Qahwa Saada is a Jordanian blog that discusses daily issues facing an average Middle Easterner on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from politics and economics to leisure and comedy.

Welcome to Qahwa Saada, the Jordanian blog hoping to deliver insight into the life of an average Middle Eastern medical student, moi. The blog also serves as a platform to relay my thoughts to on various matters, be it politics, comedy or whatnot.

The term 'Qahwa Saada' refers to traditional plain Arabic coffee. Usually having a bitter taste, beautiful aroma, and served in small portions into handle-less cups. It is closely correlated with the Dallah - an iconic coffee pot of Arab culture.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Yazanian Adventures in Rum

The Malnayaba tribe's fortress in the middle of the Wadi Rum desert, Jordan.
They were perilous times; wars, revolutions and uprisings invading the lands, with a heightened sense of alarm spreading among mankind near and far. Saturday evening, a tribe of four youthful fellows: Blondie, Willa, Asia and Moi, decided they would rather be spending their Adha hours on the magical sands of distant Wadi Rum, far far from havoc and troubled minds.

The decision was made; Sunday evening, after Sir Willa had a rather heated quarrel with Jett Horses, the folks found themselves on a one way trip to Aqaba in the south of the Kingdom named Jordan. Six hours, two feasts, and a stroll on the windy beach later, the tribe was headed towards Madame Blondie's castle, which she had kindly allowed them to stay at for a few nights under her generous hospitality.

Understandably, Asia found itself in a different time zone, and come sleep time, it decided to entertain itself until drowsiness claimed its consciousness. Drowsiness never came, and Asia found itself pacing the grounds of Blondie's residence until the early hours of the following morning.

After the tribe's fortress was erected on a rocky peak in the vastness of the deserty Rum setting, a lengthy bathe in the rejuvenative dunes of pure red sand, and a curious observation of smily camels in the hour-long act of micturition, the star they call the Sun fell out of the sky, taking with it all its shining glory. An icy wind forced itself upon the tribe, and soon the tribe were in a shivery struggle to maintain whatever heat they had left in their smelly bodies.

A giant ant invasion was thwarted, and the tribe started a magnificent fire as a show of their glorious victory, but it was not to be, and an incoming attack of rabid dogs found Moi being injected with salivary canines into his arse. Moi never made it to see what happened next, but legend has it that the tribe of Malnayaba never survived the incident either. People will live to tell the tale.

Rum, rum, rum your goat,
Gently down the dune.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Oh, just look at that moon.

P.S. Yes, it's a silly post. I thank you, mortal being.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Pursuing Medicine: Social Influence and Implications

Disclaimer: This post has been re-blogged from the IFMSA-JO JUST LC blog where it was first published on July 15th, 2012.
International Federation of Medical Students' Associations, Jordan - Jordan University of Science and Technology Local Committee.
As a start to this post, I would like to give you, my dear readers and fellow IFMSAns, a very brief insight into my academic history.

I was never the brightest of students, nor was I ever that perfectly disciplined pupil or straight A student, except for a few primary years some might say. It so happened, that through tenth grade, something in me decided it would be worth making that leap of faith. Then and there, in hopes of raising my prospects for university admission, the decision was made; and I made it my intention to exert a greater effort into academics. I did well, unexpectedly well actually, and here I am - five years later - your average medical student about to begin his fourth year of study in the clinics.

Mind you oh wise readers, do not be fooled. Time - the unalterable, unfaltering nuisance that it is - changes but the tiniest fragments of this vast universe we call home. Through childhood, not once had I contemplated the thought of becoming a doctor. I was convinced wholeheartedly, that the future would have me become a world renowned architect, designing modern skyscrapers for the most magnificent cities around the globe. Childhood dreams a few might call it, eh?

Some of you, my good fellows, have had the medical dream for as far back as they can remember. I find that respectably fascinating. However, I fool you not my friends; not even upon graduation from school did the thought of a medical career sound intriguing. After registering myself into a Mechanical Engineering degree at the University of Jordan, and convincing my inner being that I was to become the innovative mechanic of the future, fate has it that a twisted change of events occurred.

None other than our Jordan University of Science and Technology called home, offering me a spot as a medical student. There I was, seated under grandmother's lemon tree, with mom yelling from our apartment downstairs that I had been accepted into medicine.

Unbelievable as this may sound to an audience of medical students, the decision was never an easy one. There are the days where I tell myself that the decision was as haphazard as flipping a coin; some might call it luck or faith, and still some might attribute the happenings to a higher being. But even with that said, I am well assured, that had it not been for the cultural and societal outlooks on medical education and physicians, I would have not end up where I am today.

Life so has it that people around this world are segregated from one another by numerous cultures, multiple societal values, and those plenty customs and habits; be they good or bad. Our Middle Eastern values today, have almost nothing in common with those of their Western or Eastern counterparts, albeit globalization is playing its large part in bringing about a universal culture worldwide.

Do excuse me, good people, for there are times when my head finds itself running about in circles, subjects are so thoroughly intertwined with one another it becomes quite the deed focusing on a particular topic. My current days studying psychiatry have seen me diagnose myself with a rather large portion of mental illnesses. A few will be tempted to call it 'medical student syndrome' and others may refuse to do so. But that is another subject to be discussed on its own.

Subject at hand, my dears. Society does have its ultimate role in every decision that flows through your head, be it rational or not. It is widely believed, in our beloved Jordan and Middle East at large, that those students who are high achievers at school deserve to enter nothing but medicine or engineering. Prestige, social class, financial income, job availability, and societal approval are words and concepts that come to mind when dealing with such a matter.

Kind readers, I believe that there are quite the share of questions that must be posed on the topic of admission into medical school. I have no doubt that you are aware of the four year premed system that is valid in the United States, or the fact that the majority of renowned institutions of higher education across the globe require their applicants to interview for medical spots. I will refrain myself from pointing out the other rigorous requirements medical school applicants undergo abroad.

