you or their acts with anything but being typical, a matter of crude perspective really!

One cannot help but notice how typical people can be sometimes! It is not that one can be so full of himself that he can no longer appreciate genuinely distinct individuals or their perspectives, but in our lame society that oozes with “typicalist” tendencies, people seems to be easily polarized and unconsciously segregated into mimicked herds sporting replicated and consumed ideas and point of views that seems to be viciously dull and awfully repeated over and over again.

The interesting aspect of typicalism though; is that people from different circles of the society can find themselves –to the awe of those usually at top- conjugated together under one “typical” perspective, especially when it comes to affairs that is widely viewed as a social axiom of an obvious nature!

Consider this: if you happen to be in your mid-to-late twenties and essentially unmarried, and you happen to be in a Jaha, engagement or wedding, you can easily identify an obvious trace of typicalism by observing the swarms of annoying sweet-talking wholehearted -allegedly- complements and pats-on-the-shoulder from every other co-guest: in the line of “3ugbalak… when you'll get married?” or “Shed il-Himmih… bidna inshoof 3arees”

Or consider this one: you are a Tawjhi student, and everyone starts treating you with flaring typicalism, be it your close family, extended one or even your all-over-the-place neighbors, you get bombarded with the same old questions, recommendations, directions or merely the uncalled-for motivational I’ve-been-there old Tawjhi stories! In return, you as a frustrated Tawjhi student; cannot help but retaliate with acts of utter typicalism, such as finding a strong urge for a private tutor, or skipping family functions to go out with friends in the name of studying! In case you fail to skip it, you blame your engagement with those many family events for your poor performance!

Or you can consider this one: if you happen to sport a fist-long beard, then you should expect to hear the same set of mimicked comments, advises and lectures from almost every other person you meet, wither someone he's acquainted to you or a complete stranger! -Personally speaking- No one seems to be able to amaze me with an alternative perspective when it comes to beards! from the open-minded claimants of western Amman to the bored passport control officers at Queen Alia airport, typicalism vividly manifest itself in the terminology used, objections, speculations and facial gestures; it just repeats itself whenever a beard is sighted!

Regardless of your age, sex, ethnic background, upbringing, level of education or current mind-set, you are bound to be suffering from one symptom of typicalism or the other, and therefore you are bound to have been the victim of circumstantial typicalism at best. Cases like the above are numerous, I can pat my chest with confidence and swear with my semi-shaved moustache that everyone can think of a personal yet typical encounter with our society -or a member of it- that rings a bill or two.

I must admit though that typicalism is not much of a serious deficiency as social profiling -for instance- may will be, you’ll find them conjugated when someone is at fault with profiling, but it doesn't necessarily have to be the other way around, for typicalism at worse can be an annoying little gesture, comment or advise that most of us can hear and let-go in peace despite its repulsive and aggregating nature.

Typicalists -or tepe(s) in slang- are mostly harmless people in essence if took at face value, for they are by definition typical people going about thier lives in a typical manner and sporting typical views!

Typicalism is trait that thrives in oblivious and debasingly-hallow societies, especially when there’s no strict code of conduct in place for either people to go about their lives on the basis of freedom of choice, or preferably an enforced yet consistent and unprejudiced set of rules, references and directives.

December 05, 2005

I’ve been promoted; so where is my laptop?

Consider this: he’s been promoted recently, they modestly fixed his salary, pumped-up his title with a resonating Chief, Senior, supervisor, executive, Team-leader or plain-old Manager, in a choice of pre or post fix to whatever dull job title he previously held, with pressurizing loads of new responsibilities and deliverables, and… that’s about it!

No company mobile-phone, vehicle or fuel-vouchers, no closed office with an indoor window shaded by a tilting shatter that intrigues voyeuristic tendencies, and there’ll be no upgrades to a “privilege” laptop. He starts anticipating the next business cards printing cycle to condole himself and reinforce the fact that he’s been promoted, but for months, he’ll be stuck with either no cards in the first place or a scarce of old ones that basically belittles his new self -or position depending on how personal he perceives his career!

It is unfortunate really, to find employees identifying progress and growth during their career with such mediocre measures that usually have little to do with the job they’re paid for!

