A Blog from Amman, Jordan, Online Since 2004.

Month: September 2014

10 Years of AndFarAway

I want to take a minute to muse on the fact that its been ten years of AndFarAway.

Can you imagine? This blog belongs to a world before YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. A world when Sharon was still PM, and when suicide bombings in the Arab world were news. Michael Jackson, Christopher Reeve, and Sadam Hussein were alive. Pluto was a planet. The TV show “Friends” aired on TV. iPhones, tablets, and Android were yet to be invented.

This was me around the same week I started AndFarAway, in a university exhibition with a drawing of mine:

I had just turned 19. I’m now 29.


Happy birthday, AndFarAway.

Oh, how we have grown.

Nine Years Running
AndFarAway is now 8
Seven Years Together, You and I
Anniversary Number 3
And Now We Turn Two
The Anniversary Post

That one game you loved as a kid that you’ve been trying to remember for years

It was my favorite PC game as a kid, and for years, I’ve been trying to remember it’s name. I googled it of course, but I guess I never used to right keywords.

After struggling all weekend with the name, I finally found it: Skyroads.



I first played in in 1993 or 1994, because it was the only game available in the school’s computer lab. Then I nagged and nagged and nagged until my father got it for us to play at home too.

You can play it on a emulator here:

It is so cool, and much more difficult that I remember. I’m surprised that we used to race and do so well. The history is also interesting. It was developed by an Estonian programmer who later was also a part of developing Skype and Kaza.

Who used to play it and love it too?

Register Today: The MENA ICT Forum


AndFarAway is excited to be an official media partner with the MENA ICT Forum for 2014.

The MENA ICT Forum is the MENA region’s premier biennial ICT industry event, held in Jordan, under the Royal Patronage of His Majesty King Abdullah II. The forum showcases the entire MENA region’s ICT success stories, and discusses latest trends, opportunities and future outlook.

Speakers include Francis Barel from PayPal, John Davies from Intel, and Duncan Mitchell from CISCO. You can view full list of speakers and agenda here.

You can register for the forum here.

Here are things you need to know about Jordan’s ICT sector:

120 240px Web Banner

120  240px Web Banner

What should I eat today in Amman?

What should I have for dinner today in Amman? My least favorite question. You see, one of my biggest problems in life is that I never know where to eat. My friends never know either. It’s always an annoying game of what do you want — no, what do you want. It is REALLY ANNOYING.

So… Ladies and gentlemen… Behold! A little tool that can make the decision for you. Just click on the wheel and enjoy.

All options are my personal food picks, with several mentions for my top 2 places: Luigi’s (affordable, consistent, and superfast) and Il Pizzaiolo (the BEST PIZZA IN THE WORLD). Yes, that’s playing with luck, I know, but it’s MY WHEEL. Other options included have very specific suggestions, like the kani salad at Sushi Studio (cause everything else there isn’t very good, and I want your tummy to be happy). Most of these places can feed you well for under 7JDs.

If you have any suggestions, I am happy to add them if I like them too.


The Amazing Collective Intelligence of Ants

Seriously INSANE.

Via io9

Inflexibility of Expertise

From io9:

The perfect is the enemy of the good. We know that phrase very well. What the Einstellung Effect proves is the good can be a real enemy of the even better. When we have a solution that’s good, we can’t begin to think about a better one.

The seeming inability to come up with a better solution is called the Einstellung Effect. It’s not the product of simple laziness. Once people see a possible solution in their heads, they have a really tough time approaching the problem from a fresh perspective. Experts become less skilled than novices. At least, that’s what happens some of the time.

Another study found that chess players become less flexible and prone to settle for sub-optimal solutions as they gain expertise. Get above a certain level of expertise, though, and people are less and less prone to fall for the Einstellung Effect. They keep looking for different solutions until they find the best one. The question is, what relationship does the Einstellung Effect have to expertise? As you gain ability, maybe you lose the need to plug a known formula into every situation. Or is it the other way around? Perhaps if you are prone to settle for a known good instead of looking for something better, you never become a high-level expert.

The Pain of Noise

My first memory of getting enraged by noise goes back to when I was 11 years old.

Thud. Thud. Thud.

It was the sound of a rubber ball being kicked consistently against the wall by my brothers.

Thud. Thud. Thud.

I was only 11, but I vividly remember what I felt. I was uncharacteristically enraged. It hurt, physically. Like someone was kicking a ball inside my head, bouncing it against the walls of my cranium.

Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

I remember being so angry that I started feeling hot. The heat slowly went up through my body, starting in my toes and inching to my head. I remember trying to control the anger. I remember the insane rage. That’s it though.

The next thing I remember is finding myself standing in the kitchen, staring blankly at my crying brother. A limp green rubber ball lay stabbed open in one hand, and a knife in my other hand.

In my rage, I had subconsciously destroyed my 6-year-old brother’s green rubber ball.

But there was no more thudding. It felt so good.

It didn’t feel good for long, course. My mother was SO angry with me that I never dared to do such a thing again, ever. No more balls were popped at the Al-Assi household.

But the physical pain and rage I feel towards certain kinds of sound have not become any better. In fact, I think my problem is only getting worse with time.

