“Wintery” Weather in Amman

Clouds and sun mingle over Amman

Clouds and sun mingle over Amman

Yesterday morning on the drive to school we debated about the weather.  I thought it looked and felt like rain.  My local friend begged to differ insisting that the sun would win out.  He said, “I’m not ready for winter yet!”  He definitely was not looking forward to breaking out the winter clothes.  But we live in the Middle East right?  It kinda sounded like a Floridian complaining about pulling out the wool sweaters as the temperature dips into the frigid 70s (21 C).

But Winter here actually does mean cold.  And rain.  If it gets cold enough it will even snow in the higher elevations.  Last year it snowed a couple of times, but I never saw the white stuff because we don’t live in the right location.

Now, don’t get me wrong – it doesn’t get cold here like it used to get cold back in my hometown in Northern New York.  But the average temps from November through February do drop into the 40s.  In January and February the average lows even drop into the 30s.  Again, not extremely cold – but cold enough to bundle up.  And when you consider that most apartments and houses  have tile floors and uninsulated cement walls – sometimes it’s colder inside the house than out during the winter!

Two sure signs that winter may come a little early in Amman this year:

  1. My local friend lost his bet on the sun overcoming the dark clouds – we had a huge downpour yesterday! (nothing like what the Philippines has been hit with recently – our hearts and prayers go out for so many who lost so much there)
  2. Last night’s low fell below 50F!

I had the good fortune of having my camera with me yesterday- here are a couple of vid clips. As you will see, some of the streets did seem a bit like rivers, or to use a phrase from my childhood – cricks.

Of course, a bit of early rain is welcome here in Jordan.  Unlike the States where we sing songs like, “Rain, rain go away  . . .”, rain is a very good thing here in this dry land. Fresh water is extremely scarce and the Kingdom relies on winter rainfall to replenish the aquifers and especially the reservoirs.  Last winter there was very little rain and people were quite concerned.  So much so that local Muslim leaders called for a special time of prayer asking for Allah to send rain.  Christians did something similar in their churches.  In the end it did rain a lot and the reservoirs were filled and people breathed easily.

So despite the unexpected and lengthy downpour yesterday that  flooded roads, snarled traffic, and soaked a ton of umbrella-less pedestrians, many here are thanking God for the rain and hoping for a wet winter.  I am too.  And maybe a little snow to top things off.  My son soaked me good last week in a water fight, so I owe him a really decent snowball down the back this winter.

Here’s a little bit of what a wet Amman looks like.  Enjoy!  (BTW – click on the thumbnails below to get a slightly bigger picture.  If you want it even bigger, click on the second picture to get a full-size one.)

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Jordan Weekend Headlines #6

I’ve been on a bit of hiatus from headlines over the last couple of weeks due to studies and an out-of-town trip to Wadi Rum (will post more on that later this week).  But, here is a quick look at this weekend’s headlines as published in the Jordan Times (the only English paper I know of here).

Top Headline: Jordan signs 11 deals with Brazil”the king seems to be traveling a lot since I got here.  I don’t know if this is normal or just because I’m here.  Anyways, HM King Abdullah and some of his advisors spent some time firming up Jordan’s relationship with Brazil and a broader alliance of South American countries.  Three things I found interesting:

  • Brazil will be helping Jordan with processing oil shale as a means of alternative energy.  Jordan has no natural petroleum reserves, except in the form of oil shale, which apparently it has good quantities of.
  • HM King Abdullah highlighted Brazil’s support of a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli crisis.
  • There are 12 million Arabs in Brazil, which accounts for about 6% of the population

I wonder what a king-for-life thinks when he’s flying around the world talking to elected leaders who are only going to be on the political scene for a relatively short amount of time.

