Mumtaaz!

The souk has every kind of fresh and tasty food imaginable, as well as coffee, tea, sweets and condiments.

Mohammad sells stencil tessellation kits on the sidewalk. I bought a couple of kits from him the other day, he makes creating them look very easy. I’m still trying to figure out how to make my stencils look even remotely like his. I gave one of the kits to Khalid (the Syrian boy visiting Yosef the barber). I’m quite sure Khalid will be able to teach me how to use my stencil tessellations in a few days. Khalid and I communicate very well, despite neither of us understanding a word the other one says. Well-meaning translators occasionally interrupt our chain of communication and, sadly when that happens, our great communication withers away until the translator disappears.

Mohammed, street tesselations
Mohammad, street tesselations

I now know four words in Arabic: shu-kran (thank you), mar-ha-ban (hello), jay-ed (good), and mum-taaz (excellent). I emailed my fake-adopted Palestinian brother, from twenty years ago, who lives in a refugee camp in Palestine and told him about my newly-acquired language skills. He emailed back, “My clever sister!”

Today Hanan, the artist, came over again with her daughter Amira, this time to work on the Seven Women’s House Keys canvas.

Hanan with canvas
Hanan with canvas

Amira is twenty-two years old. She knows four languages fluently: English, Japanese, Korean and Arabic. Yes indeed, I am a very clever sister with my four newly-acquired Arabic words!

Amira and Hanan
Amira and Hanan
Amira and Hanan working
Amira and Hanan working

Hanan brought her personal collection of embroidered yokes from Palestinian dresses and very generously donated them for appliquéd sections on the canvas.

Hanan's emboidery and painting
Hanan’s emboidery and painting

Hanan’s family house is in Jerusalem. When Hanan was twenty-two her mother taught her how to embroider a dress with the Jerusalem design. It is pictured on Hanan in the following photograph:

Hanan with historic book on Palestine
Hanan with historic book on Palestine

The city of Amman didn’t have street signs until a couple of years ago. When taking a taxi the directions normally do not include the street name or a property number, rather they include the name of the district and a specific mosque, church or large building near the destination. I just say “Weibdah, Paris Circle.” And, after being dropped off in front of Stop and Shop, I walk home.

My landlord, Imad Petro, is very excited about my project. Without any prodding, he asked if he could search through the shops in Downtown Amman to find seven house keys. His family’s house is in Bethlehem.  Imad, and his brother Samil, brought over seven house keys that Hanan quickly rejected, saying they were too large.

Suzanne and Imad with keys that are too large
Suzanne and Imad with keys that are too large

He then returned the keys and brought seven more back, as well as some Palestinian-embroidered coasters that can be cut up and appliquéd on the canvas.

New keys!
New keys!
Samil and Imad
Samil and Imad
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2 thoughts on “Mumtaaz!

  1. Suzie, I think I can act as your linguistic accountant, and double those Arabic vocabulary words….at least! You also know the words souk, and mosque, and if you say the word algebra slowly al jebr, it means “to unite”, so there you have it: at least 8 Arabic words! Thank you for the visual delights today. What a wonderful magical spell you are casting on Amman, and we are allowed to see it all the way back across the world over here. What a wonderful marvelous thing technology is, and whoever Fullbright was and wherever he is now, bless him!

    1. jenny, It’d be nice if you could be here to translate for me, and learn new words in Arabic everyday. That way I might have a better idea about what I’m doing!

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