Jordan (Some)Times

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THE (Occasional) JORDAN (Some)TIMES

Sunday 17 March 2002
Volume 1, Issue 6

– Weather Information for Amman:
Yesterday – High 17C/63F – Low 7C/45F – partly cloudy
Today – High 18C/64F – Low 8C/47F – partly cloudy
Tomorrow – High 17C/63F – Low 8C/47F – partly cloudy

Sprinkled a bit today in Petra, while Carmen and I were excavating as diggers for a day at the "Blue Chapel," under the direction of Patricia Bikai. So for an hour or so we were diggin' in the rain, a line which should not be translated in Arabic. I grew up on a huge chicken farm and did plenty of this as a kid. Just don't go there.

Jordan is currently at somewhere near 60-70% of its average annual rainfall, which is good news. All the more important as Jordan is one of the most water-poor countries in the world. Compare the figures from a chart on regionally available renewable water, which is a combination of surface water and renewable groundwater (in cubic meters per capita per year). According to hydrologists, 1,000-2,000 cubic meters per capita per annum designate a country "water-stressed." "Absolute scarcity" is 500 or below; this is the "water poverty line."

in 1960
Morocco – 2,560 cubic meters per person per year
Egypt – 2,251
Israel – 1,024
Middle East and North Africa (together) – 3,430
Jordan – 529

in 1990
Morocco – 1,185
Egypt – 1,112
Israel – 467
Middle East and North Africa (together) – 1,436
Jordan – 224 (in 1997 it was 160)

in 2025, projected
Morocco – 651
Egypt – 645
Israel – 311
Middle East and North Africa (together) – 667
Jordan – 91 (only Yemen and Saudi Arabia are lower, the latter able to compensate by desalinating millions of dollars worth of seawater annually)

(source -- World Bank. A Strategy for Managing Water in the Middle East and North Africa)

The water supply for Jordanians in 1995 was 80 liters per day per person, compared with 250-350 for Europeans and 500 (= 132 gallons) per day for Americans. To complicate matters, water only comes occasionally (less often during the summer), sometimes not arriving for days, and people have to depend on roof-top tanks to hold them over or, if they can afford it, have water delivered by truck. In addition, while the cost of water in developed countries is normally 1 percent of gross domestic income and in the US 0.3 percent, in Jordan it is currently 6 percent.

– Jordonaian Perspectives:

"ahlan wa sahlan, you are welcome!" (laced with the customary high-octane Arab coffee) – repeated probably ten times in the space of the 15 minutes Carmen and I talked with a man and his four daughters in their home atop one of our neighborhood walking hills (more like exhaustion climbs) where three years ago we kept bumping into the small girls on our walks and came to know them well, even took pictures of them. They showed us the earlier photos and invited us back.

"You are American?" – gas station attendant. "Yes." "From where you are in America?" "Washington." "You live in Washington?" "Yes, but not Washington, D.C." "OK, OK!"

"ismi ali (my name is Ali). ahlan wa sahlan!" – fifty-four-year-old laborer assigned to Carmen and me as we excavated at the "Blue Chapel" in Petra. We compared our two sons, daughter-in-law and one granddaughter with his seven daughters and one son, all receiving favorable marks from totally unbiased judges. (Check out photo)

"This might be fun to do again some time." – Carmen (almost Jordanian by now) after about three hours of excavation in Petra, only slightly less enthusiastically expressed toward the end of the day. We uncovered several sherds of cooking pots, a nice basalt pounder/grinder, several pieces of glass – all from a squatter's settlement in the western courtyard of the Blue Chapel (so named because of the four perfectly preserved blue granite columns [consisting of three column drums each] from the chapel itself, which were put back in place by a hired crane while we watched -- I will see if I can get permission to put a photo on our website). We also found the first ceramic roof tiles to be discovered from the chapel.

