A Blog from Amman, Jordan, Online Since 2004.

Month: October 2013 (Page 1 of 2)

On October

Winter is near.





















Can you really archive time?

2007: On March | On April | On May | On June | On July | On August | On September | On October | On November | On December

2008: On January | On February | On March | On April | On May | On June | On August On September | On October | On November

2009: On July  | On August | On September | On October | On November | On December

2010: On January | On February | On March | On April | On May | On June | A Captioned July An UnCaptioned August  | On September  | On October | On November | On December

2011: On January  |  On February   |   On March   |  On April  |  On May  |   On July

2012: On April | On May | On June | On July | On August | On September | On October | On November | On December

2013: On January | On Februaury | On March | On April | On May | On June | On July | On August | On September | On October

Who Took My X-Acto?


This video is so beautiful it makes me want to cry: a handlettering master

This is really, really beautiful.

Check out how he changes his grip on the brush depending on stroke.

Don’t miss out the end… where he does some really creepy shit that I can’t even do with Adobe Illustrator.

So cool.

Is Amman Ugly?

So a list of the world’s ugliest cities has been going around, and often-ignored Amman has somehow found a spot on that list.

You know what that means? My Facebook timeline is going nuts with angry Ammanis.

At the beginning, I couldn’t understand why anyone would give a shit about the stupid list. Lists are lists, and people have different opinions, especially about beauty. You know it and you’ve heard it a hundred million times: beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Really, it is. Especially in a place like Amman, which could most certainly be considered ugly. Come on, we don’t have a deep blue sea lining the horizon, expansive parks stretching into eternal greenery, or gorgeous Gothic buildings surrounding the streets. So yes, if someone expects to see that to consider Amman beautiful, it most definitely is not.

Amman is a different kind of beautiful.

While many might disagree, the most beautiful thing about Amman to me is the fact that it’s made of stone and hill. I love the stone and hill visually, and I love them symbolically.

Visually, Amman could easily be the setting of an epic fantasy novel. Come on, it’s a city of over 1.5 million people that is built entirely of white limestone. Get that? MILLIONS OF PEOPLE LIVE IN STONE HOUSES IN A CAPITAL; not concrete, stone. That’s just amazing. To make things better, Amman is built on hills, meaning these stone houses sprout from the hills in strange ways.

Sometimes when I’m driving in Amman, going in circles around stairs and hill and stone, I pretend I’m in Minas Tirith, the city from The Lord of the Rings. The resemblance is uncanny, somehow.

To a hard-core lover of fantasy novels (with a very special place in my heart for “The Lord of the Rings”), nothing is more beautiful than being from a city that could be from “The Sword of Truth”, “The Mists of Avalon”, or “Magician”. It’s really, really awesome.

Symbolically, the white stone is cool as well. Think of it this way: Our history as Ammanis is crappy. The city is a historical melting pot of refugees (starting with the Ciracassians in the 1800s), all who have been drilled by past experience to prize peace and stability above all. We have no money and a very poor economy, so we do best with what we have, even if it’s more convenient than it is genius. We live in a region that’s full of crap, and yet somehow we’re fine. We guard our hearts and our lives, and we hate change. I wrote about our psyche as Ammanis before here.

The white stone houses and buildings sprout from the hills is the visual representation of our psyche and our history. I might not be a fan of our psyche, and I do hope it changes, but this is who we are today. We build in the most awkward of situations, forcing our homes on the most hostile of hills. Sometimes, it’s nonsensical, but so are our lives. We could use a lot of improvements, but I think our main issue is with the people of Amman, and not Amman itself. In a way, We need to fix us, to fix the city.

Is Amman ugly? No, I don’t think Amman is ugly at all. It’s not the most beautiful place in the world, but it has it’s own unique charm that makes it very, very beautiful in its own way.

Plus, it’s home. And it looks like Minas Tirith.

How to not fall in love with Istanbul

The night before you boarded a plane to Istanbul, you had a dream about Turkish factories. In the dream, you were on the road somewhere in Istanbul, and you were crying your eyes out over the factories that endlessly lined your sight. In the dream, you were crying in despair at Jordan’s lack of factories and Jordan’s lack of industry. In the dream, you decided that you want to make a factory in Jordan one day.

Yes, you thought as you woke up, I want to be a factory owner.

Turkey. The appeal of a country situated between the East and the West. The quantum leaps of economic growth, centering around industrialization. The colorful history so similar to our own. The ancient and significant art and architecture littering the streets.

Oh, I was so excited to visit Istanbul, the center of it all.

I did my research, like I always do my research. I landed in Ataturk Airport armed with reviews and a solid cultural background on the different city areas, the history, the non-touristic recommendations, transportation, and my own knowledge of Islamic art. I had a carefully-planned itinerary for the five days I was going to spend in Istabul. I know that five days is hardly enough time to get a feel of a city, but five days is the usual amount I spend in a new city. I fell in love with Beirut, Paris, Madrid, and Damascus in five days. I hated other cities in the same amount of time.

