Stuff you should read

Unblock Mahmood’s Blog

Posted on Tuesday 31 October 2006

To make sure that this doesn't continue to happen, and that refomrist voices in the middle east don't get silenced, go here. And pass it along!

The Sandmonkey @ 1:25 pm
Filed under: Linkity love andcauses
The Eid sexual harassment incident

Posted on Monday 30 October 2006

I didn't want to write about this.

Hell, I didn't even want to know about it.

I remember the first time I heard of it while I was in Amman. Eblis sent me an e-mail titled "Behold the revolution in Egypt" with a link to malek's post on it and I stupidly clicked on it and was presented with a reality that I didn't want or desire to confront.

The story is as follows for the those of you who didn't hear about it: It was the first day of Eid, and a new film was opening downtown. Mobs of males gatherd trying to get in, but when the show was sold out, they decided they will destroy the box office. After accomplishing that, they went on what can only be described as a sexual frenxy: They ran around grabbing any and every girl in sight, whether a niqabi, a Hijabi or uncoverd. Whether egyptian or foreigner. Even pregnant ones. They grabbed them, molested them, tried to rip their cloths off and rape them, all in front of the police, who didn't do shit. The good people of downtown tried their best to protect the girls. Shop owners would let the girls in and lock the doors, while the mobs tried to break in. Taxi drivers put the girls in the cars while the mobs were trying to break the glass and grab the girls out. It was a disgusting pandamonium of sexual assaults that lasted for 5 houres from 7:30 PM to 12:30 am, and it truns my stomach just to think about it.

I called my father when I heard of that happening, and he informed me that he didn't hear of it at all. They watched Al Jazeerah, CNN, flipped through opposition newspapers, and nothing. Nada. Nobody mentioned it. As if it didn't happen. 

But it did.

The bloggers available downtown documented the whole thing, and provided pictures of it as well. Reading their accounts I can't help by feel my heart being torn on what the people of the country has turned to. The one that broke my heart the most was Sharqawi's account (remember, he is the guy who got sexually assaulted by the police during interrogation ) and how it suddenly danwed at him that what happend to him wasn;t an isolated incident. That The Police forces didn;t came from another planet, that they were born and raised egyptians, amongst the egyptian people, the same egyptian people who have produced those mobs who found it in their right to attack girls in middle of crowded downtown for 5 houres under the police's watchdul eyes. The ones who approached the police asking them to do something were told : "what do you want us to do? It's Eid. Happy Eid to you too!" The same response was given to women who went to the police stations to report the incidents. The police refused to do their jobs and take a report, because it would probably reflect badly on their downtown peers. Some people were surprised at the Police's reaction, but the majoirty of us weren't. Those are the same police officers who facilitated the assaults on women last year during the referendum. This is business as usual for them.

What was unusual was the silence of the press. Nobody was mentioning it. Nobody was bringing it up. It seemed like there was some consensus of just not reporting it and maybe it will just go away. What at first seemed like a conspiracy got later on confirmed by my sources in the news media. Al Jazeera had taped the incidents but were forbidden to air it at the request of the egyptian authorities. The editor at a leading newspaper refused to touch it with a 6 foot pole. This was going to be one of those incidents that only the blogsphere would talk about, while the mainstream media ignored.

Until Nawarah Negm blew the whole thing wide open on live television on the Dream Channel.

She was brought in as a writer to be part of a fluffy segment on Mona Al Shazly show talking about the Ramadan TV shows, and the girl's first response to the question was: "What Television shows do you want to discuss, when egyptian girls are assaulted on the streets of Cairo while the police watched and did nothing?" When Mona counterd that she never heard of it before, Nawarah told her all about it, in details and how it's all over the internet.

All of Egypt saw that. The cat was out of the bag. A cover-up was no longer feasiable.

When I spoke to the brilliant Nawarah yesterday, she told me that she was debating talking about it or not on television, that was until she was faced with the camera and found herself on the air, and just couldn't hold herself back. She went for it, and god bless her for having the guts to do that. 

The next day, Mona Al Shazly went and did a segment on the incident and interviewed the people on the street. The video of the segment is here (arabic, sorry). She even contacted the Ministery of Interior for a statement. You know what their response was?

"We didn't hear of anything. This didn't happen. Things were just crowded in downtown that day, but no girls were assaulted, because no police reports were filed in that regard!"

FUCKERS!

I am not one of those people who claims to be above hate. I do hate, and I hate quite passionately, the same way when I love I love passionately. But I have to say that I have never hated anyone or group as much as I hate the egyptian police at this moment. It's a hate of unequaled proportions. I really wouldn't mind them all dying horrible deaths right now. A police force that doesn't protect its citizens, especially its women, has no business being on the streets. They become nothing more than an organized armed gang now in my opinion, even lower, because they are shaming everyone who wore theat uniform before and did his job. THEY DESERVE TO DIE!

Anyway, the TV show brought it up, and now Egypt's leading newspaper, Al Masry Al youm, featured two columns on the incident. More is bound to come and this national shame will be exposed and confronted. 