My friends like to play music on their phones when we play cards. Sadly for them, I instantly lose my ability to focus on anything but the horrible sound. I can hear every hiss and every flat tone. The music simply loses all its aesthetic qualities and sounds like a disgusting blob of mismatched noise.

For the first few seconds, it is annoying. I tell myself to shut up and deal with it. It’s just music. Yeah, the sound is crap, but the song is crap anyway. This pristine logic doesn’t work for long though. My emotions are quickly overrun, and I lose my ability to focus on anything other than how horrible the music sounds. Like someone is sticking long rods of metal in my ears. That’s when I start getting angry and irritated. I ask my friends to please turn it off. They usually give me a hard time.

In my head, I know they don’t understand. To them, it does not sound like someone is consistently scraping a million nails against a chalkboard plastered over every surface of their body. You know, it’s just music. They want to play music, because music is nice and stuff. So what if the sound is just slightly crap? Roba is just being a brat. But I really am not being a brat. By this time, the pain in my ears and head is so intense that I almost feel like crying. So I go to the toilet and disappear for a while.

It’s weird, because I don’t have problems with most sorts of noise. I attended a horrendously loud and cacophonous metal concert last month. I enjoyed every second of it. I love parties, and my favorite, favorite thing about bars and restaurants is the buzz of people when combined with the crinkling of dinnerware. It’s what I miss most when I don’t go out.

It’s really weird.

And really annoying.

And I hope my friends stop playing loud music using their phones or their car’s crappy sound systems. And I hope all cars that make shrill noises disappear completely overnight, including motorcycles/scooters/etc. I hope all people who eat really loudly or drag their feet when they walk all get a really bad cold today.

I wish all bad noises would disappear.

Then I think I be much happier.

My Top 10 Most Influential Books

As a child:
The Berenstain Bears Books, Stan and Jan Berenstain
The Naughtiest Girl in School, Enid Blyton
The Fear Street Saga, R. L. Stine
Remember ME, Christopher Pike

As a teenager:
Pandora, Anne Rice
The Harry Potter series, J. K. Rowling
The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkein

As an adult:
The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, Andy Warhol
Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card

This is the story of the books that influenced me the most. There were lots of them.

You see, I fell in love with books way before I learned to read.

I was just a little girl, and there were two things I really, really wanted. Mountains and mountains of candy was the first thing, but it’s the second thing that counts: I wanted to grow up so I could learn how to read all by myself.

I loved books with all my heart and soul, thanks to my mother’s unlimited patience. Every night, she and I would huddle across from her painting of Snow White on my bedroom wall, and we would read from a book with a silver spine. I was three years old.

Then I learned how to read, and what followed was a life full of books. Here are the ones that influenced me most.

The painting of Snow White

1. The Berenstein Bears

Right around the time I turned six, I discovered picture books, and became obsessed with the Berenstein Bears. I have no idea how I got my hands on them, but I had the entire series, and I read them over and over again. This was my favorite book:

It had my two favorite things in the world. It was a book with gorgeous illustrations of candy all over. I loved re-drawing that book. My favorite part to re-draw was the candy typography:

2. Enid Blyton
I was maybe 8 or 9 when I decided I was too old for picture books and moved to Enid Blyton. She had a gazillion titles under her belt, and more importantly, her books were well-stocked in my favorite bookstore. I read “The Naughtiest Girl in School” series several times, and I loved it so much that I tried to mimic her writing style and write my own books.

3 and 4. Fear Street Saga and Christopher Pike
Inevitably, books written around World War II stopped being cool and I started reading more contemporary fiction.

I started with Goosebumps and The Baby Sitters’ Club, but my favorite was The Fear Street Saga. It was full of history, magic, and a rich timeline.

When I became a little older (11 to be precise), I switched to Christopher Pike, a FANTASTIC writer of young adult sci-fi/fantasy. He had dozens of books revolving around vampires, the colonization of space, witches, magic, and technology.

It was certainly R. L. Stine and Christopher Pike that turned me into the hardcore lover of fantasy and science fiction that I am today. I still re-read old books of theirs when I have an hour to kill (especially when I’m at the beach), and both writers are excellent.

5. Pandora by Anne Rice
I was 12 and quickly growing over books written for girls my age. That year, during the bi-weekly trips to Jareer Bookstore that my parents always made sure I took, I spotted a book with a purple cover with “Pandora” typed in black letter. Thus started my love story with Anne Rice. It’s hard to explain how much Rice influenced my life’s choices, my beliefs, and my interests. Her words were such a big part of shaping the person I am today.

I learned what it meant to be a “virtuouso”, that the Italian master Vivaldi wooed the world with Four Seasons, that Botticelli painted the most beautiful artworks ever seen. I learned about the philosophy of Ovid, the historical significance of the Egyptian goddess Isis, and how a Stradivarius is one of the most precious objects on earth. I have to say – I owe Anne Rice my A’s in art history classes.

6. Harry Potter
I was 14 when I was first introduced to Harry. I spent the next 13 years eagerly awaiting Harry again. You see, I grew up with him. With Harry, I finished middle school, started high school, applied to universities, got a degree in Fine Arts and Design, went through my first job ever. It is not often that a story becomes so embedded in one’s life. I still miss Harry.