A small selection of the warm and hospitable ways Arabs express themselves with grace and respect in colloquial conversations (translated somewhat freely to capture the meaning):

marhaba – Hello!
marhabtein – [response] Hello! (Double hello back to you!)
sabah al-kher – Good morning! (Morning of what is good and beneficial.)
sabah an-nour – [response] A morning of light to you!
masa al-kher – Good evening!
masa an-nour – [response] An evening of light to you!
as-salaam `alaykum – Greetings! (Peace and well-being to you!)
wa `alaykum as-salaam – [response] And to you peace and well-being!
mabrouk – Congratulations! ([You are] blessed!)
allah ybarek fik – [response] God bless you too.
minfadtlak – Please. (From your pleasure.)
bikoul sourour – Help yourself! (With all pleasure!)
ahlan wa sahlan – You are welcome! (It is easy for you to be considered family!)
`ala rasi – With pleasure I will do it. ([Your request] is on my head.)
min `youni – With pleasure I will do it. ([Take what you like] from my eye.)
kayf halak – How are you?
mobsout al-hamdulallah – [response] I am fine, thanks be to God.
mobsout w'nous – [alternate response] I am very fine. (I am fine and a half.)

– Letters to the Editor:
According to editorial policy, all published letters to the editor or to anyone on the editorial board or staff are carefully selected, edited for content, monitored for attitude, then approved for publication by the entire editorial board and Censorship Committee:

"So only female drivers hit sheep?? This sounds a little fishy . . ." – a moderately radical feminist, must be – could be a red-head.

"Dearest Douglas Clark,
You are my hero! I wish I was just like you! There is something else I think you should know... Oh, brother! That's some Times. Directions on getting to your friend's Union Bank building concert will be shared with my Arabic language classmates this evening.
Your Greatest Fan"
– copy-cat reader with class.

"As always, the Times was fascinating." – a reader with good taste.

"Well, your clever description of the phylogenic heritage of the mosquito reminds me of why one might want to avoid Jordan entirely, despite the flowers, lush green fields, almond trees, etc. Hope all is well in your world right now, despite the mosquitoes." – a quasi-hyper-morto-mosquito-phobic who might want to travel to Alaska where the mosquito is the state bird.

"Did enjoy the latest Jordan (Some)Times!" – but none of the issues before the latest one?

"This [box] is a kinda small area for comments wouldn't ya say?" – a quasi-graphico-claustrophobic about to produce his first published article which needs more space than available in the box at the end of the newsletter.

"Beautiful job. Thank you so much for the news and information. It makes me a little sad though. Keeps reminding me how much I don't know and that I'd love to be there right now experiencing the 'greening.' I enjoyed your dolmen discussion and especially about the NE excursion." – a reader from the northern climes where "greening" is a foreign idea during most of the year.

"I just read your latest edition and I have a couple comments to make. (I'm sure you can't wait to hear them). 1) Those two letters to the editor (you) that compare you to God, are they real or did you write them? 2) The note about the 'woman driver' killing sheep – you note that you do not know of any man who killed a sheep by driving, but do you in fact know of a woman who has?" – another potentially radical feminist.

– Al-Wadeh, The Situation
What the future holds for the West Bank only God knows, but there appear to be at least some signs of improving relations between Palestinians and Israelis, especially with the long-awaited visit of US negotiators. Unfortunately, the toll in terms of death, damage, destruction, demonizing and dehumanization has been high and will not go away for decades, generations. We keep praying for a return to peaceful coexistence, which, contrary to popular opinion, really has been the status quo for many more centuries than conflict.

– The News from ACOR Amman
Well, it's been a quiet week (or so) in ACOR Amman, my home town. However, the truth be told, we don't always spend all of our time at home in ACOR or in Amman. It's not that the fellows don't like each other and, developing cabin fever, feel they need to get out once in a while. We are really quite a compatible bunch. And it's not that we don't have great facilities here, especially, now that I am thinking about it, P & P's Fitness Centre, Spa and Saloon. Unfortunately, our high-stepping motivational stair master has lost an arm and a leg during a workout. It sits dead in front of our new bench-press; the wooden bench weighs probably eight pounds and so is not difficult to press. We also now have small hand weights of 5 pounds and 3 and 5 kilograms. Added to make the ambience more family oriented, there are two overstuffed chairs astride an ottoman, which allow a gallery to observe people killing themselves on the equipment. Around the corner of the Garden Level spa are several more overstuffed chairs for those who want to be near loved ones dying on the machines, but who would rather not watch. A fire hose and the pair of crutches complete the decor, ready for immediate use.