Now, the egyptian blogsphere has been abuzz in debate over the incident. Some are writing posts on why it happend, possible causes, what it means, the social and political factors that could possibly lead to this behavior, and quite honestly, I can't be botherd. I don't care why it happend. Rape is not up for debate. I just care that it happend. What we should discuss right now isn't what caused it, but what kind of horrible punishment that should be enacted on any egyptian male who thinks that it is well into his right to sexually harass a female on the street. That's it. Pure and simple.

I am often told that I am too westernized or too liberal by people I know, and they are not wrong or inaccurate. My values are for the most part western values. However, there are two middle-eastern traits in me that I can never give up: The first is my stupid insistince on always paying for the bill when I am with a girl I am dating, and the second is my protectiveness of women. I have no tolerance for those who assault women sexually in any way, and that almost got me kicked out of my school in Boston when I broke the leg of one of my roommates who raped a friend of mine. The incident only resulted in him getting a broken leg because people stoped me before I killed him. And I had the full intention of killing him. Rapists do not deserve to live. And that's how I feel towards every single one of those pieces of shit that attacked women on the streets of cairo the other day.

People can debate solutions based on dialogue, education, or whatever and that's their right. My solution is far simpler: Any egyptian man whose mother raised him right should beat the living crap of any man he sees on the street that assaults or harasses a female. Think of them as your sisters, and act accordingly. The Police isn't interested in protecting the women, and that's fine, but that means that we should take this job as our own. Those who insist on  acting like animals will be treated as such, and deserve no sympathy or mercy from us. I assure you, if we did this, if we undertook this as part of our national duty, there will no longer be a problem on our streets.

 That is all!

The Sandmonkey @ 1:47 pm
Filed under: Only in Egypt andWTF? andWomen andjust plain wrong
Smart Bombs on our Borders

Posted on Monday 30 October 2006

In an effort to stop weapon smuggeling, the Israelis are planning on bombing the border area with Egypt in an effort to destroy the smuggeling tunnels. So far it's nothing but rumors, but the egyptian authorities are taking it seriously and are deploying about 5000 secuirty forces over there.

Up to 5,000 Egyptian state security police deployed near the Egypt-Gaza
border Saturday after reports of a possible Israeli "smart bomb" attack
on suspected smuggling tunnels, security officials said.

Initial reports had indicated the deploying forces were Egyptian
army soldiers, but officials stressed Sunday that was not the case, and
the forces consisted of state security police, a paramilitary-like
force often used in Egypt to maintain order.

The security police usually are stationed in towns in the Sinai
peninsula. They were redeployed Saturday to fan out across the northern
peninsula, patrolling roads in and out of border towns and setting up
checkpoints, an Egyptian interior ministry official said in Cairo.

Police also were launching raids on suspected militant hideouts as
well, he added on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized
to speak to the media.

So it seems that the egyptian police deployed there aims at arresting the smuggelers and finding the tunnels themselves, which is something they should do anyway. However, knowing how our secuirty forces operate, this will be a disaster. What will even be a bigger disaster if Israel does actually smart-bomb the borders, because it will infuriate the egyptian public to no end, who will view it as nothing short of a declaration of war. And that's not counting what will happen if one of those smart-bombs actually injures egyptians near the borders. Samrt-bombs are known not to be very smart, and all that it would take is for one of them, just one, to act dumb and drop itself on an egyptian population. If that happens, the gates of hell will open.

The worst part: the people who live on the borders are fucked either way.

Fuck!  

The Sandmonkey @ 11:50 am
Filed under: Egypt andIsrael
The cat and the meat

Posted on Monday 30 October 2006

When I first heard of the Incident of the Australian muslim cleric (egyptian born unfortunately) from Memz, I started laughing immedietly. The kind of laughter that usually springs from horror. But at the same time I can't say that I am surprised. This mentality is quite typical, and I have railed against it time and time again. The refusal of the islamic clerics to hold the men in any way or shape responsible for the sexual harassament of women has been something that has existed for decades, and now, thank god, it's starting to gain the attention and scrutiny it so well deserves.

The good news? The Imam has been exposed and attacked. He issued an apology and he has now taken an extended leave from the Islamic centre . Good riddance. May he never come back again! 

The Sandmonkey @ 11:33 am
Filed under: Assholes andIslam andWomen
Waiting for the implosion

Posted on Monday 30 October 2006

This israely government is going to implode soon, isn't it?

The Sandmonkey @ 11:09 am
Filed under: Israel
The Impossible Dream

Posted on Monday 30 October 2006

As seen at Lisa's. 

The Sandmonkey @ 10:49 am
Filed under: Linkity love
The war on egyptian children

Posted on Monday 30 October 2006

I couldn't finish reading this report compiled by Human Rights Watch on the way the egyptian police treats the children it arrests. I couldn't stomach it. But it should be read. So please go here and read it.

