Friday, August 6, 2010

World cup the Jordanian way

World cup in Jordan seems to be the biggest festival/income source of the year. Everyone has an opinion, no mather if you are 8 or 80 years old. And everyone is eager to show out their preferences.

Which means the business is good! While driving with a car on a traffic light stop you can buy your favourite team flag. Every corner would sell some tricolour face paint, hair, masks, shirts scarfs. This year the sales men were extremely happy, since many of the big favourites kept on dropping out one after another. This meant that people had to change their preferences and stock them self also with new coloured goodies.

To see the game in any way you have to pay. The channel that shows the game, is a pay channel. So the cheapest option to see the games is to buy around 80JD(100 eur) access to the channel for the world cup period. The other option is to go to a bar which entrance fees start from 2 JD (3 EUR) to 20jd (25 eur). And the prices go up when the games get more important. For the finals the cheapest place was 10 JD (12 eur) and the most expensive one 35 JD (almost 40 eur!).

At first when I heard that, the thought was…well who would pay that? Surprisingly you even have to book places in advance, since they get full every night! And the most expensive ticket I managed to purchase was 20JD. Which after some thought, I figured out, was almost the price I paid for live Micheal Jackson concert!

You can just calculate the amount of money every place that broadcasts world cup earns. 4 years to set up a new business in Jordan and be a millionaire in 2 months of business.

But its not only about money. Its just general excitement around people. We were driving back from Aqaba to Amman and were stopped by the police man. He asked to see our papers…and then started asking something more in Arabic. We were confused, what’s wrong, we didn’t speed the documents are fine…so what’s the issue? Until suddenly the policeman says Argentina…Brazilia…he was just trying to share he s happiness of the game results that had just finished!

Monday, June 21, 2010


Since the most important Estonian holiday is coming up, its time to educate the world about Estonian traditions :).

Here is a snap shot written by Estonian comedian Rohke Debelak, about what happens around Estonia every year on the night of 23rd of June...

We have two especially significant periods every year. One is Midsummer – St. John’s Day. This is a huge celebration. It is an ancient tradition that any Estonian

who sat at home on St. John’s Day without going anywhere and who did not bother to make a bonfire, or throw a party, had to relinquish his passport the very next day, choose another nationality and start learning another language.

On St. John’s Night, the shortest night of the year, people come together: they lug a staggering amount of firewood to one place and then set fire to it. All over the country. Thousands and thousands of bigger and smaller bonfires are in fact the reason why it never gets dark that particular night. When the fire is blazing, people start leaping over it. At the moment the flames are underneath the leaper, he or she may make a wish and it will be fulfilled. Most people in fact want to simply get across the fire alive, a wish that is mostly granted. A lot of singing goes on – once a year those who normally sing out of tune are allowed to perform in public. There is a lot of dancing too – once a year those who cannot dance are allowed to tread the dance floor. A lot of beer and stronger distillations are quaffed, and those who usually cannot drink are allowed to do so once a year.

This is a party for the entire country. Both young and old must be present, as well as the strong and the frail, and if someone happens to have a visitor from a distant land at the time, this person must certainly join in too. Animals and birds also attend: eternal friendship is sworn with them, and on many occasions man has found a common language with animals when morning is nigh. By that time, quite a few revellers have acquired some beastly aspects themselves.

...So now I just have to find a place to make a fire in Amman, to keep my citizenship still :).

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hijab is the headscarf that women in the middle east ware. I think its time to give some induction to the head covering topic, that’s normally the first question that people have about middle east. And I am definitely not an expert, so nothing here is theoretical truth, just my observations and notes from discussion with the local girls.

Do I have to cover my head?

No covering is a religious thing. I am not a Moslem and my religion does not require me to cover, thus no one also expects me to cover.
In fact it’s the opposite. Covering your head and body is just the superficial part of the act. If you are not following the other rules of the religion, it is kind of rude to just do the superficial part. Leave an impression to be someone who you actually aren’t.
Especially in Jordan, where there is a high Christian population, religious toleration and acception is a big part of the society.

So why do girls cover?

In Islam religion you are not allowed to have any physical contact between man and woman before the marriage. But since men are built to have physical needs and fancy girls, the girls should make their life easier. If the girl covers the attractiveness of her body, then the men have easier to resist her.
So its actually the woman who has the strength, power and responsibility to keep the guys pure to the god.