This starts from the moment the employee is inaugurated by receiving the branded neck-band or Yo-Yo like retractable attachment-bit that ends with a company idea-card; the latter usually comes in either cheap glossed carton or RFiD plastic in case the company has invested in some useless access control & attendance monitoring system.


He’ll be embracing this token of belonging at all times; during lunch breaks, after hours hangout and sometimes until late hours, priding himself for the mere thought of being part of an organization! A climax may be reached if the company happens to be a teleco, a high profile IT firm, or a medium-size regional office of an international company with an in-your-face foriegn name!

The new employee goes about his business, wither he was an oven-hot fresh graduate or just a second or third timer, in both cases, the first 6 months usually sustains the propelling motivation to prove oneself as a worthy employee despite how he managed to get aboard the company: family business, Aunt happens to be the HR manager, or a just-a-three-month training post that ends up to be a permanent position in utter mystery.

Then, the employee unwillingly start noticing the benefits that the big guys get or fight for if they lack, he’ll see his supervisor fighting for privileges their peers might have, and his section manager fighting to elevate himself into a closed cubical instead of being exposed to the general public and vulnerable to interruptions, and the department manager (or DIE REC TOR) fiercely and competitively battling others for more authoritarian grip over ambiguous inter-departmental affairs …

Gradually, the innocent employee finds himself engaged in a reorientation trip in which his focus on his job lessen in favor of how to climb up the hierarchy, and instead of meeting his career objectives that he ripped of from some career-clinic website, he gradually becomes obsessed with how to leach onto the organization and benefit from the same bounties his superiors are reaping while he’s being paid peanuts.

Much to be said still; about email wars, protocols & To, CC & BCC skirmishes, the mid-management dilemmas of who’s got the steadiest authoritarian fist around, and the disrupting competition over who’s got the strongest promotion indications… all but too much of an electrified and sickening environment!

These are few excerpts from a reality many Jordanian and Middle Eastern companies live by! I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a worldwide phenomenon, but I can imagine that in developed economies, the effects of corporate immaturity is remedied by advance management techniques and optimal utilization of a well planned human-resource requirements and the development of organizational-behavior scholarly that disciplines the overall interactions among employees.

A proper culture must evolve to complement the huge professional and capable work force in Jordan, a culture that does not identify its work with company idea cards, hyped and hallow job titles, lunch breaks at Mecca mall, discussions about email heroines and unnecessary attention to privileges and office politics. A culture that prides itself for being an efficient, dedicated and quality-centric in essence, and view this as the mean to excel personal career profiles and success stories.

December 03, 2005

An epitaph: Amman lost its eighties flavor!

Dedicated to a generation of Ammanites who embraced the eighties with pride…

“Flippin heck… what the hell is this doing here?” this is the –mostly- innocent swear that I utter every time I pass by Mecca Mall… since when was it feasible to go for a large scale shopping center in the first place? What’s this Gulf-states-feel of it? I can’t help but be sorry for Ammanites being spoiled with a choice of 20+ food outlets all gathered in one place, along with a multi-screen cinema, a bowling arena and -that’s a new one- a laser-gun shoot’em up recreational facility! Where are we at? California, it becomes surreal with herds of teenage –and more mature- punters lurking over there speaking with an agitating accent…

Back then, there was a different destination for the limited choices one may fancy in terms of food! For Shawerma, there was –and still to some extent- 2nd circle’s Reem, for Falafil, it can be argued that Rainbow’s Al-Quds shack was the place, for hummus and fool there is Hashim El-Balad, fancy some Italian food; perhaps bad-business-conditions-turned-me-into-a-cheeky-nightclub Alferado would have been a delight, Chinese, there was of course Abu-Khalil... and so on and so forth.

Back then, the trendy few had to scroll the streets of Jabal Amman, Shmesani and later Swefieh for scrupulous boutiques to lay their hands on quality import clothing, what all these designer names doing cramped up next to each other at Malls and “brand-names” street?

Fancy bowling instead of watching a 1-year old film on either Philadelphia or Concorde? Then unless you are an elitist Automobile Club member or a friend-of, then Abul-Dahab center was the only destination.

