Posts Tagged ‘Jordan’

A sheep farmer in northern Jordan fills up water containers for his flock at a spring that for generations has been used to water livestock — Souf, Jordan, Aug. 24, 2022.

Either there is too much water or too little. In New England, where I live, there’s a drought, but when we get a heavy rain, the roads flood, the storm drains overflow, and instead of water going into the places where we need it, it washes into the sea.

Today’s story shares advice on water from those who have had little over the centuries and have learned to conserve.

Taylor Luck reports at the Christian Science Monitor, “In towns and cities across Jordan, ‘water day’ announces itself with a cacophony of high-pitched screeches filling the air. Motors groan and strain to pump a trickle of water from ground-level pipes up five stories to aluminum and plastic rooftop storage tanks – tanks that will hold a family’s water for an entire week or more.

“Families race to and fro across their apartments to run the pumps, do laundry, wash dishes, and water the garden before their 12-hour period is up. If they miss it, they have to wait until the next week – or perhaps weeks – for the next trickle.

‘Water day is more important than an anniversary or birthday in our household,’ says Um Uday, a working mother of five in West Amman.

“In Jordan, the second-most water-poor country in the world, people have long learned to live without the constant running water that most American families take for granted. Yet the dwindling resources due to climate change and population growth mean the most effective innovation in parched Jordan is not novel water distribution schemes, technology, or dam construction – but how people change their daily lives to get the most out of each drop. …

“In largely arid Jordan, water resources are less than 90 cubic meters (almost 24,000 gallons) per person annually, a fraction of the 500 cubic meters (about 132,000 gallons) per capita the United Nations defines as ‘absolute water scarcity.’

“Instead of supplying constantly running water, authorities release water through networks to a given village or neighborhood for one day on a weekly or twice-monthly basis as part of a rotation. The water distribution schedule is designed to distribute water equally in different parts of the country, without waste, while maximizing the rapidly diminishing reserves. …

“Suleiman, a retired air force officer who gave only his first name, stops his pickup at a roadside natural spring in the village of Souf, 35 miles north of Amman, to fill containers for his thirsty flock of sheep. As they have for generations, area residents come to this spring to stock up on water for livestock or washing; a second, purer, cold-water spring 2 miles up the hill is used for drinking water. With official water distributed to the village for a few hours once a month in the summer, these springs have become a main source. …

“Suleiman says, wiping his brow from the noon sun., ‘We have to make the most of each water source we have.’

“Yet this year has been particularly hard; Jordan’s Ministry of Water and Irrigation described 2022 as ‘the most difficult year’ yet. A shift in weather patterns means Jordan is witnessing a slight decline in rainfall. The rainfall it now receives occurs in intense, shorter time periods in concentrated areas, leaving its network of dams struggling to catch the torrential runoff.

“The dams are dry or nearing dry; green patches of earth mark where once mighty reservoirs stood. Plans to desalinate seawater at Aqaba, the nation’s only port, are two decades off at best and are costly. … With the capital getting priority for dam and aquifer water, towns and villages north and south of Amman bear the brunt of shortages – often going months without fresh supplies as summer demand spikes.  

“Um Mohamed, a widowed mother of four in Bayt Idis, a hilly, tree-dotted village in northern Jordan, heads one of thousands of households going without state-supplied water for the summer.

“On this day she purchased from a licensed private well 3 cubic meters (792.5 gallons) for $21 – enough for her family’s weekly consumption, but taking 15% of her monthly income. She will try to make it last one month. Like many, she is sticking to tried-and-true methods to stretch out each drop.

“She does the dishes in a single bucket of water placed in the sink, careful not to splash out of the bucket. Once she soaps and rinses the pots, dishes, and silverware, she pours the food-clouded water onto a few of her plants, watering in a rotation.

“Showers are timed and scheduled. Laundry is hand-washed in a large plastic basin utilizing the same water. Her backyard is dotted with jugs and buckets filled with water from her purchase; they will be used to water the plants and wash the floors over the next two weeks.

“ ‘We have entire summers where we don’t get water from authorities, so we have to rely on ourselves,’ she says. ‘If we don’t manage what we consume, then we consume ourselves.’ ”

More at the Monitor, here. No firewall. Want to read a novel about building a well in a dry land? Try Red-Haired Woman by Turkish Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk. It’s kind of dark, though.

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Photo: Taylor Luck.
Elders in Salt, Jordan, play a daily game of backgammon in the town square. Salt is a new UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is known for remarkable hospitality.

Pretty much every religion adjures believers to welcome the stranger, but every day we see that the size of the need overwhelms even those who have not forgotten about that. Except in Salt, Jordan.

Taylor Luck writes at the Christian Science Monitor, “Welcome to the world’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Site, a breezy hillside town perched above the Jordan Valley that is celebrated for, well, its legendary hospitality.

“In Salt, history and economics have helped create a unique mix of cultures and faiths and a harmony of yellow-gold stone buildings and community. Don’t believe it? Simply ask the city’s elders.

“You can find them every day gathered in the Ain Plaza, formerly the site of fresh springs and now the town square in the twin shadows of Salt’s Great Mosque and Anglican Church. They will gladly tell you how their hospitality and way of life were passed from generation to generation – if they have time.

“For most of the day, they huddle around stone tables locked in intense games of backgammon and mancala, exhibiting the steely concentration of professional athletes. They say they welcome the UNESCO designation as a chance to share what they call ‘hospitality and harmony’ with the world.

“ ‘Here we welcome all, and we embrace every person,’ says Abu Ali, awaiting his turn at backgammon. He pointed to his compatriots of different faiths and tribes embroiled in matches. 