I think I am safe to say that the admissions system does need a significant overhaul, albeit some would philosophize that they are against the notion. How many of us would have passed through an interview, a psychometric or a medical-knowledge evaluation exam? The thought is indeed quite the fright. And yet people are adamant in convincing you that quality still prevails over quantity, that the country still respects the rule of law and fair criterion selection - my sincere boo to that.

Fellow IFMSAns, I must thoroughly thank you for taking the time to read this blabber of thought. It isn't too objective but I suppose it'll do for a first timer on our new blog. No?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Kindle 4 Non-Touch Review

As you might have heard (or not), I recently purchased a Kindle 4 Non-Touch (NT) ebook reader from Amazon. And having finally finished my exams, I would like to take the time to point out the goods and the bads of this model in contrast to the Kindle Touch and Kindle DX for you prospective buyers.

Thus far I have only read two books on the device, being "Another Day in the Frontal Lobe" by Katrina Firlik and "Our Last Best Chance" by King Abdullah. I am currently reading "Physics of the Future" by Michio Kaku and will be starting the long awaited "Lost Symbol" by Dan Brown. Suffice it to say, the Kindle reading experience is quite amazing.

Amazon regrettably does not ship its Kindles internationally, so a cousin in the States agreed to have it ordered to him first and then brought it along to Amman. They arrived safe and sound a few days after Christmas - the perfect timing. A friend I know had not such a comfortable experience ordering to the country. Although Aramex played its part well, the Jordanian customs services did not- they charged him an extra 30JDs.

I'll start with the price. At $79, the Kindle NT is the only basic, full-fledged ebook reader currently available at such a cost. Kindle Touch and DX cost $99 and $379 respectively - quite a jump for the DX that is. If what you're looking for is a basic ebook reading gadget for novels, literature and solely text-based books, I would totally recommend the Kindle NT.

PDF reading however, isn't much of a joy on either the NT or the Touch. The zoom in option is a pain to work with, and white margins take a good amount of space leaving the text too small for an enjoyable read. An option for increasing font size with PDF books is unavailable. Technical or medical PDF books would be better read on a Kindle DX owing to its larger screen, which better accommodates graphics and multiple columns.

There are two pluses I would like to mention though. I have found great success in converting powerpoint presentations into PDF and then viewing them on the Kindle in landscape mode. External software can be used to convert PDF into Kindle-friendly formats, such as .azw or .mobi. Or they can be used to modify the PDF files themselves by cropping the unnecessarily white margins occupying the screen. I would totally recommend Calibre for your ebook managing and editing needs.

The Touch is slightly wider, thicker and taller than its NT counterpart, and its weight exceeds the NT by 43 grams. It also features a headphone jack (mp3 compatibility), and 4GB (3000 books) of storage as opposed to 2GB (1400 books) in the Kindle NT. The touch technology can be a nuisance if you prefer using a utensil or finger to track your reading, as it will inadvertently lead to a change of page or screen. Also worth the mention is that the refresh rate is quite a bit faster with the Non-Touch.

To put it in short, if you're an avid touch technology fan who will be reading more than 1000 books simultaneously (chapeau!), with a preference of listening to mp3s or robotically read text, then the Kindle Touch is the gadget for you.

As a final note, I recently stumbled upon Duokan, an alternative Kindle operating system (OS) which offers increased PDF compatibility, epub, jpg support, as well as others. There may be a risk of losing your warranty though, and the OS is still in its developing stages for the Kindle 4, but is working perfectly for Kindle 3 models. It may be worth looking into.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Street art by David Walker. Check out Street Art Utopia for more awesome photos of street art, graffiti and urban art.
Looking back at my previous posts, a whole lot of them begin with my expression of regret over not updating this blog so often. Five posts were written since January last year, shame shame.

New Year's eve was spent in Irbid studying for my Endocrine exam, so was most of the past year really. I've grown rather accustomed to this lifestyle, to the degree that going back to Amman on weekends has become something of a burden for me, as well as spending excess time with the family. It isn't that I'm holding anything against them, it's just that I've become quite fond of the space and peace of mind that come with living alone.

Medical school has been as demanding as ever, and I can hardly say that I'm spending all of my time studying. Grades are barely mediocre in comparison to the rest of the class, and if trends don't change soon, I can't see myself being accepted into any noteworthy let alone competitive residency program. Word on the street is that fourth year may turn out to be somewhat of a better experience being clinically based and all - haven't lost hope yet.

The idea of residency has honestly got me in a state of panic and anxiety, and a quick look at the few medical relatives I have only furthers the troubled thoughts. Two are interviewing for slots in the US, one aiming for general surgery and the other for internal medicine. Both have top notch USMLE scores. The third is currently doing his final year of ophthalmology residency with the Royal Jordanian medical services. All three barely see the light of day. The exponential incline in competitiveness of American programs is also a thought that has me worried. More and more graduates have been considering Germany for specialty programs after their internships in Jordan. Who knows, maybe I'll go for that when my time comes.

The year 2011 was pretty successful - in terms of Arab revolutions that is. Myself, I would say that this year was nothing but a complete failure, achievements were close to nil on all levels. Neither did I live up to last year's resolutions nor did I do anything else worth the mention. What has been happening is quite the contrary; social life and events are getting ever so dull, volunteer work is negligible and I'm barely doing any proper exercise besides walking nowadays. My plans to get back to violin last year have only been postponed over and over again.

On the not-so-negative side of things, I recently ordered myself a Kindle 4 e-book reader from Amazon. It arrived with a cousin on Christmas day, so I can't really complain about the timing. I was pretty lucky, Amazon regrettably does not ship it's Kindles internationally - very grateful things worked out as well as they did. I'll be writing a review once I'm done with exams on Thursday, but all in all it's a pretty awesome gadget. Supposedly it'll be snowing in Amman then, arriving from Irbid to the white capital is something I'll definitely be looking forward to.