Amman has changed, and it is not mere face-lift indeed, Yes, I declare my contempt for the littering of its streets with liquor stores, swarms of bars, nightclubs –the glamorous and the kinky cheap ones- along with massage-houses and gulf-punters cafés, but…

…This is not what aggregates me to post this lament, for I basically feel that Amman is loosing its touch as a place where its locals pride themselves with its uniqueness instead of its replicated modernity, mind you… but the uncomfortable sense of familiarity across certain aspects of middle eastern cities such as Dubai, Amman, Beirut, Cairo …etc is utterly alarming? Despite the fact that we still have our delightful seven-hill layout, retro landmarks such as Al-Burj and Al-Iskan… no urban development can wipe those out, or would it be the case?

Where are the Viva cola signs, where are the billboards advertising Mr. Chips fake-gifts? Since when did Safeway stopped being the “hip” place that lures crowds into on weekends? Where are the 10-piaster kiosk phones? Where are the poorly branded restaurants –yet serving good food- such as Submarrine Al-Rabyih? What’s up with skating Palace now a days…

Amman’s eighties era has survived up to the early nineties, I’ve lived through its later days, but got sincerely addicted to it as I hear passionate tales from my older cousins and friends who lived this period that can be deemed with semi-cultural isolation or latency and utter genuine 7afrtaliness.


At the end of this elegy, I long for another trip to Amman, in search for any remaining traces and tokens from its not so distant past, in the midst of urban development, and cultural-conservational city renovation, before business owners opt for colorful logos and billboards and drop the cheap straightforward signs, to perhaps eye kids still favoring Ras-il-3abid over Snickers; munching on Jabri’s Taxi & red race-car Askimo instead of Galaxy ice-cream, and taste a back-then satisfyingly delicious Nabil burger without having my taste buds reoriented to enjoy only US franchise gourmets!

November 30, 2005

The preposterous bounty of defeat!

Mind you, but this is my third attempt to compile this entry! It was –still- rigorously hard not to feel as yet another self-righteous Saddam apologetic suffering from a fatalist variant of post-trauma romanticism with occasional hallucinations of Saddam’s face engraved onto the moon’s surface while rhetorically touting how Iraqis are destined -and deserve- to have such oppressing tyrants ruling them to keeping them intact!

Sigh… honestly I am not, but if clinching to crude facts cleansed from media-stimulations and mainstream claims of being reasonable & realistic; if this will cost me being deemed with the above, then be it so… for the truth is usually hard to swallow especially when emotions are catalyzed and overdriven to run at “flaringly high”. Capturing the hearts & minds of the general cuddly populous with deceitful sheer drama seems to be an easy task these days! That it is of course in reference to Saddam’s ludicrous trial, even the Times think of it this way

"Far from showcasing justice and democracy in the new Iraq, the trial of Saddam and his seven henchmen descended rapidly into farce yesterday"

I have said it once and I’ll stipulate it here again, the issue has little to do with Saddam being brought to justice for his decades of tyranny & atrocities he is accountable for! The issue is intrinsically related to the overall state of affairs in occupied Iraq! It is to say that an impartial, independent and just jurisdictional system that may qualify to orchestrate such a trial cannot possibly be fostered under any type of foreign occupation, especially when it is enforced by swarms of mercenary fighters led by a pragmatic US political directive that identifies Iraq only as a lucrative opportunity irrespective of the welfare of its people.


A defeated nation can only expect to be exerted with further oppression and injustice as a bounty for their defeat, setting up a trial run by foreign-appointed judges with no national credentials will bring no justice to the Iraqis… the least one would expect was a trial in some oddly-named “neutral” European city, Hague, Warsaw... how about Helsinki for a change?

Allow me to dwell upon you with two different alternative perspectives to the whole ordeal that deserves to be observed and nurtured in one's mind:

First and foremost, to recognize Allah’s wrath and wisdom exhibited in punishing tyranny and injustice! Who would have ever thought that Saddam, the heroic invincible iron-grip president will find himself abandoned by even his immediate entourage and beneficiaries as he retires to a hideout ditch, then pictured while he's in his undies and later persecuted by an illegitimate abominable judicative body appointed by a foreign occupational force playing a digitally remastered video from the good old days in utter mockery! A surreal manifestation of Allah’s verse (Al-Naml 27:34)

"قَالَتْ إِنَّ الْمُلُوكَ إِذَا دَخَلُوا قَرْيَةً أَفْسَدُوهَا وَجَعَلُوا أَعِزَّةَ أَهْلِهَا أَذِلَّةً وَكَذَلِكَ يَفْعَلُونَ"

Secondly -from a birds-eye view-, I find it truly worthy of Hallmarking; the astonishing and -mind me if I add- heroic position held by Saddam on both of his adjourned trial sessions, it was of an epic nature! with his self-enforced pride and uncompromising stance discoursed from the realm of unfavorable circumstances vividly surrounding him, It got me thinking...

is it something to do with his credentials? Or is it a mere sense of righteousness stemming from the illegitimacy of his opponent? How would it be if the trial was held by the leaders of say; a popular uprising that would have uprooted his regime instead?