But getting away is still important. So, a week or so ago Pierre, Diane (a fellow fellow, the Fuller Brush Person of steatite, or soapstone, cooking pots) and I traveled to Yarmouk University in Irbid in the northern part of the country for a one-day workshop on the Conservation of Cultural Heritage in Jordan and International Standards. Jeepers got us there early so we had a few minutes to tour the campus, which boasts several thousand students. The workshop opened with introductory speeches, the most important one being read by proxy for the Minister of Tourism and Antiquities who happened to be out of the country at the time. Likely 72 of the 75 in attendance understood well the Arabic addresses, two or three of us picking up important words here and there and standing when we noticed others standing for (poorly) taped music. Seemed the thing to do.

Following a break for refreshments, the group reassembled in another room, nicely arranged and equipped for the purpose, to hear papers by various individuals. Of the eight major presentations, four were given by women: Reham Haddad of the Madaba School of Mosaics, Abeer al-Saheb of the Housing and Urban Development Corporation, Merfet Mamoun Houbesh of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and Samatha Dennis of the Council for British Research in the Levant. I missed most of one of these papers because Pierre cheerfully and publicly volunteered me to help the Spanish Embassy representative get his computerized version of a 3-D walk through the Ummayed Complex on the citadel in Amman up and running. Actually, I didn't have a clue what I was doing, but had to look like I did since we were working on a table right in the center of the room with three rows of seats on all four sides of the room facing me-ward, meaning that all 60-70 people were staring down at our feeble efforts to restart the computer. Actually, all the software had to be installed on the computer. I managed to maintain an external calm while thinking frantically about how to get the thing going, all the while hoping against hope that it would run. The truth be told, I really didn't do anything.

We were successful in the end and the 13-minute digitized, 3-D demonstration was a real hit, not entirely unlike what we would like to see for the `Umayri Visitor Center. The Spanish official was so grateful that, when he found out what we envisioned for `Umayri, he lent me the CD to watch at ACOR, which some of us have done. It is really impressive. Almost as impressive as my reputation for fixing up computer programs in public places under extreme duress to perform well. Just as one of the afternoon programs ran into computerized difficulty, Pierre again publicly volunteered me to help, which I did in as calm and dignified way as I could.

The presentations covered a variety of topics, but centered around the various international charters for conservation of cultural remains and examples of implementing them in Jordan. It was good. Although most of the sessions were in Arabic, many of the PowerPoint presentations provided English summaries.

Another of our great escapes involved a trip five of us made to Dana in southern Jordan. Edomite territory south of the southern end of the Dead Sea is known for its high craggy mountain and precipitous rock formations which ultimately fall off the western edge of the Jordanian plateau into the Araba, the wide valley between the hills of Jordan and Israel along the north-south line connecting Aqaba to the Dead Sea. Sitting atop a jutting peak, the Dana Village and Nature Reserve provide some of the most spectacular scenery in Jordan. The village, while occupied by local inhabitants, is a destination stop for visitors who want to visualize traditional urban life typical of most any ancient period of history.

Alongside the village, also on the edge of the escarpment, is the relatively new Dana Rest House, where one can rent rooms with a balcony hanging over the abyss to the west. From the village visitors can hike the Wadi Dana trail from about 3,000-3,500 feet above sea level to about 400 feet above sea level over a steep and rough track almost 15 kilometers long. This the five of us (Bruce, Diane, Anne Elise, Carmen and I) intended to do following a night's sleep in the Rest House.

Early in the morning we dropped off the edge of the village into the wide-open chasm which is the Wadi Dana, planning to hike the trail down, having already made arrangements for a pickup at the bottom. The experience was memorable, following a some-time trail, some-time track, some-time washed out gully through this natural wonderland of delightful and delicate wild flowers, wild animals (well we had heard of some of the species like rock hyraxes, hyaenas and wolves, but only really caught a glimpse of some goats and sheep as well as lizards and probably half a dozen vultures which, when viewed through our 300 mm lenses, seemed to be keeping a close eye on us ... smiling), precipitously steep volcanic and sandstone mountains, an occasional stream in the wadi bed.

