October 2008

I woke up yesterday to an inbox full of emails and postings about an article in one of our dailies. The article headline read something along these lines: “Campaign to counter homosexuality and the arrest of four gays”. I was appalled at the headline and was angered and disgusted by the article as I continued to read. Half way through I stopped reading. I couldn’t believe what this paper was doing. It was taking a case of prostitution and making it an anti-gay campaign all with misinformation and bigoted comments.


I cannot believe how irresponsible the writer is, calling him a journalist would be giving him a title that doesn’t befit him. He made it out that gay men are being rounded up, all of them are feminine and dress in drag or are taking hormone therapy and becoming transsexuals or as they are known here she-males. He cites a doctor who propagates more misinformation. Not only is story completely biased with no other opinion or side to it. It is full of misinformation and ignorance. I also think the editor-in-chief of this daily is very irresponsible for allowing such hate, such intolerance and such a piece of journalistic crap be put on the front page of his paper.


But am I surprised? This is the third incident I come across for this daily that has made me shake my head. There was the article about the genpets which my fellow blogger Humeid commented on extensively. There was the sexist article about women not being feminine enough because they don’t take care of their hair or cut it short, are fat or have gruff loud voices.


With every day this daily discredits itself in my eyes. It has proved time and time again that their articles are badly researched, biased, sexist, full of hate, misinformation, and sensationalism. I don’t understand how they think this will help them sell more papers since with each article they alienate, anger, and misinform a public that has many online and offline alternatives.


Back to the issue of the article, Jordan has no law against homosexuality so under what code it is rounding up gay men or women I don’t understand? Does the writer not know this? Does the writer not know that this a human rights violation and if this were the case this is truly where the story is? How the article misinforms the public that anyone who is gay has been raped as a child, and grew up with a domineering mother and a weak father figure, how every gay man wants to be a woman with a swish of hips, makeup, long hair and female names is just so ignorant of this community, laughable and sad. It is creating such hate, and misinformation that it is dangerous.


This daily needs to go back to school for Journalism 101 and really think about the messages they are sending out to our society and our people. Hate, sexism, ignorance, intolerance are not how you sell news, it’s how you destroy a society, it’s how you breed and perpetuate racism, sexism, homophobia, anger, intolerance and everything ugly we fight against.


If you want read these articles and some other responses to the postings follow these links:


Homophobic article:


Sexist Article:



Genpets article



Genpets Blog posts by Humeid





Responses to Homophobic article







After reading these and the other comments and posting on the topic do something about it. Here is one quote I got in my inbox in relation to this article. I want to thank the friend who sent it. It is a powerful message that makes us all think about the world around us and the power we have as individuals to make a difference, even a small one.


First they came for the Communists, but I was not a communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me. – Pastor Martin Niemöller

Yesterday I delivered and educational protion to my toastmasters club. The topic at hand was “Dealing with Nervousness“. When I prepared for this session I researched and thought about what to present. I quickly came to the realization that we each deal with nervousness differently and the best thing to do is to present my personal experience and encourage others to fond out what works for them. And so whenever I need to prepare a speech or will be in a public forum speaking I take these steps to ensure that I transform the nervous energy into one that works for me and not against me:


1-     I prepare my speech before hand taking the time to think about my introduction and my closing carefully as well as the points I want to make. I especially focus on my opening and closing because of their importance to a speech.

2-     I get to know my audience and cater my speech to their interests. I also make sure that I am using language and styles that work for that audience and that I am not talking at them but with them.

3-     I like to know the place I am speaking in, and so if I am unfamiliar with it I try to visit the space beforehand and if that is not possible I arrive very early to check it out. Once I know the physical space I visualize my use of the space and where I want to [position my self for maximum effect.

4-     PRACTICE: I practice at home, in front of a mirror, with a voice recorder, in taxis … anywhere and everywhere I can. The more practice I get in the more comfortable I am with my material and the less I have to worry about stumbling over my words.

5-     Just before a speech I sing. I sing out loud and get my energy out that way. It helps me breathe, it entertains me and those around me (especially since I cant sing to save my life), and it sets the tone for me. But here I would recommend that you do what works for you, stretching, exercise, breathing, walking, shaking… there are many things to do just before a speech that can help you release the nervous energy. Experiment with what works to your benefit.

