Archive for Roba

Self-portrait: My Red Converse Shoes

I was just a few days shy of my 19th birthday and my second year in design school when I decided to start AndFarAway. It was 2004.

Being the smart-ass nerd I’ve always been, I thought I knew most of what I should know about branding and design. In reality, I had just started learning how to use Photoshop, and all I knew about branding was from the vast amount of random and completely irrelevant reading I did.

I knew one thing though, as I sat and looked at Blogger’s “Upload Profile Picture” field on the “Start a Blog!” page: I had to choose my profile picture wisely, and I couldn’t just add a random one. I had a feeling I will be stuck with whatever I chose forever, because that’s how brands work.

Thank goodness I knew that much at least.

That week, I used a paper and a pen to decide on what I wanted my blog’s brand to be. I had initially meant to blog anonymously, so I couldn’t use a picture of myself. I wanted a very specific object with a specific color, something that anyone could recognize and remember. I wanted the object to be unique but generic at the same time. It also had to be something long term, that I wasn’t going to grow out of in a couple of years. I ended up with a list of things I could use as a brand:

- A hot water bag, known in Arabic as “Erbeh”, because I wanted my blog to be my therapy

- A black pencil, because I was in art school, and I thought I was going to grow up to be an artist (of course!)

A picture of Amman, because I had just moved to Amman and I was exploring the city a lot

A camera silhouette, because I loved taking pictures and I thought I was SO GOOD at it

The last item on my list of potential blog brands was what I ended up going with: shoes, as a tribute to one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite authors, J. R. R. Tolkien, in one of my favorite books, The Lord of the Rings: “All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost.”

Shoes, wandering machines. They may not glitter, but they get you places. My shoes were helping me discover my new city. They were my companion in my own personal coming-of-age journey. Plus, I had already decided to call my blog “AndFarAway”, as a tribute to one of my favorite bands, Led Zeppelin, who have a song called “Over the Hills and Far Away”, also as a tribute to Tolkien. A lot of tributes, as you can see :)

Hard to believe now, but Converse hadn’t yet made the comeback to mainstream “coolness” in 2004. Converse was grunge, it was underground, and it was vintage in a time when blingy hip hop was mainstream. It was Kurt Cobain, it was Eddy Vedder, it was Green Day.

It was PERFECT for my new brand.

I know, that’s a lot of thinking for someone who had just turned 19. I told you I was a smart ass.

I found a picture of a red Converse, I uploaded it, and I published my first blog. This is what it looked like:

Not much of a design, as you can see. I just used the shoes as a profile picture. At that point, I was new to Jordan and I wasn’t yet aware of the general perception of shoes as being something dirty, insulting, and offensive. It was years later that I realized that people thought it was funny that I used a pair of shoes as my profile picture, and that I was referred to as “Em Boat” (Mother of the Shoe) by readers who did not know me personally.

As the years passed, I got better at design, and my brand evolved.

my blog

Its been 11 years now and my brand is still the red Converse. Random people are very likely to stop me and ask me if I’m the blogger if I’m wearing my red Chucks, and not as likely if I’m not. I use them as an image on everything, from my personal business cards to my CV. They are my canvas, my identity, my self-portrait.

Today, I received a package from Converse Amman: a shiny, bright white, new pair of Chuck Taylors. They came with an invitation to “leave my mark” and “express myself” by customizing them.


I will do that, of course, because I love scribbling.

But my real self-portrait is my first ever pair of red Chuck Taylor’s, which I still wear occasionally. I wore them every day for many, many years. They’re ripped in several places, and have green paint that never washed off from my graduation project. I scribbled over them once when I was bored at Syntax. They took me places around the globe, and they were my steady partner across different events in my life, pecan-picking seasons, winters and summers.







Seoul, Korea trip with Samsung


Oh, the warmth of it all

Fall girl

On November

Capturing the Overwhelming

Rainbow Street, Jabal Amman, Jordan

Here’s what I’m thinking: How can anyone get so emotional over a pair of shoes?

Well, whatever.

Converse are having an event on April 25 and 6:30PM, at Taj. It’s an open invitation.