The hike, somewhat like our spa and saloon, also provided important cardio-vascular exercise, although none of us was quite prepared for long-term use of muscles normally put into action to slow or stop the human body from tumbling forward in an undignified manner in front of colleagues keeping score of recovery attempts. Hiking up demands certain muscles and actions; tumbling (er, walking) down uneven, steep, gravel pathways pulled other muscles into action (at least it pulled other muscles). Toes repeatedly jammed against the front of shoes also create a memorable experience. By the time we completed the trek to the Faynan Camp at the bottom, we were ready for the two-hour ride through one of the richest copper-producing areas in antiquity and back up to Dana to retrieve our vehicle and head back to ACOR. Over the next two or three days various ones of us worked hard to improve our versions of the Dana Shuffle, waddling up and down the ACOR stairs, in search of yet more Ben Gay. Even getting to the dining room was fun to watch.

But I still needed to visit some additional sites in southern Jordan, where a well-preserved example of a "four-room" house was excavated several years ago. Like all urban sites in Edom, nothing dates from before the eighth century and Khirbet Ghrareh is no exception. We wanted to visit this site and a couple of others before ending up at Petra, to overnight and then spend a day excavating for Patricia Bikai.

So we took off early Saturday morning for this Edomite site in the south. Normally, I consider a day marginally successful if, while traveling, one makes only one or two turn-arounds. These are forced about-face turns due to misreading of a map, entering dangerous territory, driving to the edge of a cliff, running over someone's goat, coming to a dead end. This day saw eight turn-arounds. We followed our newest map of Jordan (copyright 2002) to locate a highway (complete with number and standard description) from the southern Araba up the steep hills to Edomite high country. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the small village where the highway was to leave our roadway, there was no sign to indicate its presence, so we had to turn around. We located some highway patrol officers doing their thing. They discussed among themselves where the road might be, but none had heard of it, even though the map showed that it took off to the east about 100 meters from where they were standing. Some drivers stopped, whether of their own free will or not, I don't know, and also tried to be helpful. No one seemed to know of this highway for which we were searching.

So, we took off in the direction we thought was correct and discovered about 2 kilometers up the once-paved, but now badly pocked track, a military camp blocking the route. The guards at the gate seemed happy to see us, but exchanged knowing glances when they found out where we thought we were headed and finally told us that we could not go there for two significant reasons: the track turned into an impossibly steep and eroded passageway and there was a military camp in the way. It appeared to me at the time that the latter reason was the more important one.

Another turn-around and we were back on the main highway and had to drive all the way to Aqaba, the southernmost city in Jordan, before we could turn up into the hills. A number of wrong turns in Aqaba (because of rerouting all the Amman traffic several miles further south and east) finally got us up toward Petra. On the way, with the aid of GPS, we located Khirbet Ghrareh without difficulty, scouted out the place under the watchful eyes of bedouin dogs across the wadi, found the "four-room" house in great condition, then hiked back down the hill and moved on toward Petra.

Seems tourism has picked up somewhat in Petra as we counted 13 full-size buses in the lot, likely all bringing travelers from the 700-passenger British cruise vessel docked in Aqaba. A pleasant overnight in the somewhat renovated Petra Forum Hotel (now the Crowne Plaza Hotel) was followed by an early morning drive along the escarpment to the north, overlooking Petra for several miles and leading to the back way into Petra for our excavations. I don't recall since my early days of excavation at Tall Hisban in the early 1970s how nice it is not to have to worry about what other people on an excavation are doing and just dig. I felt like a king. Patricia, who planned our working day, was busy filling out taggies and providing us with baggies and guffahs and workers and picks and trowels and pans and tapes and suggestions. I was lost in this reverie of just digging, thank you very much. It was so much fun to cut a balk again, to clear a layer, to clean some pavement and ashlar walls, to fill a guffah, to record a find, to photograph something new. In fact, I was so lost in my own little world that I forgot about Carmen right next to me who had never excavated before and for a short time did what most archaeological novices do – burrow. I was enjoying myself too much. And what made it even more satisfying was the fact that I knew I would not have to write up a preliminary report for the Department of Antiquities; Patricia would have to do that! It was great!

Well, that's the news from ACOR Amman, where the directors are strong, the office staff is good looking and all the ACOR fellows are above average.

Editor: Doug Clark
Assoc. Editor: Doug Clark
Managing Editor: Doug Clark
Editorial Board Chair: Doug Clark
Editorial Board Member: Doug Clark
Other Editorial Board Member: Doug Clark
Desktop Publishing: Doug Clark
Quality Control: Doug Clark
Proofreading: Doug Clark
Data Entry: Doug Clark
Marketing: Doug Clark
Circulation: Doug Clark
Censorship: Doug Clark

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