Jordan

Egypt through songs

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I remember taking the short flight from Amman to Cairo in the summer of 2008 as I was relocating due to my job. The flight was an hour long including take off, descend and landing . With all new and major changes you tend to remember them because it breaks from the norm. It closes one chapter but opens another. Our chapter to Egypt was marked by a constant video on loop on the Egypt Air flight called Ana Masry (I’m Egyptian) ironically sang by Nancy Ajram who is Lebanese. The singer echoes the sentiments of pride. How the people of Egypt are proud and gutsy who are lead by great leaders (Yes Mubarak was a great leader back then). You could almost forget that we were flying into a country that had a dictator for almost 30 years who ruled under emergency law. You could also forget that the last 50 years of Egyptian history was under military rule.

We spent almost 2 and half years under the dictatorship of Mubarak. It was clear and understood that no one had a voice. Oppression, corruption and American alliance was part of life in Egypt. Political voice silenced through imprisonment or death. Daily life was functional through bureaucracy and corruption. American support for the regime was guaranteed. Not only did Egypt receive 1.5 billion each year it also had the honour of being the favoured dictatorial regime in the Middle East. So much so that when Obama became president, the first Middle Eastern country that was chosen to deliver a message to the Muslim world was Cairo, Egypt.

But then in December 2010 a spark in a near by country called Tunisia gave hope to the rest of the people in the Middle East. Dictators that were supported by the leading Capitalists countries can fall and some did. From 25th Jan to 18th Feb the people of Egypt stood up and decided they no longer wanted Mubarak as their great leader. The momentum was just right and the people wanted change but just didn’t know what. All they knew was that they no longer wanted Mubarak. During those 3 weeks or so a very different kind of song became popular amongst the English speaking section of the community. The song (RAP) was a collaboration by Omar Affendeum (Syrian American) and other Arab/American,British artists none of whom were Egyptian. The RAP went viral on the net. The song was about removing the shackles of the pharaohs, about creating a better future and the will of the people was strong enough to do it. It was praising the people of Egypt with a different tone. A tone of solidarity.

Mubarak was deposed and the SCAF (Friends of Mubarak) came to power. In November 2011 parliamentary elections were announced and at the same time a local home grown band released a warm hearted song titled ‘Ya Midaan’ (Oh, The Square) referring to Tahrir (Liberation) square where the focus of the Jan 2011 up risings were. This song focused primarily on the aims of revolution, the will of the people, the dreams of those of who went to the streets when the majority were at home. The song revisits the memories of the uprising to reignite the spirit during the elections. This was the first time since I had been in Egypt that a song sang by the Egyptians about Egyptians become popular and viral that was praising the Egyptian people. This truly seemed like a song that struck the cord of many who toppled the regime. This was a song for the new Egypt. A song about hope, faith and future.

After many mind changes from the Muslim Brotherhood about running in the election or not, whether a Muslim Brotherhood Presidential candidate should stand or not. Finally the people choose Morsi as President with a small majority. By the middle of June 2013 Egypt’s first elected President was deposed again by the army with the help of millions of people and of course lots and lots of funding and media campaign (support), even the satirist Bassem Youssef  fell into the trap. A year later we decided to leave Egypt and a different kind of song was playing loop on radio, on TV and on mobile phone ring tones. The song was as predictable, it had all the right ingredients, catchy tune, singing the praises of the Egyptian people and a scenic picture of everybody happy and of course it was not sang by an Egyptian but this time by an Emirati by the name of  Hussein Al Jassami. The song is so catchy that even the sons and daughters of the anti-sisi were singing it.

Whether you like the music or not is irrelevant. What is relevant is the fact that music plays a very important role in Egyptian society. It has been used to create, build, change and manipulate public opinion and the sentiments of the people. Although there are and have been songs sang by Egyptians for Egyptians echoing Egyptian nationalist sentiments such as this, praising the Egyptian army. At least during the time I was there and from my experiences the songs sang from other Arab artists are the ones that gained notable popularity. Aside from the catchy music, I suppose for the Egyptian society its nice to to hear from others how great they are.  Although there are lots if differences in Egypt, whether you are pro-sisi or anti-sisi, pro-MB or anti-MB, a Christian or a Muslim, rich or poor, one thing is certainly clear and that is that Egyptian Nationalism is core to the identity of being Egyptian. The religious would justify it from a textual viewpoint that Islam obliges you to love your country and the secular would justify it through the love of the land. Which ever way it is presented the end result is the same and this is the same in every country that honours nationalists sentiments over principles, it blinds you from the truth.