The Sandmonkey @ 10:41 am
Filed under: Only in Egypt
Mahmood’s blog is blocked

Posted on Monday 30 October 2006

The Godfather of the Bahraini blogsphere, Mahmood, has just received word that his blog got blocked in Bahrain amongst a number of other blogs. I have to join him in thanking the Bahraini government in giving him such great publicity. Mahmood, they may not be able to read you in Bahrain, but we still can, so please don't stop doing what you are doing.

One of your big fans in Egypt,

SM 

Update: The joke is on them. Mahmood immedietly created a blog mirror-site. You can access it here.

They can't stop us. Silly wankers!

The Sandmonkey @ 10:31 am
Filed under: Linkity love
All amman-ed out

Posted on Monday 30 October 2006

I am guessing it's time to return this blog to its regularly scheduled programming. God knows it has been way to positive, and if I write another positive Amman post rumors will start that I am getting paid by the Jordan board of tourism (the check is in the mail, right?) , and honestly, I don;t need any more rumors of me being someone's lackey/agent. So I bid farewell to positivism and I am back to the neagtive reality of the world.

Sigh…

I hate this world!

Oh well, time to get back! 

The Sandmonkey @ 10:26 am
Filed under: personal
Amman: Pictures

Posted on Sunday 29 October 2006

 The view from Jabbal Amman, in front of Books@cafe at night.

 

 The wall at Books@cafe. Did I mention how much I love that place?

The view of Amman from Vinigerette. Notice the Jordanian Flag in the distnace? It's Huge. It's bigger than most houses in amman and you can see it flying from almost anywhere. 

 

 Bakkouz and Jad on the Bus before it got crowded. The Bus driver wouldnt move until all seats were filled and at least anotehr 20 people were standing.

 

 A shot at Prego's called Monkey Brain, and comprised of Sambuca and Baileys. It was actually pretty yummy. Me recommends.

 

The arabic Cofee dude at an Iraqi restaurant I went to with Roba's family. 

 

 The Mac-delivery mobile. Mcdonalds delivers in Amman and uses cars to do so. Cute, huh?

 Amman liqiour store. They even had Absinthe. Love love love amman's liqiour stores.

 Found on a wall in the Duke's Diwan.

The Muslim Brotherhood's Office in Amman. 

 

 Me and Roba having a toast in honor of Natasha- as instructed- at Vinigerette.

The Amman airport on my way out after a fantastic 4 day trip. 

I miss you ya Amman! 

The Sandmonkey @ 3:13 pm
Filed under: Jordan
Amman: LINA

Posted on Sunday 29 October 2006

How do I start writing about Lina El Ejilat?

How can I portray someone like her in a way that would make sense to all of you?

Words fail me. For the first time ever words fail me.

I mean, what do I mention first? How brilliant she is? How she is sweetness walking on two legs? How, by mere hanging out with her, you feel that the world is an ok place and that your faith in humanity can be restored? How, by just talking and listening to her, you start questioning your perception of the world as a harsh and cruel place, and start wondering if the world is truly beautiful and you are just being a whiney bitch?

Where do I start?

Ok, let me try to explain this part to you first: Imagine a person with over-flowing good Karma, and that's Lina.

Ehh, let me elaborate further… Ok, Ok, I got it. If you are a female driving your car at night at a deserted highway, and you see a male hitch-hiker, what do you do? You don't stop, because they will most likely rape and kill you, right? Well, Lina would stop, give the guy a ride, and nothing would happen to her. Or, ok, let's say you are a female and you are at a party in a totally strange country, and you pass out on a chair in an empty room wearing a skirt, chnaces are someone will try and molest you at the very least, right? Right?

Lina wakes up, and finds every guy at the party had coverd her up with their jackets to keep her from getting cold.

Now , those are not isolated incidents. Shit like that happens to her all the freakin time. Lina walks through situations that make every one of us go "what are you thinking?" and she breezes through, unharmed and unaffected. 

Evil doesn't touch her!

Bad things don't happen to her.

Fear of strangers, distrust of your fellow man, the belief in evil in people, ehh, are concepts that just don't apply to her. She is like exempt from all of that. Simply above it all. The girl is protected by a Buuble of fantasticly good Karma. Her mere existance is enough to drive every last cynic out there mad with incomprehension and envy. Hell, if you are one of those people who claim "to know better", chances are you will develop serious conflicted feelings just from knowing her. You don't know whether to berate her for her naivete, envy her for her outlook and fearlessness, or helplessly worry about the day when something bad eventually happens to her. But you also know that nothing bad will happen to her, because she is like protected by a higher force from all the evils of humanity, and because you also know that she is smart enough to not let anything bad or wrong that happend to her affect her or her world view that much.

Are you getting the picture?

I feel bad for any guy that she may end up dating, because he wouldn't be able to handle her. Her lifestyle, her approach to the world is enough to drive any self-respecting male entirely bonkers. She would challenge the worldview of anyone who approaches her, because she is indifferent to fear and open to people. I mean, how could you protect someone like that, when she walks through every fire that you know of, doesn't get burned, and then tells you of how much she enjoyed such a warm and nice experience? The girl is a wanderer who is not lost, and who is not afraid of engaging and getting entagled with the people who wander along. 

