If you read the book you will know that this is a very satirical and personal account of Suad Al Amiry’s experiences in Palestine and more specifically in Ramallah under siege. The book is an easy read and as you go through it you learn more about Suad and her perspective and approach to living under occupation.

The play was my third encounter with Sharon and My Mother In Law. I had read the book, attended a reading by the Author and now this. The play takes this book and adapts it for the stage. In one hour they try to convey the emotion, the confusion, the resilience of not just this woman but rather this struggle and how people adapt and cope even under the most difficult of circumstances.

I thought that the play was well done. They adapted the book superbly and were able to make it a cohesive one hour work. The acting was good even from the back row. Considering they didn’t have much in terms of sound and depended on their voices I thought the actors did well. However Albalad Theater leaves much to be desired in terms of seating and sound. I love the place and what it does however as a venue I always dread going there for fear of being stuck in the back and missing much.

Being part of an audience that saw that adaptation, that laughed at the jokes and exaggerations I couldn’t help but have mixed feelings. Each one of us has their own Palestine and their own relationship with this Palestine. Laughing and making light of the trials and tribulations of this woman may be a coping strategy for her but it created within me a conflict. Laughing lightly, from the safety of my seat at what can only be a tragedy. The play confronts you in a way a reading whether by yourself or the author doesn’t. It dramatizes and brings to life the words such that they strike a completely different cord.

But if this is what this play achieved I am happy. Why because it gets people thinking or so I hope. If people’s emotions are conflicted then Palestine is not a distant memory. It gets them thinking of their own Palestine and how it is similar or different from Al Amiry’s.

There are numerous scenes that stand out in both the book and the play. Namely Suad’s mother in law and their fleeing of her house to live with Suad and her son. Suad persuading her to leave things behind and with one statement Um Salim drives home reality of the situation “That’s what we said in 48”. When reading the book and seeing the play my throat clamed up at that statement. We are losing the generation that saw 48 happen and it is in these small references that we can only begin to understand what this resistance and this struggle means. The other is Suad’s dogs freedom of movement and how animals seem to always get what humans cant .

I won’t say more read the book, attend the play, and see where your Palestine fits into all of this. My Palestine is a bittersweet place where all this happens and much more. We laugh at it, we adapt, we watch from afar, but the real heroes are the ones who live day in day out under occupation, trying to etch out a place for themselves and their children in a god forsaken land called home.

Yes it’s that time of the year again when the world stops turning and we all focus on the one thing that really matters. FOOD. Ramadan Kareem (Ramadan is generous) is a common phrase that we all say, hear and try to embody. Or so we think. Now before I go off on my rant and rave about the holy month I need to make a couple of disclaimers: one, if you are overly sensitive to the spirit of Ramadan this may offend you. What I say here has no bearing on the beauty of what Ramadan is or the respect due it, but rather a commentary on our modern interpretation of what our lifestyles have been like in this month.

Let me first start with the pre Ramadan craze and how that affects people. The weekend before Ramadan sees people lining up and standing in long queues to get their Ramadan supplies. It looks like they are constantly worried that there will be no food or toilet paper sold during Ramadan. I mean come on, why do you suddenly have the need to buy 19 cans of corn, 12 chickens, 5 boxes of milk, 3 bags of flour, 4 kilos of dates, 5 bags of noodles (you know the ones, (شعرية …etc all at one go? What is it about Ramadan that makes people need to buy in bulk? Prices are not cheaper, supplies are not going to run out, and how much storage space do you have in your house anyways? I truly think that the essence of Ramadan is to continue your life as normal, and just focus on the spirituality of the month rather than its gluttony.

Speaking of gluttony, how many times have we heard people talk about fasting being a cleansing of the body as well as the spirit? Well how do you manage that if at iftar you wolf down a 5 course meal? There is soup, salad, dates, pastries, main dish (if not two), and desert. How does your body cleanse itself if you let it run on empty then put ALL that stuff in one go? There is a saying in computers, garbage in, garbage out! Mix all those elements in and it’s a sure fire way to cause indigestion.

And can someone please explain to me how eating a 5 course meal, followed by a continuous stream of food all night is considered empathizing with the poor? A central theme of Ramadan is empathy with the poor. Yet we over eat, over spend, work less, and complain about it! If we really want to feel with the poor, shouldn’t we keep to our regular lifestyles, cook simply, work a same amount and really get in touch with the less privileged?

One of the things I really like about Ramadan is how we all suddenly find God and find our pockets. We all suddenly remember our prayer mats, the Koran, and don’t get me started on what we all stop doing! We do remember to give to charities, we do feed people, we do donate clothes and money though and that is wonderful. So wonderful that I would think that the beneficiaries of all this charity and giving would love to have some consistency throughout the year.

And please don’t get me started on the Ramadan tents and the TV shows. It’s like we are deprived of any entertainment throughout the year and we need to make up for it in 30 days!

I guess what I am trying to say is that what I see and experience in Ramadan these days is so far away from my understanding of Ramadan and what it stands for. I also have issues with people who consistently behave one way for 11 months and then for 1 month they change. If you believe in the ideals that Ramadan embodies, shouldn’t you strive to be that person throughout the year? God is around ALL the time not just in Ramadan! The poor are hungry and need clothes all the time not just in Ramadan and during Eid. The spirit needs to be tamed and we should be patient, understanding, polite, always not just in Ramadan.