Anyhow, avoiding the negativity and self-destrucive bouts of depression is a must for me. Perhaps I should make use of and take pride in the compliments I'm getting - about how spotlessly clean my bathroom and toilet are - to lift up my sense of self worth. Yes, fantastic.

Monday, January 2, 2012

TedxDeadSea: The ReformJO We Need

Disclaimer: This post has been re-blogged from the TEDxDeadSea blog where it was first published on April 20th 2011.

It has been over two months now since the wave of Arab Revolt, as I would like to call it, hit our Jordan. Since demonstrations began invading front pages on our newspapers, making themselves a main focus of our daily talks and thoughts, and since the ReformJO hashtag made its way to the frontline of Tweets from JO tweeples. How far have we come as a result? Have we been wise critics? Or have we assumed affiliations and ideologies based on rumors and hearsay?

On an unplanned visit to the Civil Society Development Center at university today, I was struck by the realization that I had formed a deeply flawed opinion of the Jordanian constitution and all that relates to it, that the factual information and history that I know of my country exclude details of primary significance. I am also saddened to say that even though my late grandfather, Suleiman Mousa, wrote a comprehensive and detailed history of Greater Syria and the Arab revolt comprising more than forty books – with focus on Jordan and the Hashemites – I have only found time to lay my hands on two of these works: “T.E Lawrence: An Arab View”, and “A History of Jordan in the 20th Century”, having read a mere twenty pages of the latter.

Building on a previous post by Adam, questioning the degree of education, creativity, and maturity of thought in the country, I would like to think that we are an educated nation, and not one where the majority of individuals “follow-the-leader” and have no sense of self-thought and rationalized opinion. But what I have begun observing from certain actions of demonstrators is quite the contrary, and a well thought out opinion, tolerant and respectful to conflicting views is honestly quite hard to find.

This brings me to the title of this post, the real reform Jordan needs. I can’t deny the benefits peaceful demonstrations have made thus far, from efforts to establish a teachers’ union, to less gender discrimination, to fighting corruption – yes it all counts. But the real reform starts when each individual citizen starts asking himself what he is capable of doing for this country instead of positioning himself as a know-it-all observer and critic, pointing fingers and blaming everyone around him. A quote that is often attributed to John F. Kennedy “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ‘ask’ what you can do for your country” but is factually from Khalil Gibran’s “The New Frontier”, states exactly that. “I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it” is another quote I would like to mention, commonly credited to Voltaire but widely thought to have been said by Ewelyn Hall. A quote I truly admire; freedom of speech and respect to one another, this is the characteristic that should be defining us, and not violence and hatred – which will achieve absolutely nothing.

As an end to this post, I shall vow to reform Jordan by working on the individual Jordanian citizen – myself. I shall focus my efforts on achieving a better knowledge of medicine; working harder at medical school and becoming a proficient physician capable of ensuring quality healthcare to fellow citizens. I shall focus my efforts to establish a better understanding of the history of this country, its constitutions and its culture by comprehensively reading and affiliating myself with all I can in these regards. My ultimate goal? Giving back to my beloved country as a reformed Jordanian.

To view the original post, please follow this link.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Jordanian Harassment Problem

How much of a bad boy blogger have I been? If it wasn't for a dear cousin of mine who took the time to complement this blog, it would have been totally out of mind. Put aside the fact that I'm on vacation, studies are minimal, and so on - I am just treating you unfairly oh blog, I beg your forgiveness. So many events have gone by without my blogging participation, I feel ashamed of myself - B4JO, or Blog for Jordan day, TEDxDeadSea, and  all the memorable and not-so memorable experiences that I went through, all down the drain. Yalla anyhow, subject at hand - the Jordanian harassment problem.

While riding a cab on my way back home last week from the ophthalmologist, we came to an abrupt stop as several women crossed the road. It seemed the driver was in a state of rage buildup - or something of that sort, when he suddenly turned his head to the right, looked me straight in the eyes, his cigarette now flaking all over the interior, and muttered: "Wallahi saro zlam".

The phrase referred to the women crossing, and literally translates to "by God's name they have become men". He further went on to emphasize his point, informing me most intelligently how women have brought themselves to have jobs, work in governmental positions, and even drive cabs. Now I would've been totally satisfied with his words had it not been for his pissed off, sarcastic tone of voice - and how he went on to comment about them not wearing hijab, their high heals, tight clothes, and so on.

Why is it, that female harassment has become the norm throughout Jordan? That everywhere I manage to be, I happen to see this phenomenon regardless of what the female is wearing? Hissing sounds, car stalking, Pepsi can throwing, and you can be creative with the rest. Is it sexual oppression? Lack of governmental / societal intervention? What is wrong with you people, what is wrong with us?

Like a friend recently told me how she was stalked by some fellows most vulgarishly, so she decided to inform the policeman in the nearby kiosk of their car number. The vehicle was found, the boys were stopped, but were released a few minutes later with no punishment whatsoever. Or like the story where a female working at a telephone company went complaining to her boss about her ever-so-rude and annoying coworker - later to find a nice note on her desk stating bluntly that she was fired for misbehaving.

Also worth mentioning is the deeply saddening issue of orphan harassment. I would like to thank Lara Hadi for her post ID000: Labeling Orphans when it's not their fault, which made me aware of this dire subject. Definitely worth a read, so please pay Sleepless in Amman a visit.

Why have we come to this I ask?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Solar-Powered Jordan: Economic Independence a Heartbeat Away?

Check out my first blog post on TEDxDeadSea, a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience:

"As most of you know, Jordan today is edging and hoping for major reform; a whole makeover in terms of government, economy, and citizen lifestyle. But the fact still remains that our most obvious resources are not exploited in the least significant manner, and an estimated 96% of our energy needs are imported from abroad which accounts for more than 7.5% of our national income. The levels of energy and electricity consumption are expected to double in 15 years. Why should we bear this? And why are we not pushing harder for alternative energy solutions? This must change now.