November 28, 2005

Linguistic clumsiness!

I credit this title to Hatem AbuNimeh who coined the term almost 3 years ago while scrutinizing the lack of “theme” in my writings.

Tololy’s latest experimentation got me thinking; how big of a role does the linguistic skill exhibited in a given writing affect the crude thought or idea it conveys?

Take for instance the comment (3rd from top) posted by an anonymous reader in response to my “I saw a woman... “ entry, the commentator certainly had a sincere & valid prospective to express, and was trying to illustrate a sound & interesting stance, but his writing style failed him miserably! At best it would take someone with either extreme-interest or prudent patience to forgive the shortcomings, filter out discrepancies and appreciate the good and insightful thinking put forward.

A thought or an idea should by definition be crystal clear in the mind of its beholder, unless narcotics are involved; a sane individual shouldn’t have a problem understanding his own thoughts once established as the thinking process wrap-up! The beauty however is to be able to capture these thoughts into meaningful words that is common with others depending on the level of one’s involvement:

A teenage girl with a pink diary wouldn’t have a problems writing in broken lingo and in ridiculous lengths –without loosing focus- about her daily affairs and childishly-intimate thoughts to an audience solely comprised of “Dear Diary”. In vast contrast with a columnist who works for a widely circulated newspaper, where his writing should deliver a quality product that fits a certain criteria and reflects a predefined image or policy in order not to loose his audience and keep his pay-roll… rolling.


And not far from the columnist, comes the established writer or novelist –beside the commercial ones- whose writings is usually judged in the realms of literature and fine-art! The responsibility towards one's writing and its value & integrity varies among these cases. (even myself is now yelling at me with a scorching “obviously!”)

The stew of maintaining the interest of the reader and –hopefully sheer- entertainment with a distinct flawless style while eruditely delivering on a precise idea –or better still, a multiple of parallel ideas- seems to be too hard of a gourmet to cook & simmer, as it requires a balancing act between: avoiding a typical & dull writing style against delving into the use of uncommon –yet eloquent- terminology and complex paradigms & linguistic you-know-what-I-am-talking-about illustrations & structures. To further sustain the attentiveness and focus of the reader while perpetuating the thoughts and ideas in an infallible manner and consistent cadence while avoiding repetition and unnecessary off-road elaborations and backgrounders!

Alas… I fail miserably in the above, to the point that I find it hard to believe that any of my gibberish writing can be someone’s muse for a day or so! Unless he/she was also oozing with extreme anticipating interest or a prudent and pious patience!

I conclude that the writing style significantly impacts the thought being communicated to the reader; however it cannot possibly shadow the sincerity and good thinking –when present-! A dreadfully written article may still have fruits of wisdom in its centrum , the fact that it'll be hard for the average reader to appreciate and grasp -yet alone to stimulate- wouldn’t render it unread as it may will be the sought-after mind-boggling read for some passionate like-minded readers!

November 27, 2005

I saw a woman! Or: Single men's social misery in the depths of the desert

I Saw a woman, and a kid… and yet another kid, in fact I've seen a dozen of them playing in the garden beside the pool, whoa... a band of talkative women gossiping while the food was being served by a mob of maids, that is all but too exhilarating, so I decided to retire to a numb bunch of men setting aside for a breather, where am I? or is it where was I before this encounter?

This was a scene from what would have been a typical Ramadan iftar feast among a crowd of a delightfully happy neighbors in a cozy gated-community compound anywhere in Saudi, and it happens to be that I'm invited to one of them feasts... but what was it that made the scene too momentous for me that I had to suppress the feelings of alienation and gazing-around sense of surprise while replicating an image of normality and tactful behavior?