7. The Lord of the Rings
1136 pages of pure euphoria. One of my the most beautiful times of my teenage years is those few weeks when I completely got lost in Tolkien’s work. I literally got lost. I don’t think I did anything else that summer vacation. I just read and re-read The Lord of the Rings until I had my favorite parts memorized. I fell in love with his syntax, his languages, his characters, his world. Becoming a Tolkien fan changes you. “The Lord of the Rings” is the best literary work of all time.

8. The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, Andy Warhol
This is the outlier in the list, but for god’s sake, it’s ANDY WARHOL and I LOVE Andy Warhol. This random book of random thoughts is one of my favorite reads. The random wisdom is crazy. I know most of it by heart, and sometimes I have conversations with Andy in my head based on quotes from the book.

Roba: “People are so stupid.”
Andy: “I think everybody should be a machine.”
Roba: “Yes, you’re right. I love robots, everyone should be a robot. Robots are better than people, Isaac would also agree. Sometimes, people drive me so crazy it’s a miracle I don’t fall apart.”
Andy: “I never fall apart, because I never fall together.”
Roba: “Yeah… you taught me that well. There’s no need to assume that anything is together in the first place. People think too much.”
Andy: “I really do live for the future, because when I’m eating a box of candy, I can’t wait to taste the last piece. I don’t even taste any of the other pieces, I just want to finish and throw the box away and not have to have it on my mind any more.”

9. Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov is a personal hero of mine. I’ve never read an Asimov book that I did not enjoy, but his “Foundation” series just BLEW ME AWAY. It’s so rich and philosophically beautiful. I wish I had his talent for delivering difficult abstract concepts in easy and fun language.

10. Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
One of the best writers of the past 50 years. I spent a month reading every single book and short story he ever wrote. I couldn’t get enough of his words.

So, there you go. My list of top ten books that have influenced me. What are yours?

Food Box: Amazing Fusion Food at Amazing Prices

I LOVE it when a restaurant goes from “just okay” to “oh, my God this amazing”.

The first time I tried Food Box, I really enjoyed it. It was nice and simple food, but I was far more impressed with the cool packaging than with the food itself.

So when I walked into the new Food Box Abdoun branch, I was expecting the experience to be pleasant, but you know, just that. After all, the average item costs less than 4JDs, and anything good in this city is damn expensive.

Then we sat down and the chef started preparing the dishes.

HOLY CRAP. It was the best food I’ve had in ages, and I am not exaggerating. The vegetables were so fresh and full, and I could taste the good ingredients.

food box jordan pasta

The first thing we tried was red penne pasta, which is such a difficult dish to perfect in it’s simplicity. I’m more pesto than tomato with my pasta, but I enjoyed this plate very much. The tomato sauce tasted fresh and tangy with the basil, and the penne was perfectly al dente.

food box jordan meat noodles food box jordan chicken

Next on the menu was squid ink pasta with beef and chicken (separately, of course). Both platters were rich with freshly-chopped vegetables, and the squid ink pasta tasted quite distinct. Interesting for sure, but this was the dish I enjoyed least, because everything else was just amazing.

food box jordan fish

The chef served us this delicious fish platter with garlic rice. I have no idea what it’s called on the menu, but OHMYGOD. It was so damn delicious I was craving it already an hour later. I’m not sure what the sauce is, but it just tasted so unique and rich. I especially loved the strange velvety texture of the batter.

This tiny platter tasted like a fusion of Chinese, Cajun, and English fish and chips. If you like sea food, you must try it with the garlic rice on the side. The presentation was great too.

food box jordan ravioli

Finally and last on the list was another item I loved. I honestly can’t decide what I enjoyed more, the fish or this delicious, freshly-made ravioli.

You see, I LOVE spinach ravioli, but I HATE it when the spinach loses its texture and becomes a lump of greenish, mis-shaped something. That’s usually the case with spinach ravioli in Jordan, because it’s frozen. Spinach is a beautiful plant, but it has to be fresh to be beautiful. I mean, how disgusting are frozen spinach safaye7 (Arabic pastries)? They just lose the texture.

This is what makes Food Box’s ravioli amazing. They make it themselves and ohmygod… every bite was amazing. Look, even though they served us massive amounts of food, not a single bite of the ravioli remained. We even scraped the sauce. Actually, I want it now.

food box jordan after lunch

Yes. So I guess I finally found a new food place to fall in love with. I hope it’s always this amazing :)

You can try it out by visiting their Abdoun branch next to Falafel Al-Osra (Hammoudeh DVD area).

food box jordan gucci

food box jordan door

On August

Oh, my God. It’s the last days of summer.


Lisa Frank.

The days of TBA are over, my love.

Patterns of hunger

Impatience ruining an otherwise lovely picture

Yes, I actually bought this

E-ink is magic

Thursday and the living is easy

Askimo in my fridge

Ben Zheiman


Pictorial Archive of Life

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 | On November | On December

2014: On January | On Februaury | On March | On April | On May | On June | On July | On August

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