Our beloved Jordan is considered to be one of the sun-belt countries, or a country which possesses high solar radiation on its horizontal surface. Each day, we wake up to a bright and shiny morning to get on with our lives, but why do we fail to notice the gleaming glory of the sun, a factor which we, as Jordanians, can make use off to lift our economic standing and pave the way for a new, energy independent Jordan? An answer which honestly beats me.

According to the Department of Statistics (DoS), domestic solar water heaters were used by 12 per cent of Jordanian families as of September 2010. What makes me lift my brow so surprisedly is the dodgy statistic that 26 per cent of Jordanians used to rely on solar systems in the 1990s. A 14% decrease, how can this be plausible? Are we a country that is moving forward in time and development or are we shrinking into corruption and black holes? I need to be assured as doubt has begun overcoming me.
Each solar water heater has the capacity to heat up to 150 liters of water, per day. According to the United Nations Development Programme, installing solar water heaters can significantly reduce agricultural waste since smoke produced through heating the water be decreased significantly. Household appliances used for heating water are also notorious for their green house gas emissions as they typically use oil or gas, and like hell we are in desperate need to cut our oil and gas consumption.

What is it exactly that I want you might be asking? What I need is an absolute reliance on domestic solar water heating systems in Jordan, an over 90% of houses with solar panels on their roof tops, a law insisting on the necessity of solar panels and provides loans for low-income familes to install them. That is what I want. Why should Spain, Israel, and Turkey be better than us in these regards, where solar water heating is standard practice in all homes? Why is our solar industry diminishing instead of expanding?

Now you are probably bobbing your head and ridiculing the idea as too expensive, that we don’t have the financial capabilities to do such a move. But the facts state otherwise. The cost of installing solar panels for domestic use ranges between JD450 and JD500, and the Kingdom’s annual expenditure on solar panels stands at around JD4.113 million. Let us put that into perspective, guess how much the country spends on tobacco producs each year? JD360 million, and ironically smoking-related diseases cost the country almost the same amount as stated by the Ministry of Health. Still, the news gets better. Solar experts in Jordan highlight that it takes less than three years to recover the cost of a domestic solar water heater. In other words, if you hopefully don’t die in the next three years, you would have purchased a solar water heating system and used it all free of charge for 1095 days, does it get any sweeter?

Today, Israel has the highest number of solar-power water heaters per capita in the world. By 1967 around one in twenty households heated its water with the sun and 50,000 solar heaters had been sold, I’m curious as to how many were sold in Jordan. With the 1970s oil crisis, Harry Zvi Tabor, the father of Israel’s solar industry, developed the prototype of the solar water heater now used in over 90% of Israeli homes. 4% of the country’s total energy demand is satisfied by solar panels for water-heating as estimated by the Israeli National Infrastructure Ministry, and solar water heating saves Israel two million barrels of oil a year. Need I say any more?

To sum it all up, I think Jordan has made a good effort to promote the solar industry by exempting energy-saving devices from sales tax and customs duties, and solar power is expected to account for 10 per cent of the country’s energy mix by 2020, not to mention the Shams Ma’an Solar Plant project which is said to become the largest solar power plant in the world upon completion. But even with that said, satisfaction is not in me, and I can hardly say my country has exerted enough to embrace solar energy and promote its technology and industry. What I want is to see this magnificent resource being abused.

To continue reading, please follow this link.

Disclaimer: This post has been partially re-blogged from the TEDxDeadSea blog where it was first published.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

First Blog Anniversary and a Road Trip to Irbid

Who would have known time could run so fast! Browsing through the archive it just struck me that I missed Qahwa Saada's first year anniversary, which was supposedly on the 17th of January, boo. Accordingly, I'm actually six days late, but come to think about it, I guess I had an exam then, can't be too harsh on myself now, can I?

If you're worrying how yesterday went with all the packing, the road trip to Irbid one-on-one with a Jordanian gendermerie personnel, the unpacking, and the cleaning, I would like to comfort you and tell you that I made it back to Amman in one piece, I think.

First of, the guy came about three hours late, which prevented me from enjoying my falafel sandwich the way I was supposed to. Bought it from the Abu Jbara Medina St restaurant, and I payed a good deal more than I usually do for falafel sandwiches. So it turned out breakfast was rushed through for no reason. After I loaded everything into the KIA truck with his kind supervision, we set of on our journey.

Can't say I enjoyed the ride, it took about 45 minutes longer than it usually does, probably because I was in a truck full of furniture rather than a speeding 2011 Ferrari GTO rusty old Daio bus. To add to that, the trip was spent listening to overly loud Qur'an cassettes, traffic horns, and a load of interesting swear words. Plus, the driver had no idea where he was going. Irony. Things progressed pretty smoothly from there, I found out my key to the apartment neither opened nor closed the front door, and all I got was an order to get new keys from the shop around the corner.

As much as I love the city of Irbid, the second largest in Jordan after Amman, and the hometown of my ancestors, one can't help but note how dirty the city is, and by dirty I mean plastic bags and tin cans blanketing the lands all around. This brings me to how clean I found my kitchen and bathroom to be; my stove was drenched in greasy remains, with a lot of grease stains infiltrating the counter top. Stepping into a puddle I also found a leaking pipe in the bathroom, and the best thing of it all was the toilet. No other words would describe it than utterly befouled. Now luckily the water bill isn't on me, and I wouldn't consider myself a person who gets disgusted easily, so I took the situation lightheartedly and started with the cleanups and repairs.