And I got to hang out with her for 2 days in Amman, which were simply not enough.

While Roba and Khalidah showed me the nice artsy fartsy upper-middle class Amman, Lina took me downtown, where she likes to run around and explore. She took me to this side store that sells the best tasting Kunafa that you ever had in your life. She knows the street vendors by name, and will tell you the story of that specific bookstore or this specific CD place. One of the most unique places she took me was a place called The Duke's Diwan. 

The Duke's Diwan is this building that you wouldn't even notice while walking down Faysal street in downtown Amman, but it's a very special building indeed. The Building was originally built in 1924 ( which makes it older than Amman the country) and is one of the oldest buildings in the city. The Duke of  Mukheihbeh leased it in 2001 and turned it into a cultural residence. 

The place is basically a 4 rooms apartment with a balcony that hosts old jordanian furnitures and antiques from the previous decades. The idea is to have a place that hosts jordanian art, heritage and culture. To have a place that is authenthic and pure and that isn't affected by the commercialization of everything. The place is open for everyone, admission is free, and you are allowed to come over and hang out all day if you wanted to. It exudes warmth and inclusiveness. According to Lina, there are also lots of cultural events that take place there, like book signings and cultural gatherings. The place isn't fancy nor the furniture the kind that makes you go "wow", but you can't help but love it based on what it represents. It's idea alone. This is the Duke's private love letter to Amman, and it shows. You can't help but have it touch you, in appreciation of all that is good and beautiful in this world.

Lina is the same way! 

The Sandmonkey @ 2:15 pm
Filed under: Jordan andLinkity love
Interlude: A text message from my dad

Posted on Sunday 29 October 2006

"Dear subscriber, your sex account is low. Your account will be put into virginity mode. Please re-fuck as soon as possible to keep your account open!"

And people wonder where I get my dirty mind!

sigh… 

The Sandmonkey @ 1:08 pm
Filed under: personal
Amman: Khalidah, Jad and the Bakkouz

Posted on Sunday 29 October 2006

One of the highlights of this trip to amman has been meeting those 3 pillars of the Jordanian blogsphere: Khalidah , Jad and Bakkouz. To be perfectly honest, Bakkouz was someone I wasn't particularly eager to meet at first, because of the previous run-in we had with each other  during the Free-Alaa campaign. However upon meeting him, my opinion changed drammatically, because he was nothing as I expected him to be. When you read Bakkouz's blog, you would think that he is the energetic, crazy, funny dude, so meeting him and seeing how quiet he is is usually quite a shock. And then you get it: Bakkouz is sneaky funny. The Silent but Funny type. You know that kid that sits next to you in class and be silent the whole time, and then will throw in a single word or comment, and it would be a Bullseye in terms of hilarity? That's Bakkouz. He is the kind of person who at an exam would ask you how was your weekend right after the teacher told everyone not to speak. Subtle, calm, but very effective. Great Guy.

Anyway, the person who was organizing this outing was Khlidah, and if Bakkouz was an example of how a blog can be different than the person who writes it, Khalidah is the definitive proof. Khalidah is a tough cookie with a forceful personality and a playful attitude, 3 traits you would never know if you read her blog. She is as sarcastic as they come and she doesn't mince words. How could I not love that? Anyway,the 3rd person that she had invited was someone I had never heard of before, but apprently was a big deal in the ammani blogsphere and one of the driving forces behind Itoot: Jad Madi. Jad is a fantastic and brilliant dude. A real fountain of knowledge this guy. Ask him anything, he has the answer. You know the people who carry around the air of inevtiable success? That's the guy. Anyway…

So after we all meet up, it is decided that we are going hang out at a place called the Books @ cafe, which immedietly became one of my favorite places in all of Amman.

It's basically a two story building, with the ground floor being a library and the upper floor a restaurant/bar/coffeshop. It's actually divided into 3 sections: The bar section with the regular restaurant seating, the cyber-Cafe, drinking coffee while cruising the net section (and they only give you a speed of 14 kbps, the bastards)…..

 

And the Outside seating area, which serves Hookah's every day after 5:30 PM. 

 

As you can see, the place is beautifully designed and segmented, an all-in-one stop shop specifcially tailored to me. I mean, it has a bar, hookah's, food and internet. What more could I possibley ask for?

The next day I met Bakz and jad at Mecca mall, the big bad new mall in town, which meant that Roba had to drive me there, park her car and get me in. You see, they don't allow you into Mecca mall if you are a guy by yourself, or in a group of guys. You have to be coming in with a girl, lots of girls, or a family to be allowed in. The reason? They don't want the female mall dwellers harassed in any way, and what better way to do it other than preventing all-male groups from getting in? Sure, it's sexist and unfair, but it works for them. Hell, it's like a policy everywhere: Must be with girls. According to Roba, it's the same in bars, hookah cafes and other hang out places that are not "Hafartally" ( jordanian for low-class). The moment you see groups of guys instead of groups of girls in a place, that's a sign of Hafarally-ism.