Will -can you barely hear the slurred-voice of a looping sample from "it's a man's world" running in the background?- I am single (my fiancée lives in Jordan), I live outside any type of gated-community –for a multitude of reasons-, I am engaged in a nation-wide telecom project that drains me out of any time to facilitate a chance of a "social" life, oh' and I am currently living in non other but Saudi-Arabia!

Yes indeed, a sad portrait of the reality that many single expatriates face over here –along the unfortunate locals living away from their families-, the abnormal multi-level economically-driven elitist segregation and alienation against swarms of a dominantly-male work force that seems to no longer identify itself with any family environment, during the business working hours, and the hours after; when one finds himself caged outside the world of open markets, recreational centers, shopping malls and good dining places.

Please do not read me wrong here, I am not calling for unlawful mixing or looking for someone to guide me to the many exclusive fully-fledged parties and out-of-place social events... all I want is the normal happy mix of people in the streets, markets, playgrounds and parks that is comprised of normal men, women, kids, families, -and yes- singles alike going about their business without necessarily anticipating an explosive encounters amongst each other.

For God's sake, I’ve been here for almost a year and a quarter, an I am craving to go to the Riyadh zoo, to reminisce my family trips over there when I was young! -"It's a man's world" chorus should have stopped looping by now-, unfortunately I can't be admitted in, I must be accompanied by a family –who should accompany who I ask myself?-, a family by current definition should include a wife as a bare minimum requirement, and anything from a trolled toddler to a half dozen trailer of kids, I thought of barrowing my aunt's 10-year old daughter but it won't cut it as a qualifying family... I comfort myself by feeling sorry for the envisaged misfortunate case of a father who’s looking forward to spend quality time with his kids at the zoo while Mom is not available -for some reason- and got turned away because he doesn't qualify as a family!

Yes there are singles-only hours to enter the zoo, but they are ridiculously confined to certain days and hours that also happen to be the typical business hours we're busy at! So there goes any chance to ponder upon God's magnificence perpetuated through his overwhelming creation that was gathered from all over the world for the benefit of "families only"...

The singles workforce in Saudi –enter the rhetoric tone- is an oppressed tender of society indeed with a wide spread feeling of being systematically and institutionally marginalized from any hint of family-oriented social life! Be it that you are a white-collar top executive who missed out on bringing a family along or a humble I’ll-do-anything-for-a-living south-east Asian laborer!

I must add that this does not even come close to being equated with say the couples-only night-out dilemma of the wannabe poser-cum-clubbers of western Amman, for the latter case doesn't challenge a welfare necessity, unless I stand corrected; being denied admission to the corrupt environment of a nightclub wouldn’t exactly shatter one’s psyche! In contrast with the uncalled for tampering with one’s welfare when trying to enter a public area, a supermarket, or a furnished-apartment complex for a night-over or simply a food-court on a weekend and being denied access for merely being single!

So there you have it... a humble account on how I am being simmered into an anti-social entity that eyes any given family with envy that stems from a complete sense of sheer rejection by the post-modern society of Saudi today! I must note however, that despite the drama illustrated above, I still do enjoy my time here, and indulge in many activities –when time permits- that I would otherwise have been unable to do if I was burdened with any family-related responsibilities.

November 26, 2005

Entrepreneurship from the midst of the deceased.


Sabri Hakim’s capture of the
business card from heaven induced me to talk –with a hint of rhetoric tendency- about the individual behind this free gracious service.

Abu-Islam is actually in the funeral-service business. In fact his company’s name is quiet novel and catchy “موْسسة عالم البرزخ”, I am not sure if there is some sort of a biblical equivalent to this term, but the company’s name translates to “The Intermediate World Company for funeral services”. (Intermediate between this life and the afterlife that is)

With a couple of make-shift vans for funeral transports and a small team of employees, the guy goes about his subtle –yet modestly profitable- business which thrives when people unfortunately die.

Remember the early days of Meals-on-wheels of the late ninties that later evolved to Aramex@home? The after-hours shy service that the folks at Aramex envisaged to utilize the parked assets after business hours; sigh, it was a very novel idea for sure, at worse would have been a modest revenue stream, little did they knew at the time that it’ll become part of their core business! Will, our friend Abu-Islam did just that, but with charity in his mind!