Oh, Istanbul, how you disappointed me. I was not able to make sense of you. I was not able to see past the grime of your poverty or past the fakeness of your affluence. I didn’t even enjoy your historical artifacts that I’ve been so excited to see for the past 15 years, that I knew so much about due to my background in art. Disneyland, that’s what your architecture felt like: displaced from time and space. Irrelevant to surroundings. Plastered with what makes tourists happy. The dream of money.

You know what made me feel really strange? The way the Turkish language is set in Latin script, which only replaced Arabic script in 1932. I mean, I’m all for the modernization of language. The blind stasticness of Arabic, unfortunately, holds us back, in a way. But being in Istanbul made me feel the brutality of sacrificing identity, and what shows identity more than the script you use? That particular script all over the ancient mosques you’re so proud of! You gave it up, you gave up that part of your identity. You can’t even read it! But you had to keep it, because it’s there, in the stone, all around you.

It felt so strange to walk into the Grand Bazaar and be greeted in an ugly, capitalized, misplaced Latin typeface. The Grand Bazaar that looks like Souq IlHamedeyeh in Damascus, or Souq Il Atareen in Tripoli. This is MY heritage! It has historical roots that can’t be replaced with another culture’s roots.

When you’re walking is Paris and you look at the Latin typography, it makes perfect sense. Those letters took a thousand-year journey, growing from Gothic typefaces to roman designs, introduced with the establishment of a press in Paris in 1503. There was a period of merging and growth, with undeveloped Roman and half-Gothic types, and eventually Humanistic and classical texts made it to France. You can see this history and the evolution in the streets, in the signs, in the way the city is built.

Istanbul lost that. To an Arab, it looks absurd. Blasphemous. Like a beautiful old woman missing a leg.

And you can tell the Turkish typesetters and designers aren’t comfortable with the Latin script just yet either. It often looks strange, lost, imposed.

Latin scripts in signage in ancient souq

Look at the merge between Arabic calligraphy and 70’s-style typography (bottom line)

The Turkish books before 1940 are in Arabic, the ones after in English

Beautiful Arabic calligraphy in the Blue Mosque that today’s Turks can’t even read (but they plaster Arabic calligraphy on everything sold)

This script-issue was my biggest mental block towards Istanbul, but it wasn’t the only one. The city is too vast, too crowded, too claustrophobic for me. Even the food was gross, almost nothing I had tasted fresh (although I Googled this particular aspect to death). The mosques were disappointingly similar, and I recommend Cairo for better architectural diversity when it comes to mosques.

Istanbul is just not rooted enough for me.

But I keep remembering my dream of industrialization. I guess that’s a part of it somehow… Do I have to play the Disneyland card to have my factory?

I want to own a factory. I want to make things that are made in Jordan. But I don’t want Jordan to turn into Disneyland. But who am I to talk anyway… I’m a product of my parent’s dreams for industrialization, for a better future. I do, after all, choose to write in English.

I guess Istabul was just too much of a thinking shock for me.

Stephen Hawking Proves Time Traveling Can’t Exist

This. Is. The. Coolest. Thing. I’ve. Ever. Seen.

Bonus: Awesome hand-printed invitation:


So… tomorrow Istanbul!

I’ve been obsessed with history since I was a little child, and I became specifically interested in the history of the Muslim world after an amazing “History of Islamic Art” class that I took back in university.

You know, it’s our collective past that makes us who we are, and we share a common past with the Turks, more so than anyone else. The Greeks. The Byzantines. The crusades. The disastrous Ottoman Empire which held the Arab world back for 500 years.

The other thing is that I am really, really excited about the art and the architecture. The last time I visited Turkey, I was a few weeks away from starting my freshman year at college. My brain still wasn’t filled with all the wonderful details that I know today.

So yes. If you’re in Istanbul, know someone in Istanbul, have recommendations, etc. please send me an email, as I’m going solo for the most part and it would be awesome to get an insider view.

Fridays are for omelettes

Above: Failed attempt number 43343 at reproducing my dad’s omelette

This morning, I woke up craving my dad’s Friday omelettes. That has been happening for a while now, where I wake up and try to reproduce his famous “3ejet khababees il jaj”. I never manage to get anywhere near that omelette, though, and I’ve been trying for years. I’ve Googled different recipes, asked people for their own recipes, changed the ingredients around. I never even get remotely close.

Friday mornings were a feast in our home growing up. My dad would wake us up at around 10:30 and make us breakfast, and breakfast was always the same: an omelette. The special thing about my dad’s omelette was that it was a completely random mess of eggs, chips, popcorn, fresh vegetables, cold cuts, leftovers from the fridge, and once even chocolate. It was called “3ejet khababees il jaj”, which roughly translates to “chicken mess omelette”. We were children and we loved it to death.

I miss my dad’s omelette. I miss my dad. I want my dad’s Friday omelette. Every time I make eggs, they taste like crap.

Pepsi Arabia: LET ALAA’ WIN!

Pepsi, please let the awesome Alaa’ win the tickets to Beyonce’s concert. No one deserves those tickets more.

Marcel and Man Playing Chess on the Room of the Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Paris, 1924

I think my heart can’t take this picture.

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