Dearest Jordan

Photo  by Ibrahim Oweis (edited). Source. License: CC Att-SA 2.0

As the end of my extended winter vacation approaches, the stay back home has come to a (temporary) end. I’ll be on a 15 hour trip to get me to my “third home” in Boston, Massachusetts (we have always been taught “المدرسة بيتك الثاني”, meaning “school is your second home”) in anticipation of another lovely semester at MIT! Though it is probably juvenile to ‘say goodbye’ before spending a short time apart from home, I have garnered a few observations and articulated my timeless feelings and attitudes towards Jordan, and why such feelings and attitudes (positively) inhibit me to begin with. So here we go…

I live in a country whose borders were arbitrarily drawn by Gertrude Bell, so carelessly that a misalignment in transparent paper didn’t seem to bother her one bit. A country low on natural resources, that the late King Hussein’s quote “الإنسان أغلى ما نملك” (meaning “mankind is our greatest asset”) is used jokingly to reference the lack of oil, water, and arable land. A country with a nonexistent independent historic cultural identity, and a nascent national identity.

Yet, not an inch of Jordan exists that I cannot but absolutely adore. More importantly, however, are the people whose culture and identity astound me enough to understand this “haunting beauty” the late king refers to. This culture and identity whose presence I am in awe of, is the same one that began to formulate a mere 64 years ago. What I like about our magnificent ‘national identity’, that I’d rather call a cultural identity, is how it acknowledges and cherishes the fact that it is indeed nascent; an identity summed by the thought that we, “the Jordanian people”, whether Bedouins, old locals, Circassians, Chechens, Palestinian refugees, Iraqi refugees, and others have come together to build something good out of… well, not much. It is an identity of hospitality, generosity, but most importantly, fraternity and cooperation of people united by sharing a common vision of seeking improvement.

It is hard for many living in Jordan to appreciate or even realize the goodness I feel. Indeed, we have problems of our own; we are no beacon of human rights, social norms can be disappointing, and a real influential and internal political party is yet to be seen.

Criticizing the wrong we have in Jordan is the only way to improve; and writing about what is missing is the best way to inspire future leaders to step up and fix things, again, to do something good in an area that was previously lacking. My only message is that such criticism, however harsh it may be, remains to be done in a light where the criticizer realizes that things aren’t necessarily static, and change is very well possible.

It is the duty of a critical thinker to point what is wrong, but it gets to a point where criticism is done in an atmosphere of negativity, a negativity that might convince the thinker and the reader that an effort to improve isn’t worth it… and that’s when the thinker needs to stop and think things through.

I mean hey, we just fixed our tax laws! We’re working on great energy improvements. We’ve made great progress on economical reform. And human rights, like it or not, have improved drastically over the past 20 years. Change is being done, and that’s a positive thought one should keep in mind. Never mistake my sentences as trying to impose satisfaction on whatever we already have; I’d like to remind you that change has happened in the past, and it can happen in the present and future if we work for it. Some things are easier than others, but it’ll work.

/end emotional insights

  • Jordanian

    Dear Eyas,
    I wish you best of luck! As for the sentiments you have expressed in the above piece, I have to say that having young people like you in Jordan gives me great pride as a Jordanian citizen. However, being Jordanian I tend to focus on the negative, I tried to let this one go but I really could not. So here we go..
    One thing really that got to me … I really would not use the word “nascent” to describe Jordan! That gives the meaning that Jordan was at a certain point a nothingness and came to physically develop into an entity. While agree with you that politically like Palestine Kuwait, Bahrain and many many Arab states before WWI Jordan too was politically none existent, but as a cultural identity Jordan was pretty much alive and kicking and history pretty much backs my version of the story and yes it was a continuous entity, so yes we have a culture that is particular to this part of the Arab world, we have always been amongst the poorest of parts of the Arab inhabited lands but we were there. I will grant you that I am passionate about Jordan but I am basing this whole reaction on facts that I found in books and know for a fact that Jordan has always been there civilized and all..one book out of the top of my head would be the Otoman's taxation book for Jordan in which they had record of the names of inhabitants in order to collect taxes, as an example and there are many other books that may interest you there. I really did not want to say anything but I feel it my duty to point this one out for you, because this is something that we, Jordanians, should know. This is a Nasseri propaganda that was started for political rivalry then and sadly became an uncontested fact when it really isn't.

    Thank you for the sentiments, you are a smart promising young man and I wish you all the best!! Godspeed!

  • Hey! Thank you for your reply,

    On the “nascent identity”, perhaps I ought to clarify. I completely agree that in Jordan, there existed a highly cultured identity for long; walking anywhere in east Amman would communicate that; buildings still habitable that were used a few hundred years ago, and others that stand as monuments that were centers of entire civilizations way before. The area we now Jordan even had its own legislation on some matters, I agree; the Ottoman land law of the nineteenth century was actually used quite some time in Transjordan and perhaps Jordan. What I describe “nascent” is not a cultural identity, but the national identity; that is an identity that warrants for some sort of independence.

    Thank you again for your reply; it is a great reminder to all of us that Jordanian culture itself is not a modern creation, and that is a very important fact. I'd only like to clarify that my point referred to a national identity, and not a cultural identity, and that, in essence, I completely agree with your point.