It must be tough to be a single guy in Jordan.

So, here I was inside of Mecca mall, and I decide to go to the local DVD/Cd/Book Megastore, where I was greeted with this as I was walking in:

 

Lord… Have…Mercy!

Ignoring that while I could, I started crusing around and found the original Wickerman on DVD, which I had always wanted to see, but was hesitant to buy it due to its highly expensive price. Here enetrs Bakkouz and I show him the dvd and never take it back, clearly deciding that I am not gonna buy it. I end up buying the 33 strategies of war instead, thus completing my Robert Greene collection, and after we head out by5 minutes or so, Bakkouz gets out the Wickerman dvd from his jackets and asks me point-blank: "You paid for this, right?"

Freakin Bakkouz! :)

So, amman dwellers, i would love to inform you that those alarm beeping things that aim to prevent people from shoplifting from that specific megastore, ehh, they don't work. I am not encouraging you to go there and shoplift every DVD and book you may like at the place, I am just letting you guys know. Maybe one of you will tell them. See, good samaritan here. But if you do shoplift, make sure to send me "A History of Violence". I really want to see that. 

Also I would really like to inform you that Bakkouz is now an official supporter of the Neo-con American Right-wing Zionist Christian Imperialist Conspiracy in the Middle-east! Hearts and minds people. Hearts and minds.

Muhahahahahahahaha… 

The Sandmonkey @ 1:04 pm
Filed under: Jordan
Amman: Observations

Posted on Sunday 29 October 2006

I
figured I should put this as an interlude for those silly silly people who may
not want to read the rest of the trip. Everything you will read here you will
end up rading in the other posts, but this will be of more concentrated nature.
Ok?

Oh, and sorry for the unstructured paragraphs. I tried to write my posts on word (so I can spell check) then cut and paste them here and this has been the result. So, you either deal with my spelling, or deal with this frazzeled writing structure. The choice is yours.

Personality
cult:
  

Amman, like any other arab
capital, sports the pictures of its leader all over the town. The leader's  iconography differs from capital to capital.
In Egypt, it's Mubarak in
his black suit all over the place, while in Iraq, Saddam had a plethora of
pictures of himself wearing all kinds of costumes ( Saddam as a doctor in front
of the Helath department, Saddam as a farmer in front of the department of agriculture,
etc..). In Jordan, King
Abdullah strikes a different cord when it comes to his iconography: While the
iconography is Egypt, Iraq, Tunisia
ad Syria aims to create the
image of the great god-like Daddy-figure leader, in Jordan they aim to humanize him as
much as possible.

The
Iconography of King Abdullah in Amman comes in 2 shapes: 1) The King as a
military leader, which is the cliché standard one that has Abdullah sporting
Military Uniforms of all kinds of poses, even sometimes with his 6 years old
son (also dressed in military uniform) and, 2) The King as a Human being, which
is the one that I find more interesting. At the door of my Hotel, there is one
of him dressed in casual cloths while carrying his son who is dressed like him.
At a computer store, you will find a huge wall poster made from a very ordinary
picture  of King Abdullah in a black
T-shirt sitting in front of his laptop cruising the net. The message reaches
you clearly: The King is just like you. 

And
if the Iconography is not enough, there are the personal touches done by King
Abdulah himself. He famously went to the local Falafel place a few days ago
with Queen Rania and sat alongside everyone, while his security didn't prevent
or stop anyone from going in or buying food or sitting next to him in there. He
is big on driving his car himself and not having a security detail with him.
Even his personal philosophy of dealing with his enemies is brilliant: If you
were found out to be plotting against him to overthrow the government, he,
instead of executing you for treason, makes you the new Prime Minister. The
idea is this: "You think you can do any better than me as Jordan's
ruler? Show us!". The guys end up failing, and they become politically
marginalized due to their failure and lose any support they may have had in the
first place. It also makes the King look like the best leader for Jordan,
precisely because he gives his opponents a go at ruling and they fail in the
public eye. It's genius.

As
a result, you would be really hard pressed to find someone there who doesn’t
actually like King Abdullah sincerely, which is a rarity when it comes to arab
leaders, with the exception of the late Sheikh Zayed of the UAE. The idea that
they have is that their leader isn't perfect, but he is trying his best to
improve this country and navigate it through the proverbial shit-storm that is
middle-east politics, and that's all that they can ask from him.

Paranoia:

When you are staying in Amman as a toruist, you can't help but feel Paranoia creeping in on you. You have Jordanian Police, in American Swat Team dregs holding M16's on almost every street, and they look like they mean business. On your Hotel room's door there are the usual safety instructions ( In case of fire avoid elevator, blah blah) and then there is a seperate list of safety instructions that seem to be tailored to make you extra scared. Stuff like : 1) If someone's at the door claiming be from the Hotel staff for a service you didn't call for, don;t open the door and call secuirty immedietly, or 2) Always make sure to chain your door at night, the hotel is not responsible for anything that may happen to you if you didn't. It's freaky, man.