Another Headline: “Gov’t to guarantee bank deposits till 2009 end” This is with no JD limit.  All deposits in all amounts will be guaranteed till next year.  An official is quoted as saying that no Jordanian depositer has ever lost any money.  Of course I am not sure what time period we are talking about.  And I am pretty sure that most people have very small deposits in the bank.  This is one of many articles recently stressing Jordan’s overall financial health.  The subtext is that there is no lending/banking/morgage crisis as in the states.  Perhaps coorporate greed has not infected this corner of the globe yet.

Most Interesting Sidebar: “Jordan to play Palestine in Ram” This probably means nothing to most people, but has huge significance hear.  Ram is a town outside of Jerusalem and home to the Palestinian national soccer stadium (Faisal Hussein Stadium). No international football match has been played on Palestinian soil since Palestine joined FIFA way back in 1998.  Until this past weekend!  The Palestinian national team has had many hurdles to overcome including the difficulty of everyday life under military occupation, civil war, and travel restrictions imposed by Israel.  For example, 18 officials and players who live in Gaza were denied travel by Israel to the World Cup qualifiers in Singapore earlier this year.  The Israeli overnment also delayed the Jordanian national teams border crossing into Palestine this past weekend.

Here is a YouTube Video highlighting a bit about the Palestinian Team:

Despite travel difficulties the match did go on this weekend, with FIFA president Jospeh Blatter on hand for the historic event.   Our Palestinian taxi driver was excited to tell us about the game this morning.  I asked him who he had wanted to win.  He paused – a difficult question.  Ethnically he is Palestinian – but he was born and lived his entire life in Jordan.  He admitted that he didn’t really care which team won – and it didn’t matter in the end as it was a tied game: 1-to-1.  For Palestinians this match was an importan symbol of peace and normalcy.

Below is a clip of the Palestinian goal – take a moment to listen to the cheers and watch the excitement of the players and fans.  You would think this was a winning goal in a World Cup.  But, no, it was simply a goal by the 180th ranked team in the world (out of 207?).  Their first goal ever on native soil.  It seems to me that they are celebrating not just a goal in a soccer match, but in some small way celebrating this taste of freedom and self-determination (as fleeting as it may be).

Jordan Weekend Headlines #5

Ramadan Update: Friday was the 19th day of Ramadan (the actual name of the Islamic month BTW).  Iftar was 6:42 PM and Saturday’s imsak was at 4:46 AM.

Top Headline ‘Establishment of Palestinian state is in Jordan’s strategic interest’: This statement was from a Jordanian Minister of State for Media and Communications.  (Interesting government cabinet post, eh?)  It was countering some reports in the local press that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had said that Jordan should become a permanent home for Palestinian refugees in exchange for financial compensation.  I’m not sure if Abbas said that (seems unlikely), but I can tell you that it is a very unpopular idea here.  Although Jordan is probably the country most friendly and sympathetic to Palestinians – it is very clear in the mindset here that Jordan is Jordan and Palestine is Palestine.  This article also comes on the heels of Palestinian security forces crossing into Jordan to have US-funded training.  These were apparently Fateh security forces.  Interesting how the US pushed for free democratic elections and then when the results went in an unexpected way (Hamas being elected) the powers that be end up throwing a ton of money at damage control.  Wonder if we’ll start seeing state-funded militias in the US if the November elections don’t go according to plan.  I mean, really, it’s so odd how what we would consider absolutely wrong political behavior stateside is acceptable foreign policy.  I’m not saying I think Hamas is the best option in Palestine – but what did we expect when elections were pushed way before Palestine was ready for them.  Perhaps investing a little US money in Palestinian security training years ago would have been a smarter move.  IMHO.  Only once the hand has been forced to choose sides in one more regional civil war is there any interest in spending the necessary money.  But, I digress from the headlines . . .

Top Sidebar Road Accidents kill 36 this month: this is apparently good news as the number is down 20% from the first two weeks of Ramadan last year.  Hamdulillah!

