A Blog from Amman, Jordan, Online Since 2004.

Month: September 2010 (Page 1 of 2)

What are your favorite smells in the world?

Here are mine, in no particular order:

– Popcorn.

– Ad7et tomeh. For those unfamiliar, ad7et tomeh is the phrase used to describe lightly frying finely ground garlic with olive oil. The concoction is then added to anything, from rice to beef.

– The dusty smell of the car’s air conditioning after a long winter.

– Freshly baked bread.

– UHU’s super glue.

– Pita bread gently charred on a naked flame. Eaten with very sour, beautifully textured labaneh.

– Turkish coffee :)

– The combined smell of sunscreen, plastic, and salty beach. Summer!

– The smell of rain while walking beneath Jordan University’s pine tree.

– Sweet, softly charred wood. In anything, especially smoked salmon, but also when it’s not edible.

– Books.

– Apple products.

– Jasmines.

What are yours?

(Inspired by the current smell of popcorn in the house, but I already brushed my teeth.)

Does this guy look familiar?

Looks familiar?

Pictures from Amman’s Street Art Fair

We visited Amman’s Street Art Fair this weekend, organized by Art Medium, who also were a part of organizing last year’s Sunny Art Fair. The setting was awesome; very summery and chillaxed.

As is implied by the phrase “street art”, the artwork on display was mostly the work of student artists as well as amateurs delving into the visual arts. Some of the work was fantastic and inspiring, and some was a little too amateurish, bordering on dude-WTF. There was tons and tons of art though, surely to satisfy every taste.

My favorite artist in the whole ga3deh is called Shamekh. His work is just shockingly different from the charcoal portraits, watercolor scenery, and oil “expressionism” that are usually rampant in the Jordanian art scene. He uses acrylics, colored pencils, and color washes to bring to life his very eccentric characters.

The work of Shamekh:

 IMG_5853 IMG_5852


Here are my other favorite pieces:


By Sandra Hiari

Amman Street Art Fair

Amman Street Art Fair


Otherwise, snapshots of the event:

IMG_5857 IMG_5848 IMG_5843 IMG_5838 IMG_5836

IMG_5835 IMG_5820 IMG_5817 Amman Street Art Fair Amman Street Art Fair

See you in next year’s art fair :)



Art Medium’s website, Art Medium’s Facebook page

In the kitchen

My grocery shopping thought process resulted in me choosing Abella yesterday, a very good choice from my part. I ended up buying so many things that the bill amounted to a sum 40 JDs higher than our weekly average, although only three of the items I bought were over 4JDs.


My friend hung the bill on the fridge to remind himself to always accompany me while grocery shopping, because the fridge stayed empty, even with the very long list of items.


I got tons of bread (bread is always good), some milk, a few sandwich items (salami, roast beef, qashqawan cheese, and labaneh), packaged cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, some chocolate, and icecream.Everything else in the fridge is from last week’s grocery shopping.

The bulk on my million item reciept?



The thought process behind grocery shopping

The supermarkeys within a 2 KM radius: Abella (AKA Ahleyyeh or Plaza), C-Town, and Safeway.

Size: C-Town is definitely most ideal as it is it the smallest:Boom, grab, leave. Safeway is far from ideal as just walking between the stalls is going to take at least 20 minutes.

Variety: Safeway has the best variety and C-Town has the worst. I can’t stand how the latter does not consistently restock the same brands.

Crowdedness, better described as 3ajga: C-Town is always a disaster. Their clientele like to shop in family-size, and that means lots if kids running around between carts. Safeway and Abella are always great; though cashiers are more crowded at Safeway.

Smell: C-Town smells best. Abella must do something about the fish smell, it’s shnasty.

Bakery: I get a lot of bread, and Abella has the best bakery hands down. Safeway has the worst.

Price: Believe it or not, but the most expensive out of these three supermarkets is C-Town. I always pay at least 10 more JDs for the same products at C-Town than I do at Abella.

Advice for a fresh designer

It is tough joining the workplace as a brand spanking new designer.

Designers have such a solid frame of mind:

1. We are hard-wired to need “creativity”, that’s why we choose to become designers in the first place.
2. We want to work on innovative projects that challenge us.
3. We always have a feeling of vain ownership over our work.

Design education, especially in Jordan, feeds these three things, instead of teaching us the more worldly aspects of working as a designer.

Challenges of the Real Job Market

Our first few months (or years) on the job are always a little shocking. We discover how the client is always right, even if he or she has no idea what the hell they’re talking about. We come to terms with the fact that design is almost never creative; in fact, creativity is practically frowned upon. We realize that the bulk of what we our jobs entail is detailing and finalization.

I am very lucky that I started out my career in Syntax, the best design environment in Jordan. Lina — an amazing designer and one of the most wonderful people I’ve ever known — practically adopted me.

Let me share with you what I learned in my first few years as a design professional, in hopes that it will help you in your first few years as one too.

Designed by Sherif Samy, from Flickr

The Advice

1. Get a dose of daily inspiration.

Inspiration is vital to the design process. Think of your eyes as something you need to feed daily with carefully control portions of the best kind of herbs available.