“You’re not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who says it.” – Malcolm X

From a personal perceptive during the revolution and months after, it was nice to witness a period where dictators did not rule and the hope of a brighter future based on principals was something which people aspired to. I saw the real affect of hope when people have it and how it can change a society but I also saw the dark side of a people when that hope is taken away.

When nationalism is not the focus of a nation in my opinion it has a much brighter future.

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Independence from what?

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Today 25th May 2015 Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan turns 69 and celebrates it’s Independence Day but what is it independent from?

Jordan cooks up the world’s largest falafel

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Jordan is now a proud owner of the title ‘world’s largest falafel’, a titled endorsed by the Guinness Book of World Records. The falafel was made by 10 chefs at the Landmark hotel and weighed at 74.75kg.

Jordan very proudly beat the previous title which was set in the US weighing in at 23.95kg at the Jewish Food and Cultural Festival.

Annabel Lawady, an adjudication manager at Guinness said that “This is a great achievement and a difficult record to beat for years to come. We welcome everyone who successfully took part in the family of Guinness World Record holders.”

An achievement is an achievement no matter what the target was or is and I suppose it is something to be proud of if as a nation you set your targets low. I don’t mean to be party pooper here but if Jordan or any other Arab or Muslim nation had discovered a cure for a disease or managed to eradicate poverty or brought peace to the world, then surely there is something to be proud of. Cooking up the largest falafel just doesn’t cut it for me.

Jordan’s Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein becomes new FIFA vice-president

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HRH Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein is elected as vice-president of the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) on the it’s executive committee. At the age of 35, Prince Ali becomes the youngest member on the current FIFA board.

Qatar having won the FIFA World Cup 2022 bid late last year and now coupled with this new move of ousting the out going vice-president Chung Mong-Joon, will only strengthen FIFA’s President Sepp Blatter bid for re-election later on this year.

I am an advocate of fair play and transparency. My only concern with the new changes are that they seem to be more politically and economically motivated rather then a ‘passion for football’.

Mr Blatter has confirmed support for his presidential bid from the 25 that voted for Prince Ali including Sheikh Ahmad Ali Fahad Al Sabah, Head of Kuwait’s Football Federation. The Middle East is an untapped market for Fifa and I am sure both parties will set to become rich over the next decade or so.

It is nice to rejoice during the current successes but being cautious about the new changes does not go unwarranted.

Is this true?

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Even the flag was artificial. The green, red, white and black banner that fluttered over Arab raiders led by the Hashemite family against the Ottoman empire — the basis for today’s flags of Jordan and the Palestine Liberation Organization — was designed by a British Foreign Service officer named Sir Mark Sykes and produced by his army’s supply shop in Cairo.” – Building Modernity on Desert Mirages by JOHN KIFNER

Why Ramadhan in the Middle East means overeating and Dramas on TV

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I recently read an article which was forwarded by an Egyptian colleague about over eating and watching TV during the month of Ramadhan in Egypt. The full article can be read here. I have lived 2 years of my life in Jordan and have spent the past 2 years in Egypt. I can safely say that this is not an Egyptian phenomenon.

Jordan:

Schools finish earlier at around 13:00ish because everyone is fasting, so people can go home and either sleep or think about eating. Once people have eaten, either at families house which is either on invitation or they have invited. It is well known that the stomachs grow smaller over the  month but we will still make and eat food like there is no tomorrow. Once everyone has eaten, mostly the men of the family will go to the mosque to pray the Tarweeh prayer, which are the recommended prayers only for Ramadhan. These prayers will be cut short because people are eager to go home to watch the latest Drama imported from Syria or Turkey such as Bab Al Hara. If your not at home watching these Dramas, you’re in the cafes watching.

Egypt:

Clocks are brought back an hour just for Ramadhan; Schools and businesses are closed at around 14:30ish. People generally work less. Time is spent either thinking about food, preparing food for large feasts for family members they have not seen the whole year around or  thinking about what you’re going to make the next day and who you’re going to invite. Once the food is eaten and consumed on an extra large proportion, then people head to the mosques for a quick recommended prayer, which is either so long that it puts off people ever coming back again or so short so people can go home or to the cafes to watch Egyptian dramas.

Ramadhan is time for reflection, for working harder, being more aware of your actions in accordance to the book (the Quran) and example of the Prophet. How can it be that some people do not pray all year long and yet they fast during the month of Ramadhan. How can it be that women do not cover, and yet they will fast during the month of Ramadhan. The Muslim community must throw away this ‘pick and choose’ mentality and use the month of Ramadhan is a reflection and purification time so that it can impact the other remaining months in a positive manner.

No one is perfect so lets make this month a spring board for change in the right direction. It is not all about eating and watching Dramas.