Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Yalies Roam the World

Every year Reach Out - the Yale College Partnership for International Service sends Yale students all over the globe to spend time doing service work in various countries. For the past two years, a group has come to Jordan to work at Talbieh refugee camp which is located south of Amman. In addition to their service work, students do a bit of touring and I was fortunate enough to be visited by this year's crew in Wadi Rum. we spent a quiet desert evening around the fire and up on the sand dune. In the morning, Hussein fit 11 people in his jeep. The rest of us walked out of the desert on foot enjoying the desert scenery and filling our shoes with sand.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Dancers in the Desert

A few weeks ago I received an email from Paul Emerson Gordon, Artistic Director and Co-Founder of CityDance Ensemble. Last April, CityDance came as guests to Wadi Rum. We saw the most amazing Wadi Rum sunset on my personal record - the sky glowed bright pink. The group enjoyed a dance around the fire and toured the desert by jeep the following morning. While visiting al-Hashemi Hassany sand dune, the group was inspired to dance and as they happened to have costumes and AV equipment with them in the jeep (good planning, Paul!), they were able to record the event. You may find a shot from the video below:

2010 National Endowment for the Arts Guide

Welcoming the Sunrise

Last week, we had a very special visit from Ms. Victoria Hamilton and her friends who have been called to the Jordanian desert. On the evening of their arrival, we shared a meal of zarb and enjoyed the melodies of Mehteb's oud. We rose early to greet an incredible sunrise - despite the cold weather, we were thrilled to see clouds, a rare occurrence in the desert and a possible prelude to rain!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

First Guests in the Private Camp

Last night Jody and Nigel Smith joined me as the first guests in Harb and Motloq's new private desert camp. We were the only guests in the camp and enjoyed a private dinner and plenty of tea around the campfire. After sunset, Harb joined us and we heard the tale of the courtship of Khalaf Al Ithin, a Bedouin warrior famed for his courage and bravery. In the morning, we trekked around Hassany Mountain, investigating the local plant and wildlife. Spring has arrived in the desert - the tamarisk is in bloom and we saw a multitude of lizards, beetles and the tracks of pigeons and the ever present, ever reliable camels. Sayed, Abu Ahad and Ali Audeh (who are much sweeter than they look!), pictured below, made our stay in the desert particularly enjoyable.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Zarb at Cousin Ali's

Yesterday, a group from the British Embassy visit Wadi Rum. As their driver was a Disi local, we were all invited to his cousin's house for zarb. Zarb is a traditional Bedouin meal that is served to honor guests to one's home. In the past, zarb was made in a hole in the ground or in small caves in the mountains packed tightly with mud and sand. Today, zarb is usually made in an iron barrel set into a hole in the ground. First, wood is burned to create charcoal. Then, spiced meat, chicken and vegetables are placed on an iron tray. The tray is placed in the barrel and the barrel is sealed and buried in the sand for three hours. The barrel's contents bake in their juices and once the meal is uncovered, guests enjoy a truly delicious meal!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Girl Time in the Desert

This weekend I was visited by Diane Burson and her daughter Melissa Valdez, natives of the fair state of Virginia. We spent a wonderful day trekking through desert canyons, examining ancient Nabatean inscriptions and climbing natural rock bridges.

The highlight of the day, however, was dinner with a local Bedouin girl, whose family owns the camp where we stayed. As per local tradition, we were sequestered in a private area for ladies at the back of the camp, where we shared a traditional Bedouin meal while discussing family, work and friendship around the fire.

In the morning, Diane and Melissa enjoyed a camel ride back to the car before heading onward to a beach day in Aqaba.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

English All the Time!

I am working on a project with Mr. Ahmad Jaradat, School Supervisor - English, at the Directorate of Education in Aqaba to promote use of the English language in local schools. This week is English language week and every morning a different school holds their morning activities in the English language.

This morning at Queen Zein As Sharaf School for Girls, students praised the King and recited excerpts from the Qura’an and the Hadith (sayings of the Prophet Mohammed) in Arabic. Short speeches were given in English on a variety of topics including: Jordan’s constitution, the life of His Majesty Abdullah II, the history of the school, the local marine and terrestrial environments, traffic, public health and the Aqaba House, which many students have had the opportunity to visit over the past week. It was wonderful to see such active use of the English language. The speeches were followed by a short quiz – audience members who answered questions correctly were rewarded for their listening skills with a small prize.