January 29, 2006

The bread without the –Danish- butter, never mind the CAT merchandise!

So I go to my favorite steak joint to have lunch here in Riyadh, and the excessively-nice Filipino host dwell upon me with an apologetic tone “Sorry Sir, we’re not serving butter, would you still like the bread without it?”

Finally, a business from the middle of the boycotting hierarchy has made the plunge, thanks to a bunch of almost-Scandinavian cartoonists whose understanding of diversity and freedom of speech are all but too wrong!

Alas, the perpetuating apartheid & occupation against a sovereign nation for half a centaury and the killing of hundred of thousands in Iraq & Afghanistan were not good enough to shake the masses, but few drawings depicting utter blasphemy were…

I’m like my fellow blogger
Ohoud; an old-school boycotter from the heydays of the Al-Aqsa uprising, picked up the habit and could not drop it for various reasons, whether boycotting was effective or not; it really becomes irrelevant, it is a matter of personal choice, it’s an utter display of power of the average citizen exhibited without any restraint besides being a helpless consumer with no obvious alternatives.

Boycotting at the bottom of the hierarchy is not that samples, where one is merely just another individual trying to make a stance in the midst of swarms of consumers being dragged all along: you’ll rarely find an alternative drink to wash down the sandwich you munch on during lunch, beside the odd occasion of offering water as a substitute by some food outlets. At supermarkets, choosing not to purchase an American product - or of companies affiliated with Israel- also have a cumbersome prospect, as local (along with regional) businesses and manufacturers really where not up to the challenge of identifying the great demand the boycott movement has created, and failed to meet the expectations of the alternative-hungry quality & price concious consumer…

In contrast with Saudi today, the whole of the boycott hierarchy came to aid, from the very top, the Government itself called its ambassador, businesses… yes sir, businesses willingly accepted to incur great losses for the sake of cleaning their shelves from Danish products worth millions of dollars, and then comes the petty consumer to find himself without a choice but to boycott Denmark, better known for their Lurpak cows lavishly being nurtured and well kept!


Whither you a boycott doubter or simply faint-hearted believer in boycotting, here in Saudi, you really have no choice but to take part in this movement, many used to argue -during previous outbursts- that boycotting was all about volume, and there you have it, masses upon masses, most of whom are not really aware of the circumstances that triggered the boycott movement they’re taking part in, yet I suspect that sheer romanticism is what aggregated businesses to stop offering Danish products, and the general consumer not to seek it, catalyzed by the rare occasion of governmental blessing.

Not that I’m questioning the validity of this particular boycott movement or the motives behind it, I’m all for it and with it, at best it will set a live contemporary example that may just barely awake the more established but mostly ignored American-products boycott movement.

Sigh… at least now others will know that we wouldn’t mind the shedding of innocent lives in Iraq or demolishing homes in Palestine, but dare to mock the prophet –peace & blessing upon him- in local papers and we’ll roar with anger and stop consuming your goods… hear that!

January 22, 2006

A guest "entry" by an insightful anonymous commentator

It'll be a shame if this new "comment" gets buried under an old entry of mine! An interesting read worth being endorsed & aggregated to others as-is.

Thank you anonymous commentator:

Basem,

I will not comment on this post! because reading this one has lead me to read all your previous posts! I have taken every chance online to read one of your posts (not in order but according to interest), and each time I find myself going through a mix of feelings. So maybe it is best to share with you (and all readers) whatever comes to mind...