However, this all seems like the aftermaths of the Jordan bombings. As we say in Egypt, he whose tongue gets burned from Hot soup, blows air in Yogurt. It may seem a bit over the top for me as an egyptian, given that we had, ehh, what, 3 major terrorist bombings in the past 2 years and we don't even seem phazed by it at all. However, this is Jordan, and as every jordanian I met has informed me, nothing ever happens here. It will take them another good year for them to chill out I think. Which, they should, I believe, because Amman seemed very safe to me. 

Tribalism:

Welcome to the bane of Jordanian existance: The remaining tribal nature of Jordanian society. Tribalism is hard to explain to some people in the west, mainly because the nuclear family has become the staple of their society. Not in Jordan. In Jordan it's all about your tribe. Your tribal name tells your status, religion, place of origion, everything. Hell, even in elections, the tribe is importnat, as Jad told me. People always vote for the guy from their tribe or region, instead of the one most qualified. It's slightly insane. And it doesn't stop there.

When you meet a jordanian for the first time, chnaces are when they will tell you that they are from Jordan, they will include a slight prefix to their nationality: Jordanian-Jordanian or Palestinian-Jordanian. The distiniction is, for some reason, important. I can't tell why it's important, but it seems like a tribal identity thing. Like the Jordanian Jordanians will somehow put Jordan first, while palestinian Jordanians will put palestine first. I mean sure, the palestinian Jordanians were the refugees of the Arab Israeli war of 1948, but come on, it wasn't like Jordan was created decades before that. Jordan came into existnace in its current form in the 1930's, so for someone like me, who doesn't understand tribalism, it seem ludicrus that some people have more of a nationalistic claim on the land just for being there 10 years prior to their peers. But then again, maybe I am grossly simplifying things. Anyway..

The issue of Jordanian vs. Palestinian seems to come down to Money. Jo-Jo's usually work in government jobs, which makes them secure but not exactly well-off, while Pa-Jo's work usually in the private sector, thus make more money. This used to create resentment and cause a slight case of tension between the two groups until very recently when a new group got thrown into the mix and got the Jo-Jo's and the Pa-Jo's to unite in hatred of that group: The Iraqis. At the time I am writing this post, about half a million Iraqis have left Iraq and moved to Jordan, and they are residing in Amman. They are mostly Sunnis, mostly ex-Baaths member, and have shitloads of cash on them, which is helping them change the face of Amman. Everywhere you go, you find Iraqi restaurants, some even claim to be part of an iraqi chain. If you go to the mall to brides and grooms stores, you will find that they now sport the traditional iraqi wedding cloths, not the Jordanian ones. Small things like that. Very subtle, but they are pissing the Jo-Jo's and Pa-Jo's off big time and are uniting them together. In Amman, even Xenophobia has its benefits.

Last thing I want to mention about the tribalism issue, so you can get how much of a spectacular mindfuck it is: The Jordanian King never marries a Jo-Jo girl, because it would mean that he favors one tribe over the other. This is why King Hussein married an american and a brit, why the majoirty of the ruling family are married to saudi royals and why King Abdullah is married to a Pa-Jo. This keeps the tribal heads at peace, because they would rather it be a pakistani queen, then to actually have a queen from another tribe than their own. 

Pretty Funky, huh?

The Sandmonkey @ 10:58 am
Filed under: Jordan
Intermission: Grrrrr

Posted on Sunday 29 October 2006

My Dear readers,

For the last freakin time, I am neither Dandash not Big Pharoh. Dandash was enjoying a week of Dahab while I was in Jordan, and I left BP behoind specifically so I wouldn't be confused with him again. God damn it. Can't you distinguish different styles of writings, like, at all? And how could you confuse me with BP writings anyway? Do I seem like I try to be balanced? Or do you see me holding back from saying or doing anything? The dude is my friend, but godd amn it, if i had his sense of paranoia and political correctness my blog would look like..ehh..his. It doesn;t help that he does similar posts to me, but we are not the same person damn it.

Grrrr….. 

The Sandmonkey @ 9:59 am
Filed under: GRRRR andWTF?
Amman: Day One

Posted on Sunday 29 October 2006

"Take me down to Paradise City, where the Grass is green and the girls are pretty.."

Let's
start from where I left off, shall we?

After
spending a delightful hour in Cairo's
airport VIP Lounge, I finally got on the plane. I was flying Royal Jordanian
Airlines, and I have to say, there is nothing royal about it. Think of it as a
flying Bus if you will. To illustrate my point, they had no soft drinks. No
Cola, No Fanta, No sprite. Nuttin. Nada. And what was even worse was the pilot.
You know when you see those videos of people taking flying scenic tours of a
mountainous area using a one-engine plane, and the plane takes left and right
swerves and hard turns to fly between the Mountains? Ok, no imagine the Pilot
doing that on an Air-Bus, but with no mountains around. By the Time I arrived,
my Spleen had moved its location at least 4 times. Thank God the flight is only
1 hour.