I don’t know him personally, but I would reckon that at one point, he thought to himself “Those parked in-between-deaths vans can be used to transport excess food from the extravagant feasts of the rich”… immediately he materialized his thoughts to action and the service promoted in the card above was established!

What interests me most about Abu-Islam’s approach to this type of charity work -beside the fact that it is charity and community centric- is that he have developed pretty interesting and thoughtfully efficient techniques and procedures in the way he go about collecting the excess food, in contrast to the profiling image you might have in mind of a foot-long bearded sheikh with black garbage plastic bags vulgarly dumping the food into an unpleasant stew of mixed leftovers!

First –he sports a pretty long beard by the way-, he comes prepared with plastic bags of all kinds and sizes, the small ones double as make-shift gloves for hygienic and tidiness purposes, then he cleans up the platters from inedible leftovers, then homogeneously segregates the available food; rice is packed separately from meat and decorating extras such as pecans and nuts, the saucy stuff are also packed separately in a shanineh-yogurt-from-Jarash-Ajloun-road style!

Then comes the efficiency in doing the above, I saw his crew (comprised of a man with his 10 year old kid) clearing up 10 20-inch Mansaf platters –sdoorit mansaf- in exactly 15 minutes, not to mention the circus-magician-like swift hand trick that rolls the food into the plastic bag in a very pleasant scene, talk about style...

His tactfulness extends to the way he serves the collected food to the needy, in which he -despite the petty origin of the second-hand food he’s serving- ensures that the people he’s about to feed do not feel agitated from it’s scene, the hungry also have feelings and differentiate between a mouth-watering meal and an abandoned leftover.

Overall, Abu-Islam seems to ooze with courtesy and thoughtfulness concern towards the less fortunate tenders of our society, his concern did not translate to a mere nagging mental midget when one is suffocating-ly full and can't even eye the food left on the table, but rather into tangible action that delivers nutrition and perhaps a hint of joy to many hungry mouths.

I wish the service offered by Abu-Islam was not needed in the first place! Or at least not to be evolving around collecting excess food! I wish for the well-off circles of our society to revise their arrogant habits of ludicrously sized feasts and perhaps reform their corrupt set of social standards and missunderstanding of graciousness and hospitality while they’re on it!


May Allah the most merciful bestow his mercy upon Abu-Islam for his pious work… a truly novel example of selfless dedication and passion towards society that deserves everyone’s acknowledgment.

November 25, 2005

The Virgin tea-boy.

His name is Shafiq, our company’s eastern region branch office tea-boy and cleaner, due to the limited scope he have during the day, he usually naps his way out day-long utilizing one of the empty desk spaces available. Shafiq pushes aside the keyboard, mouse & pad of an abandoned PC (the monitor would be too heavy though tempting to be pushed aside) to make room for his arms-cum-pillow, and lay his head venutring into another dimension.

For months, I have failed to recognize the screaming contrast! Here you have a poorly educated man with a subtle job, putting aside a computer connected to the internet that at least would be an entertaining ride not to mention its potential as a learning and life-changing experience!, why? Why he never thought of turning it on instead? perhaps out of fatigue (which I doubt), or out of comfy laziness and lack of ambition, or sheer shyness and humbleness that is intrinsic in south-east Asian cultures… perhaps I was the one who was not motivated enough to offer him to use the PC, after all, it is under my jurisdiction until the IT folks find out about it that it is an abandoned asset…

"Shafiq" I shouted "Do you know how to use a computer" in a cross- gulf-arabic-Tagalug-hindi-urdu-english dialect,
"No" was his answer with sheer shock out of surprise,
"Do you know what’s the internet ?” i reiterated and he replied with an unanticipated "Yes"!

Next step, I needed to fuel his interest So I asked him where he's from and he answered that he's from Bangladesh, no need for search engines, a quick www. & .com pre & post fixes to both ends of “Bangladesh” should lead us somewhere interesting... and it did, it was a Bangladeshi portal. Thanks to auto-foreign text detection, the mystic Bengali script appeared, and the looks at his gazing eyes where a carbon copy of my own when I first experienced the internet back in 1994, maybe with a hint of bitter homesickness I assume.