1- More and more I realize how many are the things we have in common: Jordanian, working in the gulf, Belonging to the 80's in amman, and missing the feel of that, and most importantly, I share most of your views. As a special tribute, allow me to take you even to an earlier time that has really gone forever, the early early early 80's!!! actually I will just list stuff that has disappeared (add to your list!), in case any of the following items was not self-explanatory then... boy am I old!!!! Here goes:
1-Kalkitos
2-The wealthier students in your class who had the pen case that folds opens in many ways and has a special place for everything?
3-The girrafe pencil sharpner with tail that you can push down for its neck to bend.
5-Because the community was less segragated, as a child you used to get an expensive toy from a friend of a family like LEGOs for example and at the same time a very cheap HEALTH football or a sparkling noisy laser gun (made in china ofcourse)from another! which suggests the next items :-)
6-LEGOS with universal and less theme specific pieces.
7-fattash, 6oggei3 and 3eid related toys that are sold at small shops (displayed in a a laundry line fasion)
8-3anbar, baloza, kraizeh,da7-da7 and other items that according to school you should not by from the street.
9-Good quality stuff in general, specially clothes without having to be extremely expensive or secretly obtained from 'stockaat' or second hand clothes shops!
10-Hand bags with the compliments of 'ALIA'
11-Chanel 6 and knowing their schedule by heart!
13-Endless TV shows that are forgotten (this can be the subject of a future discussion)
12-Antenna TV channels in general including neigboring country channels and I will not expand on this one!

I will stop here and move to my next point...

2-I agree with you totally in the way English language is related to a higher class and how confusing amman can be, being aware of and how we receive the 'otherness' is a totally lost skil. Not much to say about this except that one of the things that really make me feel sorry for our community is how little we accept diversity, everybody regards the others with little respect, and for me, the ones who I love to hate most are 'western ammaners' who express their accptance to the ones on the east side by going on brave 'safaris' to east amman to show their acceptance of that other beloved half of the city by (in my opinion) very humiliating ways that include but are not limited to:
1- Suddenly becoming a specialist in Found-Object-Art and start taking pictures of places and faces of eastern amman and sharing those with (most probably) other western ammaners! I have noticed a lot of cases where the objects of interest are people with a history of bad nutrition, or places that are basically junk! the mere revelation of beauty in such objects is a manifistation of how far these communities have become from each other ... even if with good intentions!
2- Buying 'souveniers' from eastern amman and buying your daily needs strictly from wetern amman.
3- changing to another (hopefully) more blending accent!

Again, I will have to stop somewhere and go on...

3- I would like to share this thought... which is really based on many of your posts about us Jordanians...This is a personal explanation and subject to argument ofcourse... There are a few things that I wish I could change, untill then I will at least address: Firstly: Why cannot we tell the difference between a REASON for being rich, successful or elite ...etc, and the life style that is CORRELATED with being so? the result is wasting our time and resources trying to become something that is a result of being somehting else!!

Secondly: Why do not we face our true capabilities? why insist on making things LOOK right rather than MAKE them right???Thirdly: why do we copy so much? aren't we creative? Not creative AT ALL??? Impossible! people are really almost clones when it comes to fasion (people of the same 'community' ) interests are the same too! and I hate it when I think how little we know of the correct practice and how much we THINK we know! This actually applies regionally even to places like the impressing Dubai.Why don't we take our education further than the years of study? I have learnt the hard way that piling years of experience (at its best) does not alone make you the best around! it is contnuing to learn is what might make you distinguished!Why do we care so much for fasion and looks and care less for our education and right for health insurance? Speaking of fasion and styles, I am simply disgusted with our attention to styles of haircuts, clothes, eye glasses, and everything that was not developed with our middle eastern looks in mind! we are just out of proportion, and irrelevant to the colors and lines and attitude related to claimed styles!

One last thought: I have fallen myself in the mess of trying to become western in so many ways in spite of the fact that neither my family, nor my looks or anything at all related to the west. It was not my clear intention of course, it took me so long to realize what I was doing! The result? is that I regret every second and (ta3reefeh) I spent away from all the goals I wished to reach. why should we grow to the British pop charts? I am not saying it is wrong to listen to western music or do anything you like, it is the feeling that i was naturally driven there is what I cannot understand. Why did I buy Smash Hits Magazine instead of saving to improve myself im one way or the other? If we don't have our own music then I think we don't deserve one yet, at least not before we sort out all the other essential needs before worrying and keeping up with pop music which by definition: Pop(ular)refers to a specific region.