 When we finally landed, I of course headed towards the Duty Free shop. Ramadan is over, Eid is here, time to celebrate and stock up on Alcohol. I bought me two
Johnny Walker Gold Label Bottles, and I head out to finish the customs procedures. It only takes me 3 minutes to be out and meeting Roba , who was
waiting at the airport to pick me up.

Meeting the mighty Robanator again was nothing short of awesome. You know how your mama
lied to you and told you that you were special? Well, Roba actually is special. She is extremely talented, superbly intelligent, exceptionally funny and
totally random in that kooky artsy fartsy way of hers.  One doesn't try to rationalize or understand
Roba, one just goes along for the ride and enjoys the fantastic madness of it all. She just is. As Hunter S. Thompson would describe her, she is one of God's
own prototypes that never made it to mass production, and the world is a little less .. ehh … red for it.

Anyway..

In almost no time, Roba takes me to my Hotel, where I was to check-in in less than 10 minutes, so that we can start our Journey into Amman. I was later on informed that the Hotel
I was staying in was actually infamous because its design looks like an upside down Menorah, and it had many Israeli tourists staying there when it first opened
up, thus giving it a semi-Zionist stigma.

Figures that would be my hotel now, wouldn't it? Sigh.. Anyway, Room Key acquired, bags checked and Camera brought
out, we started our sight-seeing mission immediately.

How would one describe Amman?

Ok, my Egyptian readers would get it immediately: It looks like Marina, only bigger and without the sea. For my Non-Egyptian readers who are unaware of Egyptian
resorts on the North-shore, it's a city where all the Buildings (with like 7 exceptions) are not taller than 4 stories high, and 99% of the buildings are
built using white stone. It's a city built on mountains and hills, so you are always either going down, going up or passing through tunnels. It's a fantastic
city if you want to lose weight: Just walk anywhere. You will be exhausted in no time from all the hills you will be walking up, trust me.

That aside, the city is, ehh, quaint. It's small, it's beautiful, it's quiet and it
has almost no Traffic compared to Cairo.

The first Day Roba took me to a place called Wild Jordan , which is this weird
observatory/health restaurant/environmental center building on the edge of a
mountain that was built by US AID money.

From it you can see Downtown Jordan, with all of its "Traffic" and "Noise", which pretty much is
equal to 5% of downtown Cairo's traffic and noise. It hit me right then and there what Roba meant when she told
me that the first time she came to Cairo she didn't know how to handle it. The poor soul. It's like taking someone who
lived in Cape Code all his life and throwing him in the middle of NYC during rush hour, amidst the traffic, the people and the
utter chaos. You wouldn't know what to make of it either.

After leaving Wild Jordan, Roba informed me that the next Phase of the plan was
getting some food, since it was the last day of Ramadan and all. So we couldn’t figure out where to go, until she decided we were to go to this Restaurant
called Gibry, which is like the Jordanian version of all that you can eat Buffet, only more middle-class. The idea was to introduce me to as much
Jordanian Food as possible, because that's apparently "their thing".

Now, I would be lying if I didn’t say that Jordanian food is tasty, but there are two things I observed: 1) They are seriously obsessed with Hummus, and 2)
they are really big on lamb meat. Like really really big. Just heads up if you ever end up going there.

After eating the lamb, the hummus, the Mansaf (their national dish) and all the other
good stuff that the restaurant offered, Roba decided to take me on the next stop of our day: To Casper and Gambini's, where we were to meet Ameen, the
genius driving force behind Banzeen. The dude is as smart and funny as I
expected him to be, and if he is reading this right now, I want him to know that the girl that was sitting next to him totally wants his ass. She is not
just a friend dude. Trust me on this one.

After leaving Casper's, Roba informed me that the next stop is her Family House, where I were to meet
the infamous Aassi family (The Brothers, the cousins and the legendary Mom). Picture this as the first encounter: Roba's mom sitting on a chair in a tent in
their house's yard, puffing away at a Hookah pipe,

 

…with
a big chest of hot lit charcoals  right
next to her.

 

Brilliant!

Roba's
Mom is the embodiment of that word. She is funny, she paints incredibly beautiful paintings and she can speak philosophy, religion, politics with the best of
them. The woman really knows her stuff. Plus she is super-friendly, funny and insisted on feeding me. Come to think of it, everyone in Jordan insisted
on feeding me, and they never take no for an answer. They are the personification of the word hospitality: You finish your tea, they get you a
sandwich, you finish your sandwich they get you a coffee, you finish your coffee, they get you cookies, by the time you finish your cookies they get you
juice. They are not satisfied till you no longer can move.