6-     Once up and in front of the audience I take a deep breath and look at the audience before I start, some people in toastmasters call this the whispered ah, make sure its not a noticeable sigh though.

7-     I’m ready and so I start my speech.

8-     When speaking I sometimes use a mind map instead of notes – if you do have to use notes make sure its note cards that are numbered and with little text on each one so you aren’t reading but rather remembering points and talking to the audience.

9-     When I am preparing a speech and especially when I am delivering I I always keep in mind that no one knows what I am going to tell them so no one knows I’ve made a mistake if I do make one. This means I don’t get hung up and freeze if I maker a mistake… I just keep going.

10-  Finally, I have FUN and I make sure that the audience enjoys my presentations too, no matter how serious they are.


I’ve been speaking at toastmasters for seven years and this formula works for me. Sometimes I skip a step or two (like the singing). But this is my formula, this works for me. So why then am I telling you all this? Because with time, experience and experimentation you too can find the formula that works best for you.


Don’t let nervousness conquer you, channel the energy by breathing, singing, dancing, shaking or however works, learn to enjoy speaking and have fun.



This past Eid holiday I decided very impulsively to go to Beirut. Everyone knows that Beirut is the playground of the Middle East, or should I say the night club of the Middle East? I have made numerous trips in which to partake in the bustling night life of a city that truly doesn’t sleep. But this time it was different, very different.


This time it was a trip into the mountains, a trip to the sea, north, south and east we went. Meeting friends and their families, I got to see Lebanon from a whole other perspective. In Alay I played with statues and sculptures, constructed and created there during sculpting symposiums since 2000. It was a lot of fun walking around them, touching them, sitting on them, contemplating them, and of course photographing them. Ending the day looking at the sun set over the Mediterranean from an old family home.


In the south we walked through old costal cities with citadels and old towns still in use with people living among ruins or in old ancient homes. Walkways, arches, and old stones spoke of a rich history that needs to be visited and explored again and again. And in between Saidah and Sour we detoured to a stream that was nestled near a hill. It was so inviting that I waded in and just stood there in clear refreshing water. We also went further south to land that was occupied and now free, we went to Qana and visited the sites of massacres (I will write later about this experience).


And after visiting the south, we went north the next day. Up into the hills where we hiked down stairs that snaked down the side of a mountain. We stopped numerous times to look down at the beautiful Mediterranean cost, shimmering below us. At the bottom of the stairs lay a small monastery in honor of The Virgin that appeared in light to two wandering souls. The men lived there where they saw her and worshipped in a cave.  The view was phenomenal and all we could think of was driving down and diving into the sea; and so we followed the road down to where it met the coast and though we couldn’t dive in we swam in clear deep waters.


It was a short trip and what time we spent in Beirut was spent by the sea or walking on foot. The city is a concrete jungle of many identities. It is a beautiful old lady. The obsession of the Lebanese with cosmetic surgery extends to their capital. The city is tired and old but it has been reconstructed, botoxed and made up in places, while others were being prepped for surgery; but throughout it all you can find pockets of authenticity and original beauty, still untouched. Beirut is a testament to its history even though there are no historical places to visit. You can find the beautiful old facades of colonial times and you can find the bombed out craters of a time past, new plazas and modern buildings are dispersed throughout the city, alongside preservation efforts. Beirut is a place you walk through aimlessly rather than with purpose.


Aimlessly, I went to Lebanon and I had a marvelous time. Lebanon and not just Beirut is a playground with something to offer every traveler. Next time you are in Lebanon try to go away from the shops, restaurants, bars and clubs and enjoy the country. Walk through its varied places. Enjoy it as it can be a very relaxing place with out all the night stimuli. 

Today I buried a bird. I have never buried anything before, let alone a living creature. The bird was carefully placed in the ground, wrapped in a white shroud. We covered him with a stone, and when the earth covered his little body, we placed more stones on his burial site. He was a loved bird, and so we chose a hill side to bury him in. When we were done my friend turned and said “he can now fly free”, no longer in his cage.


He meant something to her, and it was important to her that we do this properly. There was no ceremony or fuss, just dignity. His death was accidental and brutal. When we found him, he had a gash across his neck. It was obvious he had been attacked. He lay on his side, lifeless, songless. There was no dignity in his attack, but we gave gim at least that when we took him to the hill. His final resting place.


