January 2011


I heard about it ofter and thought it was a myth, but it was real and not only was it real… it was FANTASTIC! What am I talking about? The Cairo Metro.

The Cairo metro gets you to most places in the city for One Egyptian Pound. Yes you read right, 1 Egyptian pound. But that is not the beauty of this metro system. Nor is the cleanliness of the stations of the cars, since they were clean. Not a piece of rubbish in sight! The best thing about this metro system was the two women only cars! The thought of being in mass transit and not be harassed, jostled, touched or grabbed by a man was such a relief. I was so happy about this that I took pictures of this amazing idea. What was even more surprising was that I learned today that there are other places in the world where this is implemented.

Now this makes me both happy and sad. Happy that I can ride the metro in peace. Sad that it is necessary. I dream of a day when we wont need to segregate men and women for fear of violence. Until then, I will ride the women’s car when I can and complete my journey with one less thing to worry about.

Women's Section

Section of the Platform where the women cars stop.

Women's Section

Section of the Platform where the women cars stop.

Women's Car

The Car- text on top reads "Women only until 9 pm"

This year I did one of my favorite things, I ventured into the desert, and instead of writing about it I am uploading a few pictures of that breathtaking place.

Wadi Hetan- (Valley of the Whales)- Fayoum – Egypt.

Wadi Hetan

Wale bone fossils

Wadi Hetan

More beautiful fossils

Wadi Hetan

More desert 🙂

Wadi Hetan

the whole spine!

Wadi hetan

An Amazing sky 🙂

Wadi Hetan

The clouds were inspiring

Wadi Hetan

A close up of some the fossils

Wadi Hetan

Whale food- fossilized mangroves

Wadi Hetan

Doesnt it look like a turtle head popping out of its shell?

The past couple of weeks have been very interesting here in Jordan. People are angry but they cant seem to sustain that feeling, or strategically turn it into action. Or thats what it seems like when one day you hear happy honking and then next you hear “angry” discourse. The thing is its the Asian Cup right now and that is smack in the middle of  the planned a day of Anger. Fantastic, but wait we can’t seem to agree to all go out in unity so we are divided. But then forget all of that because our national team has just won a football game. And seeing as how our track record is not the best, this is a big achievement and so everyone is out on the streets celebrating. So how does one have a day of anger and yet had been celebrating the win of our national team? And even if the wave of anger continues, the football team does it again and wins… woohoo GO JORDAN. and we are out celebrating again. I think its very difficult and perhaps even schizophrenic of us to be out celebrating our national team, and be bursting with national pride and yet be angry at our nation state all in the span of 24 hours. And so if the government is to be smart, I would say they would invest in  the Jordanian National Football  and make sure it keeps winning… because nothing puts bread on the table like a good Jordanian goal!

 

And for all those wonderful political analysts out there that will jump at my words and tell me that the situation is more complicated than that… I know this is only one of many factors about what is happening here… and I’m just saying… YAY FOOTBALL!

With everything that is going on around us it is hard for me to stick to my resolution of writing positively. There is so much anger around us. Justified anger, and with it has come violence in a lot of instances.

 

Today in Jordan demonstrations of Anger were reportedly peaceful. To me that is a big and pleasant surprise. Reports of olive branches being given to security forces by demonstrators put a big smile on my face and reminded me of images of flowers in the muzzles of guns in anti war demonstrations. I am happy to see the voices of the people rise. I am happy to see them assemble and march. But I wonder how much change will be affected by this? It is no secret that the marches would not be possible without a security clearance and the government’s approval. So we were “allowed” this freedom of speech today. We were “given” the space and “permission” to march, to chant and to express ourselves about inflation, prices and economy.  I wonder if it would be the same had the issues being protested different.

 

Last night whilst talking with a bunch of friends we said Tunisia is burning, and quickly others replied with and so is Egypt, and Sudan is disintegrating, Lebanon has no government, Jordan is angry and the list is growing. There is a lot of dissatisfaction all around, and with it has come dissidence. The winds of change are here. They are raging storms in some countries and gentle breezes in others. But the wind is gaining speed. You can hear it in people’s conversations and rhetoric and it is about time.

 

 

 

Looking around me I am not sure what to make of 2011. Egypt is angry, Tunisia is angry, Algeria is angry, Lebanon is angry… need I go on? I look a bit closer and I read what I wrote on this very blog and I realize my last post was not my usual end of year reflection but a comment on harassment. I look at my first post of 2011 and it too is not a happy one. Something must change.  And so I have decided and I have resolved to write positively, at least for the next few blog posts.

 

I am going to write not a reflection of 2010 but an aspiration for 2011.

I am going to get around to writing 10 things to do in Damascus, Aleppo and Cairo… and maybe even Alexandria!

I want to write about my Cairo metro experience – which was lovely

 

I am hoping to do all that before the end of January.

 

Wish me luck and Happy 2011.

So it seems every time I resolve to make my stay here work something happens and this time it was racism and sexism at its best.  I was out for dinner with one of my friends after a long day of painting and going through the process of making my house a home when I got a call from my landlord.  And the conversation goes something like this…

“Your neighbors have been complaining about your home and lifestyle. [Blah, blah, blah, blah…] They have threatened that they know people in the army. [Blah, blah, blah, blah…] I will be taking this into consideration when renewing your contract. [Blah, blah, blah, blah…]”

The lifestyle they are complaining about it is the wonderful friends who come and share my home  for aa week or two at a time while traveling here. And so all they see is a stream of women who stay over for short periods of time and leave. I do nothing out of the ordinary otherwise and in fact usually keep to myself and maintain a quiet domicile.

When my friend who was raised in my neighborhood, and lives in it today as well heard the story, his analysis was that this is happening because I am Jordanian and I am not Christian and the complaint was probably from an old Christian woman in the building. I further add to this analysis that as a single woman, living on her own, without the “protective” and “legitimizing” presence of a male relative I am therefore a loose, immoral woman who is bringing ill-repute to my building.

I think it is amazing that this type of discrimination, racism, sexism… and all the other isms that apply are being practiced in this situation in the most “liberal” of Arab countries. A place that is lauded for its wonderful liberalism and open-mindedness and freedoms in the region. A place where young and old come to breathe and enjoy away from their socially and politically restrictive societies.

Alas, that freedom and liberalism is only awarded to the tourists who come and go so quickly with their tourist dollars and fleeting experiences. Living here is a whole other story. The power dynamics at play as a non-Lebanenese, Arab, single woman living here are very different. The vulnerabilities as a migrant are ever present in varying degrees depending on color, class, profession, language…etc. but they are vulnerabilities nonetheless.

I told my landlord and in subtle yet explicit terms that this is none of their business, I have done nothing illegal and in fact, should this harassment continue it is within my power and right to file suit against these said neighbors.

I am angry, I am sad, I am tired. Till when will strangers police my door, my home, my body? I like my house, I like its proximity to my office, I like that I have painted and decorated and invested in it, does all this have to be disrupted by a woman who thinks she can because I break the homogony of the neighborhood by bringing in unLebanese, unChristian blood to her building?