Other Headline King returns home: HM King Abdullah returned from a 3-day trip to Kuwait and China.  Those two countries seem to be pretty far apart for a 3 day trip.  Anyways in Kuwait he was discussing regional trade and economics.  In China they were discussing technology, alternative energy and China’s role in brokering peace in the region, particularly an end to Israeli occupation and establishment of a Palestinian state.  Interesting.  Can’t say China jumps to the top of my list when I think of brokering peace deals.  We shall see.

News headlines taken from The Jordan Times – Jordan’s leading English-language news daily.  Once I learn some more Arabic I’ll branch out into Arabic language papers.  Perhaps sometime next decade.  LOL =)

Ooops, I forgot Weekend Headlines from Jordan #4

(as reported in the Jordan Times.  Paragraphs below are my summary and additional commentary on articles on the front page of the JT Friday edition)

Top Headline: ‘When we are fasting, we are all one‘  It’s hard to explain to someone living in the West how culturally significant iftar, or the meal to break the fast is here in Jordan.  Life is totally re-oriented during the month of Ramadan so that you are able to make it home to break fast with you family or friends.  We had the ironic experience of eating at TGIFriday’s last week right at iftar.  I am sure we were one of 2 non-Jordanian/Arab couples in the packed out restaurant.  Will write more on that experience later.  That being said many do not have the means to prepare special meals and so this article discussed the numerous iftar tents set up around the city to help the underprivileged.  These tents are sponsored by wealthy individuals, corporations, and also the royal family.

A variety of people take advantage of free iftar tents during Ramadan.  (Jordan Times)

A variety of people take advantage of free iftar tents during Ramadan. (Jordan Times)

In particular, HM Queen Rania has a tent which hosts a different group in need each night. (to check out the Queen’s fascinating website click here and follow the 3rd link.)  There is much concern for the poor here during Ramadan, which is the traditional time to give your zakat, or alms, each year.  But I wonder a bit about the poor the rest of the year.  If they don’t have the means to prepare an evening meal in Ramadan, what about next month?  Who helps out then?   I also wonder if Christians ever sponsor iftar tents or if that is taboo?

Three AIDS cases registered: which brings the number of cases this year to 7.  Not sure how that compares with the States – but a quyick search gave me a stat of over 30,000 cases in the US last year.  I don’t think Jordan is on that track.  The article made a point to note that the three new cases were infected abroad and also pointed out that one was a woman.  I wonder what it is like to have AIDS in this country where honor and shame are so much at stake.  Will this woman’s family have compassion on her or scorn?  Will she receive good medical treatment?  I also wonder if AIDS cases are under-reported here,  The government is definitely concerned about it – any foreigner staying in the kingdom more than 6 months has to get tested!

West Bank settlers take over more land – group: Interesting to see that an Israeli human rights group that I often quote (B’Tselem) is referenced as front page news here in Jordan.  The article reports on 1,100+ acres annexed by Israeli settlers in the West Bank.  Half of this land was private Palestinian property.  It was taken for “security” purposes by fencing it off under the watchful eyes of armed settlers and soldiers.  This same method of illegal settlement expansion was going on 10 years ago when I was in Gaza.  Soldiers and settlers would take Palestinian farmland at night by extending the fence by 10-20 feet, citing attacks from that property that never occured. It should be noted that these new security measures are being taken inside Israel’s already existing “security” barrier.

In Urban areas the barrier is a full-fledged concrete wall completely surrounding cities

In Urban areas the barrier is a full-fledged concrete wall completely surrounding cities

In rural areas the barrier is a complex series of fences and trenches

In rural areas the barrier is a complex series of fences and trenches

I’m all for protecting people from suicide bombers, but when an entire town is surrounded by a wall like this it seems like collective punishment to me.  As I’ve said before, it would be as if the rest of California decided to wall in L.A. because of all the gang violence there.  Migth help keep things safer in the short-term, but makes no sense whatsoever in the long-term.  Do the Great Wall of China, Hadrian’s Wall or the Berlin Wall mean anything to anyone?