Bookmark as many design websites as you can. Read them every day. Try to mimic the artworks you like. Eventually, your own style will evolve and you will also learn more about what people think is beautiful, as opposed to what you think is beautiful. It is very important for a designer to be able to understand what people want.

Don’t confine your reading to your field of design. Read about all the disciplines; interior design, graphic design, web design, typography design, product design, textile design, and so on. Everything you know will come in handy.

Here are my own daily reads, maybe you’ll find something that will inspire you:

Computer Love
Blog of Francesco Mugani
Design You Trust
The Dieline
Brand New
Smashing Magazine
Note and Point
I Love Typography
Design Sponge
Brandflakes for Breakfast
Web Designer Depot
Brand Freak


2. Learn about the world.

Read a LOT. Design is one of the most inter-disciplinary fields. As a designer, you will work on many products that can range from the packaging of soil fertilizers to the branding of a bank. Staying updated with different industry news is vital to your understanding of your own design work. If you don’t develop the ability to want to understand, then you’ll never be a good designer.

I get a lot of my readings through Twitter, but here are my favorite magazines and blogs:

Fast Company
Boing Boing

photoDesigned by Gray!, from Flickr


3. Appreciate the details.

Developing the ability to be attentive to detail is one of the hardest things I still have to go through daily, because I am not a detail-oriented person.

Here’s what I learned about typography:

Typography is a great example of a “detail” that really makes or breaks a design. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most under-appreciated aspects of design. In Jordan, no one teaches students to appreciate good typography from bad typography.

a) Stay away from amateur fonts like the ones you would find on Da Font and other free websites. They are not well made. Type foundries spend years on a single font; it’s like you love Led Zeppelin and then you get an urge to beat up a guy singing a really crappy remake of Stairway to Heaven on YouTube, if you know what I mean.

Here’s a list of classical fonts:

Here’s a flowchart to help you decide on what to use:

b) Read a lot about typography. It is a science of its own. There are tons of great typography blogs out there, start with the bookmarks you find on We Love Typography.

Here’s what I learned about alignment and grids:

a) Grids are the single most important element of a design work. Without grid, work is “floating”. Practice laying guidelines over all your designs and stick to them. If you choose to break the grid, break it on purpose.

b) Make sure that everything is always aligned to something. I wouldn’t say that design is about symmetry (actually, symmetry is often boring), but it is about making the eye feel comfortable, and if things aren’t aligned, then elements constantly feel like they’re about to fall off the page. 

Here’s what I learned about consistency:

Consistency is the Holy Grail of design. It is the one word that constantly has to be in the back of your head at ALL TIMES. Are the colors consistent? Is the image consistent with the brand image you want to portray? Is the element consistent with the rest of the page? Is your brand being used consistently by others?

The reason we are designers rather than artists is because we do work that serves a long-lasting purpose. Without consistency, it will never be long lasting.


4. Understand Beyond Colors and Shapes

Designers often shy away from the aspects of our profession that go beyond colors, typefaces, and shapes. That is the wrong thing to do, as we are left with a terrible collection of local websites designed by IT developers who think they can design just because they know how to use the tools (no offense to developers). You don’t need to know how to code to design solid user interfaces and beautiful websites.

All it takes is setting your mind on understanding the experience behind what you do in your daily life, whether it’s driving through an urban city or browsing the web. There’s something to learn in everything.

One of my friends in university, Noor, has a gift for seeing design in everything. She would look at the most random every day objects and come up with brilliant and unrelated ideas. Not everyone is born with that gift, but it’s certainly something that can be developed.

Keep an open mind.



5. Never Take Offense

My final advice is to never take offense in feedback. It is brutal being a designer, because even the world’s stupidest people think they know about design just because they have an opinion, “Oh, I don’t like those colors together.”

We know it’s not about personal opinions. As designers, we know that design has many, many rules. As is the case with rules most of time, the general population of the world is absolutely clueless about their existense. So we must never take offense to feedback, but attempt to educate. It’s much harder than it sounds, I know.

One of my classmates at university was an awful designer, but she kept arguing and taking things personally when our tutors told her her work was crap. But it was crap, and she decided to not accept that. To this day, her work is crap. Moral of the story: never take it personally. You can always learn from people, regardless of how dumb what they say is.



Finally, one of the most beautiful things about being a designer is that design is a mentality. As my friend and ex-colleague Assaf always told me, once your design muscle is developed, you will never stop being a designer, even if you decide to ditch design and become a dentist.

It’s true. Design education and experience reorganizes your brain to work better, be more open, and see things that most people can only see when they’re on LSD.

That’s the most rewarding thing about design.


I hope this post manages to help some younger designers, as I was helped by people in my life like Ahmad, Lina, Tarik and Assaf.

Please do share your own experiences. If you have some advice to give in your own profession (it dosn’t have to be this long), I would love to post it.




I don’t know when you met me. I might have been thirteen. Or sixty. I might have been a young woman in love, and I might have been dead.