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How to Set a Dining Table

One of the first things I ever learned in my life was how to set a dining table. My father taught me the correct way to arrange utensils when I was barely 6 years old, after which it was always my responsibility to ensure that the dining table was set properly. He took dining etiquette very, very seriously. Oh, yes, he did.

After my father passed away in 2008, we stopped having many formal dinners, and there was never a need to set a table. Then, a few weeks back, I was setting the table for the first time in years when I had an awful realization: I’ve forgotten where things go. I couldn’t remember what my father taught me. Isn’t it amazing that you could forget something you learned so young, and that you did hundreds of times?

So I quickly googled it, and here I am sharing the correct way to set a dining table with you, in memory of my dad, who had a zero-tolerance policy for bad dining manners.

Here’s how you set a dining table:

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On March

When we first moved to Jordan, I used to really dislike March because of all the bugs. Now that I hardly notice them anymore, March is soooo beautiful. It’s so green and crisp, and the fact that summer is around the corner makes me really happy.

mothers day
Mother’s Day outing

mothers day 2
Trip back in time

mama and i
Even further back in time

c nest pas
It’s not.

Look, I’m an astronaut

Find Rami

This is Ayla, how cute is she?

rami and i
Red and green and black

old qesrsh
This piaster is older than I am

Spring makes Amman look more like a fantasy town than any other season

Heavy metal buzuq



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 | On September | On October | On November | On December

2015: On January | On October | On February | On March

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Amazing surprise from Nescafe Dolce Gusta

No matter how old you are, it’s always exciting to come home to see a big, fat package sitting on your couch. It’s even more exciting when the package is beautifully customized for you, complete with a painted portrait and references to the people you love.

This is what I came home to last night:

I love coming home to a big box of surprises on my couch #dolcegustojo #amman #jo

The box is beautiful, and is styled with pictures from my Instagram account. When I opened it, it had a very personalized, cute message. Nescafe knows that I love the Internet! And I love people/brands that use the Internet correctly.

This campaign by Nestle Dolce Gusto Jordan is SO BRILLIANT in its details that I will go ahead. Check out the geniusness:

Nescafe Dolce Gusto: I LOVE Brands That Use the Internet Correctly

Beneath the cute note was my very own painted portrait, painted with coffee by Jordanian artist Randa Haddadin:

Nescafe Dolce Gusto: Coffee Portrait

And then, several boxes of coffee, in different flavours and suggestions on who to share them with:

Nescafe Dolce Gusto: Coffee Selection

The detail here is mindblowing.

My brother Omar loves chocolate:
Nescafe Dolce Gusto: Omar Loves Chocolate

Discussions with my mother are always intense:
Nescafe Dolce Gusto: Rula is Intense

My friend Nour is addicted to iced coffee:
Nescafe Dolce Gusto: Nour Drinks Her Coffee with Ice

My friend Naser loves espresso:
Nescafe Dolce Gusto: Naser Likes Espresso

Rami doesn’t drink coffee at all, and is more likely to just play with foam:
Nescafe Dolce Gusto: Rami Doesn't Like Coffee and is More Likely to Play with Foam

WOW. See what I mean by genius?

Nescafe Dolce Gusto: Lovely Selection

Beneath the coffee is the biggest surprise: a Mini Me bright red Dolce Gusto machine :)

It’s so cute. It looks like a penguin! And it’s not just an espresso machine, it’s all out, with milk and cream pods and everything.

Nescafe Dolce Gusto: Nice Design

Time to enjoy my coffee :)

Thanks Nescafe, not only for the nice surprise, but for a lesson in great social media marketing as well.

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I miss Harry

The past few weeks, I’ve had unexplainable feelings of loss towards Harry Potter.

I miss Harry. I miss waiting for the books to come out. I miss fighting over who will it first. I miss driving to Bahrain to watch the movies. I guess miss being a little girl :)

Thank goodness you can’t spot old green-screen tech in a book.

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Disney Princess Pasta to Make You Smile

A few weeks ago I found this amazing Disney princess pasta. HOW COOL IS IT?

There’s Cinderella, Belle, Aurora, and Snow White. There’s also Cinderella’s carriage and castle.

Unfortunately, the poor princesses die quickly, and as soon as you add any sauce.

Still really awesome.
princess pasta

Even if what you eat looks like this:
dead princess pasta

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