January 08, 2006

We don’t even know how to mourn…

I feel as awkwardly estranged from our society as I would if I was to partake in a gay parade through Rainbow Street; that is the case every time I find myself in a collision course with some of the rottenly deluded norms and axioms taken for granted in our oblivious society! Even when I know for a fact that I’m righteously... right and the stream I’m up against is explicitly wrong.

Almost one year ago, my father passed away, even the sheer drama and engraved grief that still perpetuate; was not enough to contain my utter disgust and distress from the way our society perceive death and react to its occurrence!

The concept of “عزا” itself turned bad in our contemporary society, it lost its purpose and viscously turned into yet another social event that seems to require careful consideration & planning! Leaving no space for the immediate family of the deceased to cope with the gap that has suddenly popped into their lives, or sense any breather of normality in the midst of the brouhaha...

The thoughtful & purposeful practice of preparing & bringing food for the family of the deceased and their guests is a heart-filled custom that our tradition endorses, we unfortunately, turned it into a worrisome affair that needs to be taken care of!


The term “catering” pops into my mind, and I feel like vomiting… I still feel touched by the sincere & spontaneous measure taken by our Nasayib from Salt on the very first day; who fed us and our guests from their very own households, honoring this tradition with utmost modesty & compassion! in contrast to what others have done in the next few days turning it into warfare of who caters what and when in the midst of our mourning!

Another erratic practice during “عزا” is the continuous playing of Quran recitation tapes, or bitter still… bringing someone to do it live! What’s the purpose of this?
If Quran is being recited, then we’re obliged (out of piety that is) to be listening… but no one does during the “عزا”.

The event of DEATH is surreal on its own without tampering with it, why then do we think that a melodic recitation of anything would help in stimulating more grieve or add a touch of sadness to the scene? Alas… if only our oblivious society stop abusing this deen and the holy Quran!

In fact few seem to have the tactful decency to observe silence if nothing considerate or worthy of the occasion can be said during "عزا"! In contrast to the almost-intentional exchange of dirty jokes and senseless sayings, I assume as a sort of sick relief to the family of the deceased. Put aside of course opportunists who will not miss such an occasion to discuss business endeavors.

Methinks that offering condolences have turned into a mere social obligation that lacks compassionate flow of feelings and essential sincerity, possibly due to how we’ve belittled the matter of DEATH in our subconscious to the point that we could no longer identify with it more than being a traumatic sudden event that we need to pull ourselves from without any contemplation and as soon as possible!

The crowds disperse in a couple of days, and the fresh gap that they’ve come to remedy suddenly turns into a merciless & mammoth arpeture! Then comes the dilemma of the very first “Eid” minus the deceased just to highlight the arrogance of our society when it comes to DEATH!

It’s a widely common practice to purposely not celebrate the very first Eid –or any other happy occasion- after the death of a family member, even if weeks separate the two events! not because one does not feel like celebrating it, but purely because of the exerted social pressure not to do so out of sheer embracement to display true feelings! Ensuring that the sorrow and suffering stay inflected for as long as possible even during happy occasions such as Eid.

You’ll find family members celebrating Eid among themselves but not with the immediate family of the deceased, or you may find the family of the deceased having fun few nights before Eid, but as it dawns, they reorient themselves to feel as if the man has just passed away! Feelings and behaviors cannot be more spuriously dissimulated, and for what? In the hope of getting over DEATH! Never...

Little do our oblivious society know that it is obligatory to celebrate Eid as much as it is obligatory to fast during Ramadan… but common sense doesn’t cut it with our society’s intrinsic appeal to rotten code of conduct? Better still; why not resort to what some Hindu sects used to do and burn the wife of the deceased alive to make sure she’s sincerely feeling the grief and prove that she was emotionally attached to her deceased husband!

For a change, why not leave one in peace to deal with his emotions as he sees fit! Why oblige one to make him feel guilty for something that is natural to occur; that is feeling happy of course!


Why make one feel confused about his feelings and feel at fault for disrespecting the legacy of the deceased if one decide to enforce order to his life and recognize that there’ll always be times to grief and will also be times to have fun and enjoy life!