Why do some cover all face (veil) and some just hear (hijab)?

don’t really have a good answer to that. Some say that there is nothing in the Koran that tells to cover the whole face! But the only reason I have hear is the following:
When you think that you have so irresistible beauty, then you should cover more. But mainly its only the old women veiling themselves. Haven’t really seen the beauty under the veil yet.

Do they always cover?

Off course you don’t need to cover in front of other women. When there are just women in the room, everyone takes off their scarf.
You are supposed to cover only from the guys who could be potentially interested in you and could marry you.
So for example if you are a 40 year old mom and you meet your 10 year old sons friends, its ok not to cover. Or when are with your relatives and family, who are close enough not to propose to you, you don’t have to cover.

Here is a party taken at girls night, when we asked our Moslem friends to cover us up:

The other side

Now the side that I haven’t figured out yet. For young girls hijabs seem to be more of a fashion item. There are different ways how you can do them. Nowadays its fashion to have your head look as big as possible. So the teenagers actually put newspaper under the hijab to make their hair look bigger.
Then some girls were thigh jeans or kind of short skirts that show more of their body shape than the scarf hides.
Most of the young girls match the style and color of the hijab with their clothes and it actually looks very stylish and cool. And some of them actually might look better with this style and without it.

To finish the story I have to go back to the best explanation I have heard from an Arab girl in AIESEC conference few year s ago. As the westerners think - poor girls they are forced to cover them selves. The Moslems think - poor western girls they are forced to wear bikini. The reality is both is a personal choice and not everyone in either society does that.

Sunday, February 28, 2010


Big part of a cultural experience is always the food. And I have to say the food over here is pretty delicious. In fact it has been so good that I have over eaten it. Our first months we could have hummus and falafel for every meal and be so happy about it. At that point I didn’t understand the locals, how can you not want falafel for breakfast everyday??
So here is the break down of the top Jordanian/Middle- Eastern foods:
1. Falafel - chickpea bolls. They seem like easy food that everyone can make, but once you have had a good falafel, you don’t want the once that everyone can make. In Amman everyone knows the one and only place that has been around for years and sells the best falafels. In fact they are so special that you cant even by the falafels on their own.
Apart from the regular falafels, you can also find bigger once, with sesame seeds and onions.
2. Hummus - chickpea tip. Normally you eat it with bread and falafel and some hot sauce. The taste of it depends a lot on how much tahini (sesame seeds and olive oil mix)has been added.
3. Foul - favabeans tip. Not my favorite one so cant really comment on that.
4. Lebnah - something in the middle of cream cheese and yoghurt
5. Pickled everything - cucumber, cauliflower, carrots etc. every breakfast comes with pickled mix and plate of fresh tomatoes, onions and mint.
6. Mansef - Lamb meat boiled in yoghurt, eaten with rice and yoghurt sauce. Delicious meal that is made for every special occasion and also non-special ones J . And you eat it till you cant move anymore
7. Knafe - phyllo pastry with riccota cheese and peanuts. A delicious desert!
8. Zattar - Thyme, oregano, marjoram and basil mixed with sesame seeds. Spice mix that is eaten with Arabic bread and cheese.
9. Tabbouleh - Parsley, mint, tomatoes and spring onion salad, with lemon juice and olive oil.
10. Tea - a lot of black tea with mint and almost the same amount of sugar that tea.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Jerusalem and Bethlehem

On Christmas we traveled to Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Left early on the 24th to cross the border from the King Hussein bridge. Which is the only border where you have a chance to gross to Palestine without getting the Israel stamp in your passport.

Once you have this stamp in your passport, no other middle eastern country will allow you in. In middle east Israel is not accepted as a country. There is one country, Palestine.

The border grossing was long, but safe. Lot of check points and explaining to the Israel military girls (Only young girls with big guns as military) why you don’t want the stamp in your passport.

We arrived in Jerusalem during noon. The city amazed us with the greenness and level of development from the first sight. The main attraction is the old city of Jerusalem. A small area surrounded by big ancient walls and filled with different religious places. The old down is divided to 4 parts:
1. The Jewish quarter. Where is the famous Western wall:

2. Armenian quarter. Closed quarter, where no one is allowed in and there are about 2000 Armenians living behind the closed walls.