Then it came to me that I should hurry if I was to make it back to Amman, and to add to my luck I was greeted by a lovely young taxi driver who offered to drive me there for 4 JDs, a total rip off. Some stubborn travelers stood by my choice in not taking the taxi, and we found a lad who agreed to drive us to Amman for 2JDs and a half; not too good a price, but it was the best offer I was getting for the night. So we got to Amman, and after walking a bit, I finally made it home at 10pm - stinky and soggy with a broken back and a dead phone that is.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Light at the End

It has been quite a while since my last blog post, my sincere apologies dear readers. I wouldn't have really thought I'd be saying this, but in the last few months, I've been surprised at the amount of time and effort medical school has been draining out of me. To put it in perspective, the number of hours I spent sleepless before my final Microbiology exam was 35 consecutive hours, but you can probably exclude the 10 minutes in the Amman-Irbid service taxi in which I found myself unconsciously banging my head against the front seat's rear. If, by any chance, the girl who was seated there is reading this post, forgive me for the unpleasant ride I might have caused you.
'The Spirit of Children' by Mohammed Sada
I've been asked several times why I never continued a previous post about my experiences thus far at Jordan University of Science and Technology, and I honestly don't have a convincing reply to that, so I'll just stick to saying that I might follow up on it and I might not, depends on how much time I'll be getting.

So many great events have gone by, I'm not sure where I'm supposed to start. Can't really say Christmas and New Year were very festive this year, as a confession to you I had a brawl with the parents on Christmas eve, regretting it now. New Year wasn't too happy either, the majority of it was with my beloved Pharmacology books, can't say we didn't have a blast. Yes, sarcasm. On the bright side, however, I made several resolutions I'm really hoping to stick to; drastically improving my grades comes as a priority, going back to playing the violin, and finally working an extra bit on the blog.

Being finally on holiday, the family and I decided today we ought to buy some trees to green the garden. It has been more than three months since we moves houses, and unfortunately our backyard remains but brown soil except for two blots of land in which I planted an apple and an apricot tree some time back. Something that comes as a surprise to me is how people react when I tell them I've been working in the garden. I mean seriously, it's quite fun in the outdoors, and if you ask me, one can actually get a good workout. Could be the fact that my ancestors were farmers, dunno. Come to think about it, the ancestors of most of this society were either farmers or bedouins, so I'm not really comprehending the stiff stance on gardening I get.

In other news, tomorrow I'll be moving to my new studio apartment in Irbid. A lot of work is yet to be done, I guess buying a fridge is the most important. Then I've got picking out the kitchen stuff; spoons, cups, plates, food, and whatnot. Looking forward to the cooking, not sure I'll be very proficient, but no harm done in trying, aye? I've been blaming my family for my below expected grades for some time, so I hope moving back to Irbid will do me a favor and stay up to my expectations in terms of increased uni performance.

In an attempt to fulfill my resolutions, I've also taken the time to design a new header for the blog, hope you guys like it. Starting next semester I'll be blogging more often I hope, but for the mean time the aunt and cousins are impatiently knocking at the door, better run.

- The photo above isn't really relative to the post, but I thought I'd share it as it gave me a good smile. Hope it does you the same favor.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Faculty of Medicine logo

Seeing as there was a competition last week for designing the logo of the Faculty of Medicine at Jordan University of Science and Technology, I decided to give it a shot and participate. The design is pretty simple; more or less the original logo of the university with the 'staff and snake' medical symbol, and a bit of slanting to give it that 'in motion' effect. So what do you think? I'd appreciate some feedback.

Monday, August 30, 2010

It's My Life

More than a year has swept by since I last dusted the soles of my shoes at the towering gates of school, since I took those wary first steps into the unknown world of higher education, making the daring decision of choosing to pursue the degree of Medicine over that of Mechanical Engineering, struggling to find a solution to the various challenges that came my way, with success being my foe at times and my accomplice at others. An annum of contrast and experience I must say, packed with emotions and thoughts that I would have found hardly possible at an earlier while. This, my dear readers, is a recollection of notable memories that I underwent, ranging from those first tastes of university life, to the mingling and integration into the Jordanian public, to learning how to drive in the bustling streets of Amman. As simply as the kind Jon Bon Jovi puts it, "It's my life".

I shall start this series of recollections by introducing a friend of mine who, I'm saddened to say, I no longer have contact with. It was a bright day, the sun was shining so boastfully on a blazing hot summers morning, I was approaching the old ticket booth at the Northern Bus Complex, more commonly known as "Mojamma3 Al Shamal", where I was to begin my journey for the first time to Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST); little did I know that this would become my second home for the next six years to come. Ascending the squeaky steps of the 42-seat Hyundai bus and looking around, I found a seat next to a drowsy young lad who went by the name 'Omais'. It was honestly hard getting his name at first; interpreting his name as 'Anis' and 'Omar' didn't do me very well, so I ended up calling him 'M3allem' or 'Seedi' most of the the time. Omais came from a rough background, he was from one of the less well-off towns of Jordan called 'Mahis', and a second year Chemistry student at JUST. What made him stick out so vividly in my memory is the fact that he was so willing to help me on my first visit under no circumstances whatsoever; the determination in him was something I very much admired, and nothing I said would stop him from touring me around the university, let alone insist on buying me a Coke and Shawarma on his budget.

I admit the tour wasn't at all very fascinating, but it was more than I deserved. After permitting me to sit-in a refreshing air-conditioned lecture with him, I discovered Omais wasn't the brightest of students; on the contrary, he was rather the opposite, and was barely coping with his studies. To my utter shock, he had already received an ultimatum from the university, threatening to disqualify him from the upcoming academic year had he not passed in his subjects. Sitting at the cafeteria next to the university pond, the scenery was amazing; a cool breeze made it's way across the landscape through the withering leaves above us, ducks were quacking merrily unaware of their surroundings, and it seemed the weather had changed for the better. We were talking about each others' history and getting acquainted; he had an upcoming exam in an hour and was facing difficulties with problem solving so I decided to give my assistance where possible. 'Integration and differentiation', I thought. Had it not been for my ingenious A-level school teacher I would have been utterly lost in the subject. The last I heard of Omais he was planning on re-starting his studies at the Hashemite University in Zarqa, his attempts on convincing me that JUST was the most strict and difficult college in the country left me rather confused. At the end of the day, we bid each other farewell, and each of us went our own way; that was the last I heard of him. Omais was my first acquaintance at JUST, I honestly hope he is doing well.