‘We don’t see Muslim, Christian, tribes, or urbanites – we see each other’s humanity, and the humanity in all who visit.’

“Dating back to the Iron Age, Salt is located strategically on the trade and pilgrimage routes between Damascus and Jerusalem, and between the Mediterranean Sea and the Arabian Peninsula. The agricultural village grew into a flourishing hillside city in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, attracting residents from across the Levant, Turkey, Arabia, the Caucasus, and west Asia.

“The constant, diverse flow of visitors and merchants created neighborhoods in which each street and hill had a mix of Christians and Muslims – Palestinians, Syrians, Turks, Circassians, Chechens, and members of local tribes all building their homes together.

“For centuries, Salt families would house and feed travelers, including merchants, Christian pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem, or Muslims heading east for the Hajj – offering at least three days of lodging, no questions asked.

“Not a single hotel was built in the town, as it was considered ‘shameful’ not to host a guest in one’s home. Only in the past two years have guest-houses emerged; but the idea of a guest paying for lodging is still highly controversial.

“ ‘Please have lunch with me,’ strangers told Jordanian visitors and a reporter, during a visit in mid-August.

“In its announcement in late July that Salt had been added to the World Heritage list, UNESCO highlighted the city’s unique makeup as a ‘Place of Tolerance and Urban Hospitality.’

“ ‘In Salt, there is not a single area here that is segregated by race, religion, or origin,’ says former Mayor Khaled Al Khashman. ‘This is very rare in this region and, historically, rare in the world.’

“The town’s traditional architecture has long encouraged community. Most of Salt’s yellow sandstone homes consisted of a single room with a domed roof, with two or four homes sharing a communal courtyard, walls, rooftop, and entrance.

“Families would sit in their communal courtyard, cooking or drinking evening tea together while their children played. Neighbors shared food, drink, and supplies, and took part in each other’s celebrations, religious holidays, and family milestones. The layout meant neighbors were often closer than blood relatives. …

“Salt resident Nadia Abu Samen, a Muslim, restored one of these compounds. … She says her mother was raised by her family’s Christian neighbors, and her uncles and aunts were given Christian first names to honor their neighbors.

“For the past decade Ms. Abu Samen has carefully preserved an abandoned compound of four joined rooms – two homes belonging to Christian families, two homes belonging to Muslim families – and turned them into a cultural center, exhibition, and cafe. She traces Salt’s trademark harmony to the ‘uniform simplicity of traditional life.’ ” More at the Monitor, here.

If your ethnicity or religion is not mentioned in the article, I hope you will visit sometime and let us know if you were welcomed. A town that has been given such a high award for hospitality has a reputation to uphold!

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In a recent NY Times article, art critic Holland Cotter expressed skepticism that a show of new artists lumped together as “Arab” could work. (Some artists declined to participate for the same  reason.)  The artists in the New Museum exhibit are from “Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates, not to mention Europe and the United States.”

But in the end, he was thrilled with the opportunity to see the new works.

“It’s a big show, intricately pieced together on all five floors of the museum, and starts on the street-level facade with a large-scale photograph of an ultra-plush Abu Dhabi hotel. The image was installed by the cosmopolitan collective called GCC, made up of eight artists scattered from Dubai to London and New York who make it their business to focus on the preposterous wealth concentrated in a few hands in a few oil-rich countries on the Persian Gulf.”

Cotter goes on to describe many of the pieces in detail, here, and concludes with some advice for visitors.

“To appreciate this show fully, a little homework can’t hurt. But really all you need to do is be willing to linger, read labels and let not-knowing be a form of bliss. In return, you’ll get wonderful artists, deep ideas, fabulous stories and the chance, still too seldom offered by our museums, to be a global citizen. Don’t pass it up.”

The show will be up until September 28.

Photo: Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

“Here and Elsewhere” show at the New Museum

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A Syrian actor who visited a refugee camp, felt compassion for the children, and returned to help them put on a play decided to start at the top. Only the best playwright would do.

From the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, NY Times reporter Ben Hubbard describes the scene: “On a rocky patch of earth in this sprawling city of tents and prefab trailers, the king, dressed in dirty jeans and a homemade cape, raised his wooden scepter and announced his intention to divide his kingdom. His elder daughters, wearing paper crowns and plastic jewelry, showered him with false praise, while the youngest spoke truthfully and lost her inheritance.

“So began a recent adaptation here of King Lear. For the 100 children in the cast, it was their first brush with Shakespeare, although they were already deeply acquainted with tragedy. All were refugees who had fled the civil war in Syria. …

“ ‘The show is to bring back laughter, joy and humanity,’ said its director, Nawar Bulbul, a 40-year-old Syrian actor known at home for his role in ‘Bab al-Hara,’ an enormously popular historical drama that was broadcast throughout the Arab world.

“Last year, he and his French wife moved to Jordan, where friends invited him to help distribute aid in Zaatari. …

“Children he met in the camp made him promise to return, and he did — with a plan to show the world that the least fortunate Syrian refugees could produce the loftiest theater. …

“The mere fact that the play was performed was enough for the few hundred spectators. Families living in nearby tents brought their children, hoisting them on their shoulders so they could see. …

“The crowd burst into applause, and a number of the leading girls broke into tears. Mr. Bulbul said they were overwhelmed because it was the first time anyone had clapped for them.”

More here, at the NY Times, where you can also see a slide show and watch a video about the refugee-camp theater initiative.

Photo: Warrick Page for The New York Times

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