I really don’t understand why we get crankier, ruder, louder, more gluttonous (and yes I know all about nicotine and caffeine withdrawal), when Ramadan is a time to get quieter, calmer, more focused, more spiritual. It is a time of rituals and traditions both cultural and religious. It is a time for families to come together, to share between themselves and others. It’s a time to feel with the less privileged. It’s a time to respect and understand our own privileges.

Alas I feel that these lessons are lost. You don’t have to fast to understand or learn these lessons. But I think you should respect them and give space to understand them and be given the space to practice the rituals of Ramadan or not. So next time you say or hear the phrase Ramadan Kareem think about what it means to you and how you will embody that phrase. I know I have already started my journey into the Ramadan Spirit.

The Middle East is known for its aversion to feet. We find them filthy, disgusting, and dirty and we hate them. Because of this I know that a lot of us are fascinated with them. We look at them all the time, especially in the summer when sandals, flip-flops and bare feet are all over the place. I personally always sneak a look and stare at feet. On the flip side of that I try to keep my feet clean and my toes well manicured. My feet aren’t the prettiest but I have come to respect them, love them and be comfortable with them.

So why am I talking about feet? If you read any guide book or etiquette book about the region one of the things you can count on being there is feet and how you should never put them in someone’s face when you cross your feet, or put them up. Also in there is how you should keep them clean at all times and wear slippers in the house and such. But with prolonged exposure to other cultures my attitude towards feet, especially my own, has changed. I no longer get annoyed if bare or covered feet are in my face, if someone is walking around barefoot (I enjoy that from time to time). I don’t mind putting my feet up either. I still keep my soles away from peoples’ face, but I no longer shy away from sitting comfortably with my feet poking out, instead of tucked away neatly and away from the public sphere. So today when a gentleman tried to joke about smelly feet, trying to get me to conform to social norms of feet tucked away I just smiled sweetly and thought “I love my feet and it’s your problem not mine that you can’t deal with there being some red toes showing!”

Feet are feet, it doesn’t matter who they belong to. We would be off balance with just a toe missing so can you imagine if you took a whole foot away. Respect them, enjoy them, look at them, play with them, massage them and celebrate them. You’ll have a hard time walking without them!

Last night I had a wonderful evening of poetry, music and art. It was a very rich evening each event was eloquent in its own right. The first event was held at Cup n Kilos as part of their cultural festival. It was a poetry reading accompanied by saxophone. The poet was Jumana Mustafa and she was accompanied Eyas Al Ghol who later played a selection of his own compositions. I then headed to the French Cultural Center to the opening of an art exhibition by Alma Khasawneh entitled “up close”.

It was a very enriching evening and I must say that I was lucky to be able to attend both in their entirety. Last summer I noticed that Amman has become very rich culturally with music, poetry, forums, plays, art, dance and much more. So rich that in the spring and summer we actually have choices and sometimes these choices are very difficult. Where one goes and what one chooses for enrichment is now much more varied and interesting with local, regional and international talents. Gone are the days when it was just the Jerash festival that we had to wait for every summer. Our thirst is now being quenched and it is such a sweet honeyed drink.

Selecting what to see and which events to participate in means that there is choice in personal development. Our tastes, which are varied and wide can now be accommodated rather than one or two being imposed. Amman is a city that is going through a cultural revival, and it shows. I hope my choices wont be too hard this summer as I want to do it all, like I did yesterday for I love to my soul.

Play poster

Friday night I saw a play being performed at the King Hussein Center. It revolved around two people and their confrontations with daily issues. It was in three acts. the play required a lot of concentration, which if you know me I lack after the sun goes down, especially if I am placed in a dark room in a comfortable chair. So I made sure I put the effort in to stay awake and focused, the result of which are the following impressions.


The play, to me, was a commentary on modern society and relationships at the very basic level. It was the give and take and confrontations of two lovers, a married couple. It was daring in a way I hadn’t seen before: in its interaction between the actors, the dialogue, the issues. They were everyday things that we never really talk about. I heard a friend say it was about couples and as single people we can’t relate. For in their portrayal they spoke of their neurosis and their issues, things we can all relate to. Even in their struggle between each other I could see the dichotomy that lies within each of us and how we struggle between two poles.


We are all part male and part female. We are all socially conditioned and predisposed to certain behaviors and opinions. We all adhere in one way or another to the socially acceptable ideas, norms and ethos. Yet at the same time we struggle against them. We struggle with our selves, our fears, our beliefs, our gender roles, equity among others. And it was all there, if you chose to see it. And like us and our lives, it was inconclusive.

 

I think the play was enjoyable with its satire, sarcasm and cynicism. The actors, while maintaining the conflict, were able to make us laugh on numerous occasions. They reflected us and when we laughed we laughed at ourselves too. I only wished I could concentrate more on what was being said, for both actors spoke at the same time most times. But that too is part of our communication style, internally our confused soul and its voices try to drown each other out. With others we just want to be heard and so we don’t listen, we just shout, talk, drown the other out. We only hear ourselves. This makes our lives, our issues, our strife inconclusive, despite there always being an outcome of sorts.



That evening was mentally stimulating and even taxing. I enjoyed it and it was worth the hour or so of my time. I look forward to more theater in our cultural scene.