From that I take you to the end of the first university semester. It was a fluid one overall, the subjects were ones I had covered previously in my A-levels, with the exception of Arabic, thus I didn't face much difficulty and spent most of the time messing around in Irbid, '3aroos Al Shamal'. I also chose to accommodate myself with a close and sincere friend I had made, named Ehab from the city of Nablus; we had met on the bi-articulated bus, popularly called 'Al Doodeh' translated 'The Worm', that leads from the Engineering Faculties Complex to the Medical Faculties Complex; I had unwaveringly sided myself against a group of elder students attempting to criticize the first-years, how exactly I honestly don't recall.

It was my pleasure one evening that I got invited over to a couple of friends' house in Irbid whom I had met from my Arabic class; arriving late on a daily manner and issuing my apologies so bluntly interrupting the lecture must have had something to do with it. We were coming close to the final exams, and these international students from Kuwait and Yemen approached me for some assistance with biology, as studying in English was somewhat of an obstacle for them. So I agreed to help-out and tutor them as much as possible. Escorting them through the suburbs of Irbid, we went through the city where students form a majority, the city which has gained global reputation for having the largest number of internet cafes per capita in the world as accredited by Guinness. The sun was gradually setting behind the oblique skyline of weathered stone houses, draped with dull laundry, with the scenting rich Arabian coffee emulsifying around us from the nearing coffee house.

Climbing the uneven concrete steps lined with crack-swarmed walls, a gentle wind made its way through the open window. The door opened with an enchanting creak and I was ushered with warm smiles into the house. The strongly fragranced incense had me coughing almost immediately, the smoky environment inside the house was one that had me with surprise, but I got accustomed, and soon I curiously began contemplating the Arabian floor-based furniture where the table was merely several inches above ground, something I found interesting. I was kindly gestured for, yes, Arabian coffee the Yemeni way, and although I claimed I didn't want to cause any trouble, my hosts insisted. The shining silver Dallah sparkled with life as it was placed on an extravagant fire upon the aluminum-covered oven. We comfortably sat down on a soft array of reddish-black Arabian-designed pillows on the floor, around a unique date-filled pot, a small plate of water used for washing 'daty' fingers, and the freshly-brewed coffee was poured by the hosts filling us with an enthralling aroma. At the creeping sound of silence, I remembered why I was there, and beckoning them to open their books, I attempted to begin tutoring.


Friday, July 2, 2010

The Jordanian Nuclear Bomb

Over the past few weeks, a topic that has been progressively drawing my attention is that of the United States demanding that Jordan relinquish its rights to produce its own nuclear fuel and sign an agreement similar to that of the United Arab Emirates, which will commit Amman to purchasing its reactor fuel from the international market to guard against its potential internal diversion for military purposes.

What is more is that King Abdullah has accused Israel of interfering with Jordan's nuclear plans, as well as instructing his foreign minister to formally reprimand Israel's ambassador to Jordan over the charges that Israel has been seeking to block the sale of the South Korean or French reactors to Jordan.  As stated by The Wall Street Journal:
"There are countries, Israel in particular, that are more worried about us being economically independent than the issue of nuclear energy, and have been voicing their concerns," King Abdullah said. "There are many such reactors in the world and a lot more coming, so [the Israelis must] go mind their own business."
What is ironic is that Jordan has the right to produce it’s own fuel under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, neither the US nor Israel can deny those rights, with specific emphasis on Israel who refuses to sign the treaty and expose it’s nuclear capabilities. I honestly believe there should be a note in global treaties stating that: "These guidelines are applicable EXCEPT in Middle Eastern nations where the circumstances may differ accordingly", considering that each Arab/Middle Eastern country get’s their own permissions regarding what they can do/can’t do with nuclear power.

Jordan has all the means to go ahead with the nuclear program regardless of what the US and Israel think. South Korea and France will be more than willing to consent to Jordan’s needs without the US, though with the green light from the US everything will become much simpler, as some technology in French and South Korean reactors is American and requires US consent for export. As a matter of fact, the first 5MW reactor has already been agreed on and inked with South Korea, and is set to be complete in 2015 in Jordan University of Science and Technology, the college which I attend.

Furthermore, it is well known that Jordan is desperate for energy independence, 95% if not more of power produced in the Kingdom is imported. A nuclear Jordan will very much increase economic stability and will pave the path for achieving it’s water needs too, as the power is planned to be used for water desalination in Aqaba.

That is not all however, I was glad to see former Israeli Justice Minister, Yossi Beilin, write an article for the New York Times in which he defended the Jordanian nuclear project and criticized the Israeli government's objection to this, as well as reproaching the US government for indulging Israel's request to put pressure on Jordan's nuclear project. He is quoted saying:
In the situation that we justifiably or unjustifiably find ourselves now — boycotted and isolated — we do not need to lose the only Arab state with which we have peace-like relations.

Why should his [King Abdullah] country be denied the right to use its own uranium to produce energy? Why suspect his country of doing exactly what it has said it won’t do? Why deny Jordan nuclear technology out of fear of some “worst-case scenario” whereby his regime collapses and is replaced by one that attempts to develop a bomb? This could occur in many other places.

There is a certain risk in allowing Jordan to enrich uranium so close to Israel’s border, but the risk in denying the king’s request is far greater.
Finally, I am displeased to say that the coverage of this subject in Jordanian media has been minimal and largely neglected; I would have hoped for better reportage considering it's importance.

UPDATE July 3rd '10: 
Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communications and Government Spokesperson Nabil Sharif told The Jordan Times that “talks are ongoing to sign a nuclear cooperation agreement between the two countries and reports of problems hindering this endeavour are baseless”.

UPDATE July 5th '10:
"There are details that are being discussed but I don't know why, when discussions take a bit longer, people always conclude that there is a problem. There isn't a problem," Jordan's foreign minister Nasser Judeh said at London's International Institute for Strategic Studies think tank.