I do know though that I have lived in her mind since she was eleven. One hot summer night, she was tossing sleeplessly in the bed placed for her in her grandmother’s room, trying to stay as far away from the moldy wall as possible (the bed was squished to the wall, afterall, due to lack of roomspace). Night after night, as she struggled to drown out her grandmother’s snores, she created me.

I was eleven then, too.

Left That Copy

If the Internet has drastically changed one thing, it’s definitely the way we consume information.

Newspapers and magazines provide their content on websites for free, and books can be bought in digital formats from services like Amazon’s Kindle or downloaded from RapidShare as pirated PDFs. Mixed tapes no longer make the rounds (we now can buy singles for 99 cents or pirate a whole album), and we stream movies on YouTube (often divided into ten different 8-minute parts). Expensive software such as Adobe’s Creative Suite are just a few, free minutes away for a torrent seeker.

That’s all not to mention a whole new breed of media creators; Bloggers, YouTube stars, citizen journalists, and MySpace musicians are taking the world by storm, deliberately choosing to share their creations with the Internet population for absolutely no money. It is no surprise that they do either, as research shows that 75% of musicians actually make more profit from piracy on the Internet than they would have without, because sharing allows for sampling, propelling more consumers to purchase music, paraphernalia, and concert tickets.*

It’s a different world, where information (whether in letters, sound, or imagery) is either free or much more affordable than it ever was before.

What is Copyleft?
This “openness” is partially made possible by the use of copyleft (as opposed to copyright) licenses like Creative Commons (CC). Copyleft is a form of licensing used to modify copyrights for works such as computer software, documents, music, and art. An author may, through a copyleft licensing scheme, give every person who receives a copy of his or her work permission to reproduce, adapt or distribute it as long as any resulting copies or adaptations are also bound by the same copyleft licensing scheme.

Creative Commons in particular defines the spectrum of possibilities between full (all rights reserved) and the public domain (no rights reserved). Thus, the content creator is given the choice on whether or not he or she wants their intellectual property to be remixed, sold, shared, credited, locked up in a drawer, or none of the above.

This system of “copyrighting” is often referred to as permission culture.

Creative Commons in Use
The list of work published under a Creative Commons license is long. In education, MIT’s OpenCourseWare allows Internet users to access all of their educational materials from its undergraduate and graduate level courses online. Depending on the course, this might include reading lists, class notes, interactive web demonstrations, complete textbooks written by MIT professors, and streaming video lectures. Wikipedia is another popular information source that uses a CC license – which is probably good news for lazy students, and some local magazine editors.

On the other end of the spectrum, Radiohead, arguably one of the most successful contemporary bands, has had several experiments with Creative Commons. Their seventh album, “In Rainbows”, was released online with a “Pay what you think this single is worth” system (seriously!). The profits from the digital download of “In Rainbows” outstripped combined profits from digital downloads of all of their other studio albums. A few years later, they experimented some more when they shot one of their videos using 3D scanning devices in place of cameras, then released the source code for free under a CC license. AlJazeera is similarly experimenting with copyleft, becoming the first network to offer a repository of broadcast-quality video footage, freely available to be downloaded, shared, remixed, subtitled and eventually rebroadcasted by users and TV stations across the world.

It’s a New World
The Internet has taken the discriminatory copyright system and punched it hard in the face. Let there be the power of information sharing. We should all actively participate in supporting the information revolution by publishing our thoughts, imagery, or work under licenses like Creative Commons. After all, hacking, sharing, and re-making will continue to exist regardless of how hard the authorities will try to curb them. In third world countries with low GDP in particular, the average citizen cannot afford to spend a thousand bucks on software, or even $15 on a book. Without access to resources, knowledge, and heck, even pop culture, our societies will always be held back.

Information should be free. Here’s to creative freedom, digital freedom, and a world where ideas and knowledge are not owned or controlled, but are instead tools to change destiny.

*(Oberholzer & Strumpf, 2005. The Effect of File Sharing on Record Sales An Empirical Analysis.)

(Originally published in Venture magazine)

Note: This blog and everything published by Roba Al-Assi on Flickr, Facebook, Ikbis, YouTube, etc. is Creative Commons Licensed. You are free to share and to remix the work under the following conditions: attribution, noncommercial, share alike. You can read more about this license here:

More Hyperlink articles:
It’s Time to Learn How to Surf
It’s Real Time
Start a Blog is NOT a Social Media Strategy
Advertising on the Information Highway
Social is the Word
The iPad Will Change the World
Does the Internet Now Speak Arabic?
Google You: Your Professional Brand Online

‏ ‎ ‎وترقص نشامى الربع عـصوت عاصيها

This song is played in every family event, of course. It was my cousin’s wedding yesterday, and it was a part of the line-up. I wish I took a video. It’s really awesome how everyone goes absolutely nuts.


Although I really don’t like Diesel’s idea of encouraging people to “Be Stupid” (dude, we have enough dumb freaks in the world), this campaign is brilliant:


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