3. Christian quarter. With lot of churches and with the main church where Jesus was crucified.

4. Moslem part. With the main mosque, that is the next biggest religious spot for Moslems out of Saudi Arabia.

The whole old city just felt like a fairyland. Just like walking in a movie with full of culture and feeling like every corner or a wall would have a story to tell. It s a city where you would just want to spend weeks to explore around. Eat in the small cafeterias, walk around the narrow streets, climb the roof tops and enjoy the spirituality in the air.

The next day we went to Bethlehem. Which also meant grossing the border to West bank, the Palestinian territory. Surprisingly the border crossing was very smooth. And as we heard afterwards, the security was lowered for Christmas.
We took a long walk into the city center following the wall separating West bank from the rest of the country:

We visited the church were Jesus was born:

And we attended the mass at the Sheppard’s field. The field were the first star was seen.

So that the run down of the tourist side. Apart from that this trip did have a deeper meaning as well. Most of the people living in Amman are originally from Palestine. They have actually never been there, but where you are from depends on where your father was from. Most of the current Palestinians living in Jordan are not allowed to enter the territory. So when ever you would tell your workmates or friends that you are going to Jerusalem, they would get excited, that you are going to their home land and then sad that they cant go them selves.
It makes you appreciate your privilege and also feel a bit awkward of why you have it. Feels like you are like an ambassador to see as much as possible to bring back as much as possible.

Also interestingly, two days after our visit, Israel attacked the west bank, killing 3 people. Which is the biggest attack after the Gaza war last year. Makes you wonder, if there are any links between the two decisions: Low security during Christmas, when the most western tourists visit the country. So it actually seems like everything is very peaceful. And a planned attack 2 days after Christmas, when the air is clean from the tourists?

Monday, January 4, 2010


There is a phrase in Arabic that is used very often here – Inshallah – If Allah wishes so. But the more important thing is that the ways of using this phrase is a perfect example of the culture. There are different occasions when this phrase is used:
1. The most logical one: It promised to be sunny tomorrow - Answer: Inshallah!
2. The bit annoying one: AT work: Can we have a meeting today about our project? – Inshallah!
Can you send me the information today? – Answer: Inshallah!

3. The most annoying and a bit scaring one: In the Taxi: Can you please take me from point A to point B? – Answer: Inshallah!

Well Allah is great, but there are some things in life that depend ONLY on you and not on Allah! Only you can do your work and meet the deadlines! Only you can be on time for the meetings! Only you can ensure that you know the directions to a place! But somehow in this culture time is not important. Structure is an un-known word.

In a way its kind of cool. I learn how to operate without structure. So when meeting jumps from one topic to another after every 5 minutes, at first it was hard to focus or understand anything. Now I am learning ways how to capture my thoughts and direct the conversations back to the objective. Or when meetings have no agenda or objectives, but they just happen, cause maybe something good will come out of it.
How to be more flexible with the time. Don’t stress out when people say that they will be 5 min late and actually mean 45 minutes. Its all good until I still live according to my standards but also respect the standards of this culture – Inshallah!

Sunday, December 6, 2009


Something interesting I have seen around here and have been thinking of writing about. Just before I say anything…its nothing that disturbs me, I actually find it kind of nice…just different enough to write about.

In the religion I have grown up in, praying has always seemed to be as one of the most personal and private things. Something you d rather do alone where no one can see you or in the church. In Moslem culture it doesn’t seem to be like that.

People pray where ever they feel like. You just role down your small carpet and do it.

Some of the examples:

1. You walk into the cafeteria to buy a sandwich and the place just seems empty. So you are looking around to see where’s someone who you could order or give money too…and suddenly you realize the person is just behind the counter, down on his knees praying. Ups sorry…didn’t mean to disturb you. …No, no I can wait just finish your staff…. And it takes few minutes and the guy would stand up and say: what can I get for you?

2. You walk on the street to your lunch break and suddenly you feel the need to change your walk way not to disturbed (walk over) a business man in full expensive suit, who has just put down his carpet on the middle of the street and is kneeing for praying.

3. In the office, you get up to walk to the kitchen to make yourself some coffee and on your way you see that one of your work mates is down on his knees, praying rug rolled down in the corner just beside someone else’s desk.

But I guess if you pray 5 times in a day it must just become part of your human life and needs so you just get used to finding whatever place to satisfy your need.

I am sorry I cant illustrate this post with some interesting photos, but I figured its not nice to take pictures of people praying, even if its such a public thing for them to do.