"We are friends of the United States, ... the United States recognises Jordan's pressing need for a peaceful nuclear programme for our energy purposes. We are a country that imports all of its energy resources. I think the United States is very supportive of that," he said.

UPDATE July 12th '10:
The United States is threatening to stop providing financial assistance to Jordan if the country continues developing its nuclear program without coordination with Israel.**

**It turns out the claims, which appeared on the Israeli news site Ynet, are false.  Quoted from Palestine Note:
Washington - Senior Jordanian and US officials have denied an Israeli news report that the US threatened to cut financial aid if it refuses to coordinate with Israel in developing its nuclear program. The officials told Palestine Note that the report, which appeared on the Israeli news site Ynet, was not true.
UPDATE July 14th '10:
France supports Jordan’s right to enrich uranium as outlined in the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the top French diplomat in Amman, ambassador Corinne Breuz said during a press meeting to mark Bastille Day.

"There is no reason for Jordan not to build its own nuclear reactor," she said in response to a question, adding that Paris respects Jordan’s commitment to various international conventions and International Atomic Energy Agency regulations.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Random Thoughts

So here I am, after a rather delicious meal of home made mansaf, staring at my online Organic Chemistry slides, and waiting for the information to be fed into my brain. I've got my final exams now, and I finish in a few days on the 17th. Honestly I can't wait one bit, though the hard truth is that once I'm on holiday I'll be back to that awkward feeling being useless and bored, even though I know I'll be spending my time eating shawarma and swimming at Al Hussein Youth City. Just the thought of that makes me drool, yeehaa.

It is weird how the only time I have that will to educate myself about worldly matters, politics and read the news is when I'm in study stress. It's like I'll be sitting on the sofa, sipping on a cup of mint tea, watching the news with great fascination, with a truck load of books waiting to be read in the next room. What's worse is that I'll usually have an exam right the next day, as is the current case with Organic Chem. Now it'll be alright if that wasted time was about an hour or so, but once I've begun messing around, the realization that it is ENOUGH does not hit me hard until 3 or 4 hours have swept by.

What I don't get at all is the method of teaching at our Jordanian universities, or I would rather not generalize, so I'll limit it to Jordan University of Science and Technology. I mean the syllabus is awesome, you would say "hey, this stuff is really advanced, I'm going to just love these topics!", and in the end the semester turns out to be messed up and on a totally different part of the spectrum than you would expect.

Why, you might ask? Well I would like to put the blame primarily on our beloved professors, (excuse the thought that I might not be paying attention during class). What happens is that some professors, take it that their students are nothing but absolute geniuses, so any question a student might ask will be shameful and offensive in their eyes. What is more is that their standards of communication in English language aren't that brilliant either, but they consider themselves to be more or less native speakers of the language - ambassadors of Shakespeare himself to the Middle East. Well I admit I was picturing none other than my Organic Chemistry professor, so again, I must emphasize that generalization is wrong, and you've got others who are just lovable, and yes, I am being serious now.

The bigger problem is that at times, even the syllabus turns out to be wrong, as I reluctantly learned during my Physiology exam a few weeks back, for which I spent a day or so studying for things that weren't included in our exam, ironic eh? I would also like to blame the Ministry of Higher Education for the inconsistency of dates between Jordanian institutes of higher learning. As an example of this, the University of Jordan, where many of my friends study, has been on midterm vacation for more than a week. On the other hand, we are still entrenched in exams and finish only a few days before our fellow UJ students begin their summer semesters! The least the kind ministry could do is uniform the dates.

Anyhow, there's another half hour gone for practically nothing. I'm off to continue staring at those beautiful chemistry slides - wish me luck.

Monday, June 7, 2010

My Views on the Gaza Flotilla Raid

I would like to say that these thoughts are strictly my own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of any other Arab, Jordanian, or supporter of the Palestinian case. I am a strong believer in humanity, and I strictly believe that those who don't have the power and will to think and fight for themselves are a useless part of our global community.

The reason I am saying this is that I was challenged today with the question of whether or not soldiers in the Israeli army have a choice or not. Are they merely a force of power used in missions to kill and overpower people or do they have the heart to make decisions on their own? Personally, I would like to think that they had that opportunity to decide for themselves, but from what I've read, witnessed and heard, I find that hardly plausible.

It takes a man to say yes to committing to an army, to fulfill the every demand and requirement burdened upon him, and to have the courage to believe that his superiors will always make the better decisions for the benefit of his people and country. What happens in Israel, however, is not the same case. Conscription is not a voluntary choice, it is a strict requirement for males and females at the age of 18. Those that choose elsewise choose persecution by the government or even death. Thus, they are left with no choice, and I would like to say, brainwashed into believing that Israel is right, Arabs and Muslims, and anyone who opposes the Zionist government are a threat to the stability and existence of Israel.

It is sarcastic I say "existence" of Israel when the state was actually formed as a result of betrayal of the Arabs by the British, when the land was supposed to be part of a greater Arab state as promised, and is based actually on the fact that it was the home of Judaism around 3000 years ago. If my memory serves me correctly, I recall it was professor Norman Finkelstein who said: "If I came to your house and told you that my family, according to my book, lived here 3000 years ago, would you pack up and leave?" The mere creation of Israel has created havoc in the Middle East, refugees are swarming everywhere. It is amazing that that the Middle East used to be home for all three heavenly religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, where people were living side by side in a brotherly way. Don't get me wrong however, the creation of Israel is past me, my country, Jordan, has made peace, and I stay by it. Peace in the region is indeed what I would like to see.

The Gaza Flotilla raid was, in my opinion, a selfish act of cruelty, terror, and stupidity committed by the State of Israel. It shows to what extent the Zionist government is ready to go to keep the people of Gaza in a state of isolation, malnutrition, and underdevelopment. As far as I've heard up to 20 innocent civilian activists were killed as a result of this massacre. The flotilla clearly didn't contain any weapons, as stated by the IDF and later dismissed as pictures that were taken back in 2006, the link of which can be found on my twitter account. Let alone the attack took place in international waters, making it a war crime by definition. I was honestly surprised to see Barack Obama, the man who so many people had faith in, dismiss the event and call for further investigations to be done by Israel. I must say, great choice choosing the state who committed the act to "further investigate".