At the risk of no longer recognizing the sincerity of the motives behind teaching the guy how to use the PC and the internet during his lengthy free times, I cannot help but add that I found it very humorous how he oriented himself to use the mouse… not as funny as my aunt's husband who bought a brand-new computer for his kids back in 1997… he wanted to give it ago, so he picked up the mouse mid-air away from the table, started pointing it at the monitor with intermittent clicks on the mouse in a very hilarious abstract scene of people falling preys of "new" technology in the midst of his kids vivid laughter...

3 weeks onward, Shafiq no longer required my assistance to log him into the computer, as he picked this skill up himself, in fact, he now prints the articles of interest to take home with him, I was astonished today that he started fiddling with MS Office, nibbling a bit with spreadsheets on Excel, digitizing the hand-written handbook that seems to be written by his Mom, but for a 3 week newbie, I must admit it is an impressive progress..

All I hope for now is that he guides himself intellectually through the internet and his use of the computer, to better develop himself and his knowledge... the possibilities are endless…

This entry was written back in early October, Yesterday I came to know that the “vigilant” IT department has already identified the unassigned and unused asset in that particular branch, and so recalled it, leaving our friend stranded with more desk space for him to nap on, and shattering my dream of Shafiq the tea-boy becoming an IT guru in his spare time…

November 24, 2005

Bilingual hypocrisy!

In a recent flight back to Jordan onboard our national carrier, I picked-up the in-flight magazine “Royal Wings” expecting only the good-for-5-minutes-skim-through while taxing towards the runway, but to my own surprise, I found a reborn version of the magazine that rid itself from the cheap-glossy paper, poorly-translated editorials and rip-off postcard-grade typical imagery of Jordan.

It was actually a very modern purposeful magazine, adapting the very elegant mirrored-bilingual layout, and more interestingly, it was very current with its topics.

In fact, its October issue hosted an article written in English talking about the rise of the Jordanian blogging scene, which was spookily aligned with my growing intention to start blogging… but hang on a minute, I have read the magazine right-to-left and left-to-right cover-to-cover, why was this article written only in English unlike all the other aritcles?

Could it be that they run out of allocated paper?
Was it a last-minute filler-editorial to cover blank pages abandoned by advertisers?
Or would it be – I fear this case- that the editors thought the content of the article is either not of an interest or relevance to the Arabic reader or just simply wouldn’t feel as good if translated to Arabic?

I managed to passively ridicule this nuisance encounter into a mere unanswered question to be tackled by my unconscious self! But as I took the flight back to Saudi, I grabbed the November issue of the magazine, and what did I find myself doing, I was skimming through the magazine to verify that all the editorials where available in both English and Arabic, and they were!

In it, I read an article in English listing the top 10 locations –or activities- that indulge you into Amman’s high-life or something in that line… when I read it, I thought to my self how can this article with its exclusive ideas and “elitist” mindset; how can it be captured and translated to Arabic? -I assume it was translated and not originally written in Arabic because of the nature of its content- I was happy to find that the Arabic residual of the article was solid and intact and was as entertaining as the original, of course I did not personally agree or entertain the content, but that’s a different story all together!

So what is it then? Why did the editors of Royal Wings missed on publishing the blogging article in Arabic? I fear that it has something to do with the general obnoxious trend among the trendy circles of Jordan, where Arabic is viewed as a burden! Like the Italian restaurant in Amman that goes into length designing and printing a bilingual Italian/English menu and missing out on the dominant language spoken by its customers?

Perhaps I should ask the editor-in-chief himself, he/she should have an answer to my unexamined and ill-intentioned speculations? I’ll certainly do that and publish their answer.

So I did join the Caravan...

I finally did it... I am now officially a "blogger"

I've been intending to start blogging back in September (when I stumbled upon the first blog I saw which was Ahmed's Humeid 360east), so I started writing publishable entries ever since but thought of a home grown blog (to have my own site that is), alas... it was technically too demanding and time consuming, so I retired to the click-click-click-and-there-you-have-it service from blogger.com like everyone else! Effectively enforcing a disciplinary measure upon my elitist tendency!

Now that I am a blogger, am I suppose to feel any sense of belonging to a greater entity? Or am I just too late that the aura surrounding the cozy blogging bunch is now consumed as the numbers of people catching up with the trend grows by the hour? Is it wrong to already feel obliged to blog about something in a timely basis? Is this yet another commitment I have strangled my self with...