So here I was, getting fed and pampered, with a hookah pipe in my hand and in the company of a brilliant pair of women and then the rest of the family suddenly
joins in: Roba's 3 brothers and two of her cousins. Now, whomever said that Jordanians are not friendly or grouchy has never met this family. The funniest
and warmest people I have ever met. You know the kind of families you see on the Disney channel sitcoms? That perfect. Imagine that.

Anyway, after an evening of bellyaching laughs, I found that my belly was aching from
all the food that was stuffed in it. It was time to go back to the Hotel and prepare for Day two. I figured that the next 3 days were not going to be as
action packed as the first day has been, but damn was I wrong. Amman had still a couple of surprises for me.

But that's another post.

The Sandmonkey @ 9:54 am
Filed under: Jordan
Getting my bearings

Posted on Friday 27 October 2006

I am back, and I am heartbroken for it.

I left my heart in Amman.

I fell in love with that City and its fantastic generous people.

I will tell you all about it once I gather enough strength to get over my heartbreak, and , well, respond to the 150 e-mails that I have in my mailbox.

Baby steps now. Just one more day, till I recover, till the pictures are uploaded, till I am ready to tell the story of the perfect vacation that I just had.

And then, I promise, the monkey will be back in force.

Till then,

 SM

The Sandmonkey @ 11:56 am
Filed under: personal
Amman, here I come

Posted on Monday 23 October 2006

I am currently sitting in the VIP lounge at Cairo International airport, where there is like 100 wifi hotspots that no one uses (how fucked up is it that in Egypt, u get it for free, but in Bahrain you have to pay to the accursed Batelco?), so here I am airport blogging. In an hour I will be in Amman, where the allmighty roobs will pcik my egyptian ass up. This is my first time in Jordan, so I am very excited. I promise to blog while there and take lots of pictures and tell you how it's like over there. Oh yeah, and Eid is here. No more fasting. Time to party and drink alcohol again. Wohooooooo.

Ok, enough of that. My gate calls and my coppucino isn't even half done. Gotta get going.

Love y'all, see you soon, and I hope as hell that my Hotel has wifi.

Oh yeah, and happy Eid everyone. 

Ps: you know what's funny? BP was going to come along. That should've solidifed the Sandmonkey and Big Pharaoh are the same person theory. He is staying in Egypt (un)fortunately. Sorry conspiracy theory people. I am sure you will find a way to make it all work though. ("Someone else is taking those amman pictures. It's all a big hoax"). Or something. 

The Sandmonkey @ 10:34 am
Filed under: personal
That damn Marijuana

Posted on Sunday 22 October 2006

Remember those ads on american TV on how Marijuana aids terrorists? Well, it seems that they came true in the weirdest sense.

Taleban fighters using giant Afghan marijuana forests
for cover are proving a tough foe to smoke out, the head of Canada's
armed forces has revealed.

Marijuana Forests. Forests of Marijuana. Lucky Bastards.

Now, you would think that wouldn't be a problem. That all that they would have to do is burn the Marijuana, which would either burn the taliban fighters with them or get them extreemly high, which would lead the canadian forces to them by just following the sounds of giggeling. But that seemingly simple task proved to be a difficult task for the canadians.

"We tried burning [the marijuana forests] with white phosphorous – it didn't work," said Gen Hillier.

"We tried burning them with diesel – it didn't work. The
plants are so full of water right now… that we simply couldn't burn
them."

He noted that a couple of brown plants on the edges of
some of the forests had caught fire but this had posed yet another
problem.

Ohh Yeah…. 

"A section of soldiers that was downwind from that had
some ill effects and decided that was probably not the right course of
action," he said, speaking dryly, according to Reuters.

Ill effects. I love it. I am not high, i am suffering from marijuana ill effects. Awesome!

The Sandmonkey @ 10:48 am
Filed under: Anti-Jihady andFunny
Banning Ninjas

Posted on Sunday 22 October 2006

Helwan Univeristy in Egypt has been experiencing turmoil for the past few days, over the University's ban of the Bee Keeper suit the Ninja outfit the niqab in its residence hall. It makes sense secuirty wise, since you can't really tell who the person behind the Niqab is and this would make it very easy for people who don't even live there ( or even *gasp*  men) to come and go as they please. Logical, no? Not to the Ninja squad.

"They say nothing to indecent girls, but we — the daughters of Islam
– are being hounded," protests 21-year-old student Iman Ahmed. Only
her eyes are showing through the slit in her black face veil, called a
niqab.

Even though the vast majority of female Muslim students already wear
the headscarf, known as a hijab, those who chose the more radical cover
up of the face veil were told to take it off or quit the student digs.

The ultimatum provoked a vicious controversy and the ire of Islamists.

"This ban restricts my freedom," says student teacher Rihan Sami, 21, completely veiled and gloved.

"The veil is my choice, and that of Islam, in battling against the shamelessness that abounds here."

Yes. the showing of faces. and hands. And maybe even ankles. Shameless harlots I tell you.

The Sandmonkey @ 10:35 am
Filed under: Only in Egypt