I have also been recently challenged by the question of "What do I benefit of when I post and tweet about events occurring in Gaza, it's not like I'm stopping any offenses or influencing world leaders." My reply to that will be awareness, it is of critical importance that awareness of the incidents that are happening does spread, and the unfiltered, unedited reports reach the public blankly enough for them to realize that these offenses must not go by unnoticed, and something must indeed be done to help these people.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Wikipedia Revolution: How a Bunch of Nobodies Created The World's Greatest Encyclopedia

I must admit it has been quite a while since my last blog post, can't say there's a specific reason, but laziness and medical studies come as the main factors, my apologies.

So the focus of this post will be about how I've recently been into editing Wikipedia, or The Free Encyclopedia; I'm sure you've used it at some point, it is, after all, usually one of the primary results in a Google Search. Ever imagined where these articles came from, who wrote them, who contributed, and who edited? Well I doubt you have, it honestly isn't something I would do, but being a recent editor has got me thinking, how much credit do these contributors really get for their work, is there anyone who says well done, good job, or even thank you?

The surprising thing is that the majority of people in our society don't know editing is actually possible, which makes it quite obvious why Middle Eastern articles are somewhat low-grade compared to those of the Western world, and by low-grade I really mean that there is much room for improvement. Gratitude? Can't say they get any, that is unless it is from their fellow Wikipedians, usually represented as a barn star posted on the user's talk page; a page on which discussions about user edits are made.
My contributions until now have mainly targeted articles about the Middle East, two articles I am especially interested in are "Jordan University of Science and Technology", the college which I currently attend, and "Suleiman Mousa", my late grandfather, who was the first and only Arab author to write about T.E. Lawrence, or "Lawrence of Arabia", and show the Arab perspective.

What do you need to become an editor? Nothing much really; an e-mail account, a sufficient command in the English Language, good grammar skills, and suitable references for any ad
ditional information you might want to add to an article, or else it will be deleted by an administrator.

I would definitely recommend  becoming a contributor to Wikipedia, with no doubt there will be articles of interest to everyone, and increasing one's spectrum of knowledge is also a pleasant side factor. Beware though, it is a very time-consuming business, so choose your time carefully.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Stand-Up Comedy in Jordan

Had I been asked about stand-up comedy a few years ago, I would have replied that I knew nothing about it. Today, however, my answer is a whole lot different - surprisingly enough, this wild act has miraculously been taken to a new level of popularity amongst the people of Jordan and the Middle East.

After receiving a message last night informing me that a two hour stand-up comedy show was to be held at university the next day, performed by students and with free admittance, I was delighted. It was shear bad luck that I was persuaded by some friends to hang out for a while, and then continue to the show. Assuming that our fellow Arabs were most probably bad performers and you would be quite lucky if you even smiled, we headed to the show after half an hour from it's starting, what awaited us left us in complete shock; not only were all the seats taken and the sounds of laughter earsplitting, but students were crammed all over, the doors were jammed and what's more, many of them had cameras! It honestly was a memorable experience...

Not a while back some global comedians were in town too... Russel Peters, the Canadian stand up comic and actor, as well as the Axis of Evil comedy tour including Aron Kader, Maz Jobrani, Ahmad Ahmad and Dean Obeidallah, all witnessed massive success amongst the Jordanian people. As a matter of fact Russel Peters even got punk'd by King Abdullah II of Jordan! Not to mention the hilarious Lebanese comedian Nemr Abu Nassar or.. "the Tiger", who performed in the Cultural Palace in Amman a couple of weeks ago to about 1,800 people, more or less the largest stand-up comedy event to take place in the Middle East yet!

You've all heard of the common stereotype that Jordanians always have that disturbing frown drawn on their faces. To some extent, that stereotype may ring true, but my fingers are crossed - the young generation of stand up comedy Jordanians is up for the challenge to change that soon. As a side note, I've always heard laughter is good for the soul, and I can't but agree all the way; how bad is it really to laugh at one another? I sure do hope these events keep coming!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Book Review: Uneasy Lies The Head - King Hussein of Jordan

A few weeks ago I came upon a dusty, time-worn book buried in the stacks my grandfather used to read. At first, I neglected it as I did with most before, but then the title sparked my attention and I was drawn by the fact that the author was no less than the previous ruler of our country, the founder of modern Jordan, King Hussein.

"Uneasy Lies The Head", an autobiography written by HM King Hussein, tells the story of a young boy of 17, forced to endure the threats and perils of life around him, but predominantly, single-handedly  given the abrupt responsibility of ruling a nation swarmed with disaster, shortly after the assassination of his grandfather the first ruler of Trans-Jordan, King Abdullah I, and merely escaping death himself.

This book recollects the enthralling activities of our beloved King and shows the times of happiness and joy in contrast to those of betrayal, various attempts to overthrow the monarchy, and bitter hate. An adventure beginning  from the few months of Harrow and Sandhurst as an Arab in a foreign territory, continue to the memories of racing a Rover, learning to fly a plane, being crowned as King, disguising himself as a taxi driver, being deceived by close comrades, attempts on his life, and ending with his marriage to Muna Al Hussein. Not to mention the numerous other incidents that took my breath away..

The experience of this autobiography took me on a journey that was far more than fascinating, it made it clear how personal strength and perseverance have a vital role in life, how a collection of events may be so magically assembled as a result of timeless efforts, hard work and wisdom to present a masterpiece.

I honestly found this book, this eye-opening recollection of memories and experiences, a thoroughly entertaining one, rich in value and moral, and would definitely recommend it to each and every individual, regardless of their background and culture. Pleasant reading everyone.