Why not recognize that the eventuality of DEATH is nothing that can be mitigated and dealt with at face-value! as the aftermath of intimate and momentous emotions requires sincerity and true compassion and sometimes tough measures that may seem hurtfully crude at start, but in reality it tackles the real issue rather than flirting with it from far! The process of overcoming the death of a beloved one involves allot of aspects...


For the record, the very first Eid after my father’s death was celebrated, at least I did, as I ensured that our home was oozing with Eid-feel and ready to embrace guests despite their rarity this very Eid due to our society’s arrogance!


My late father’s legacy motivated me to catalyze the morale of my whole family despite the lack of constructive and sincere support from our society...

I was faced with resilience as I was portrayed with notions of misconduct and breaking the "norm', but little do I care... I’m barely trying to adhere to an instinctual doctrine that is divine in essence! (a flare of dogmatism; some might think)

January 05, 2006

The Cups weighs in Kilos: A critical review.

I was intrigued to write this after a stream of entries by fellow bloggers that talked about their customer-experience with certain companies and establishments in Jordan.

I’ve spotted the coffee house “Cups & Kilos” during my summer holiday, but only tried it during my last trip to Jordan; I went there a couple of times, the last of which was with my fiancée with a minor related incident!

Here's my humble analatical self's two fils take on the venue with a bit of scruitny:
The place definitely fails in terms of location-location-location, but then again, many ventures have opened in remote areas miles away from their targeted customers (e.g. Books@) yet they managed luring & locking them in! Still, the place is not in the route of any typical journey, and punters have to purposely u-turn from 3rd circle or navigate the maze of the undefined area between Abdali, Weibdih & Jabal-Amman to arrive to their location!

Sticking up to a single –I assume so- coffee beans and flavors supplier meant that their offering would be almost consistent, and utilizing the variety of syrups their supplier offer stimulates a gourmet variety and specialty, nice trick.

Another nice trick is how everything was smartly branded at minimal cost, cheap sticker tags holding the logo was tagged to almost everything, it works just fine!


I find it an extreme turn-off when a coffee place uses a typical takeaway cup that is not branded and used by every other place; they however got their hands over blank takeaway cups that seem to be readily available, got the branded sticker tags, and gave their cups this distinctive & professional feel.

The layout of the shop is also neat, the decoration and the excessive use of wood gave it a warm feeling, I particularly liked the neat back-office with glass partition! I also noticed the ceremonial over-the-counter serving technique that starts by laying a napkin along with a mixing stick & stashes of sugar servings while the drink is being prepared… good stuff until now, but here comes the buts…

But their coffee is cold! Really all their espresso-based drinks are served warm, possibly due to wrong thermostat setting in the coffee-maker or this is the best it can do! I like my coffee warm by the way, but I like it served boiling hot and then warm-out while I’m flirting with it!

But their customer service is inflexible, dry & lack product & servicing knowledge! if you happen to be a regular or “experienced” with their menu offering, then you’ll feel welcomed, but if you happen to be a new punter with undecided or coffee-ignorant attitude, then expect only to be either pushed to ordering something obvious that you don’t like or stay mystified gazing at the menu & the flavor list and walk away muttering your dismay without a purchase!

Then comes the issue of unconventional customer requests, which my fiancée is good at, she orders Turkish coffee; such a small serving typically requires a small cup, but my fiancée rightously wanted her coffee in a larger cup, so its easier for her to hold it from the lid, the lady waiter did not know how to deal with this request, simply because she was only taught how to make coffee and go through the serving ceremony in an impassionate & autonomous manner.

My fiancée was sticking with her request and the waiter kept repeating her objection in a very artificially must-be-friendly fashion, and as the situation stagnated, a more experienced waiter who seem to have self-enforced intuition recognized the situation, apologized to my fiancée, elaborated that because of the small serving of Turkish coffee, its content will mix when poured into a larger cup and hence the taste will not be as good.
He then took the cup, emptied the content into the new larger cup carefully and served the drink again…

The place have allot of credentials to become successful, but they should look into the tiniest of details, as well as orienting their people to be more customer-centric, genuinely friendly and more knowledgeable with what they’re selling…