When I picked him up, I felt nothing. When I buried him I felt nothing. When I walked away I felt nothing. Life ebbing away, destroyed, stolen, ending, means nothing. I felt that way not because it was a bird, but because death to me means nothing. People, animals, things all come and go. Everything ends. It doesn’t scare me or sadden me. It just is. The only thing it I ask of death is for it to be dignified.


This week I was luck to go to not one or two but three exhibitions. Each one had a unique and distinct flavor and style. Each one has a different mission. Thinking back at what I saw this week I can say that I missed the art scene in Amman which has gone to sleep during the month of Ramadan. I am glad that the awakening of the scene came quickly and intensly. Here are my impressions of the exhibitions:

The first was at foresight gallery it was for a Jordanian artist, Nawal Abdullah. Her work was simple and elegant. Easy to look at, easy to enjoy. Simple in its layered approach to landscape and color. There were two pieces that were very striking for me at this exhibition, even though it was pretty much the same subject but in different colors and scales. The first caught my attention because it was a bigger scale and two dimensional but had very strong colors and was very different than the others in its effect. The second attracted me because it has so much depth, that you wanted to dive into the picture knowing it was endless. We didn’t spend much time at the gallery and it an easy exhibition to visit.

The second visit was to Jacaranda where there is an exhibition of Australian art. I have been there twice and still need to go again and again to fully absorb the beauty of the art and what has been displayed and what we were being exposed to. There are numerous artists presented at this exhibition and in total 40 pieces are on display. Talking to the gallery owner she explained to us how this art is a form of storytelling and to become such an artist you have to be initiated into the art form. At the gallery you can also find books discussing the art and a small booklet put together about the works and the artists. I really enjoyed this exhibition because it spoke to the aesthetic as well as the intellect by exposing us to a new culture and a new forms of expression. A great learning experience, I would like to go again and try to understand more about the symbolism and the meanings and thus the culture.

Finally today I was at Darat Al Funun to look at Mona Hatoum’s exhibition. The artist is Palestinian living in London and her work revolves around taking everyday objects and making statements with them. Some of these statements were very strong and powerful, others though beautiful were hard to relate to. I found it difficult to understand the use of hair as she did in her various installations. She tried to bring the ordinary into another dimension and her use of these everyday items though powerful, was unclear to what she wanted to say. I always struggle to understand artists who are from the region but live in another cultural paradigm, our relationships with the same things are so different. Hatoum’s works dated back to 1985 and in my opnion were one dimensional from the perspective of the subject matter she was presenting. The works were all related to Palestine, occupation, and war. The pieces were not reflective of her growth as an artist and to that end I would have loved to see more of her other work. Explanations of the pieces were poor, which mean there was no cohesion to the exhibition, perhaps if they were presented chronologically and built up to her latest works it would have been a less disjointed effort.

I think it’s irrelevant whether I like the art or not, what’s more important is that Amman has become a place where you can enjoy art from around the world. Indulge in a form of escapism through someone else’s perspective, and that brings the world to you when you cant go out and meet it head on.

Have you been to the little hole in the wall of a restaurant called Pinoy at second circle? Its tiny little restaurant that serves Pilipino food and on the wall is a sign that says “we have hallo hallo”. Firstly, the name is just beautiful you want keep saying it halo hallo, hallo hallo, hallo it’s so much fun. Secondly, it’s a nice cold sweet drink that has chunks of fruit, jelly beans, and sweet corn. The drink is made by placing the chunky bits at the bottom, adding crushed ice to that and then filling the top with condensed milk. When you get it you have to stir it all up and then hallo hallo you have your drink to eat and sip all at the same time.

If you aren’t interested in the drink then try out some of their ethnic dishes. All of them are prepared by Pilipino women, so you know you are getting the real deal. And it seems that every day the menu changes because once you go in above the kitchen window is a little white board with “today’s menu” on it, each item written out neatly and its price tag next to it. Everything was freshly made that day, it all looked good and what we had tasted good.

Pinoy is place run by Pilipinos for their community, so sitting there you can observe the goings and comings of the customers. I was fascinated by all the women that were chattering and ordering and coming and going. I wanted to stay longer but the place filled up and I guess they needed the table since we were done. I highly recommend that you drop by the dinky hole in the wall for a good meal and a very different and casual dining experience.