Khalid created a unique Christmas tree constructed of lights, suspended from the ceiling in the exhibition gallery.
Khalid, the twelve year old boy I met shortly after arriving in Jordan, was my impetus for doing the workshop and exhibit. He moved to Jordan, temporarily, from Syria with his father. Khalid and I were both on the same footing when we met, strangers in a strange land. It’s important for a child to have the opportunity to be a star and to shine. An art show is the perfect opportunity for this.
The following are photographs snapped at the opening exhibition:
under the tree
tree and exhibit
Issra and Khalid
kids and flowers
Amira and Sarah
group photo, Ibraheem on left
I am continually amazed by the generosity of the people I’ve met in Jordan. Ibraheem donated a basket full of prettily wrapped flowers for the blooming artists and attendees, Automat Pastries donated a scrumptious assortment of pastries and Oregano (Aiman’s shop) donated the children’s gifts.
Recently, I made a return trip to Zarca with Zohreh, escorted by Amira and her friend Shaima. My mission was to photograph the mannequins I didn’t get a chance to photograph during my first visit.
Zarca is the second most populated city in Jordan, Amman being the first. Many Christians live in Zarca which means the size of the souk during the Christmas season increases.
Before getting down to business and photographing the most unique mannequins I’ve ever encountered, we started our tour with cappuccinos and cups of corn
Zorheh shopped for wine glasses in the bottom floor of an antique shop that was filled with kitchen ware.
Antique shop, glassware
We walked from one end of the souk to the other, which means walking through a maze of crowded streets with an endless assortment of items for sale.
All that walking required partaking in a mid-day meal at a family restaurant.
During all this walking and partaking I did manage to accomplish my real mission for the day: photographing mannequins.
The comfy chairs look awfully appealing when you’re tired, but instead of relaxing and gathering up energy for more “souking,” we took a cab back to Paris Circle and I walked back to my apartment, happy to be living here in my temporarily-adopted hometown.
Every month I need to renew my visa. Renewing my visa requires taking a cab to the Fulbright House. I have no idea where anything is in Jordan, including the Fulbright House. Luckily, some of the cab drivers do, and even luckier for me, some of them speak English.
Arriving at the Fulbright House is similar to homing pigeons returning home. I get to see my proxy guardians: Alain McNamara (Executive Director), Iman Abdul-Wahid (Program Director), Mohammad Al Ahmad (Accountant) and Sayel Asakreh (Driver).
Alain, the all-aware protector of all the Fulbrighters, keeps us all on track and in one piece.
Alain McNamara, Executive Director at Binational Fulbright Commission in Jordan
Alain at his desk
Alain working the camera
Iman makes sure we all have a decent place to live, and once we’re situated that our needs are met.
Mohammad makes sure we get our stipends so we can pay our taxi fares and buy food.
And Sayel makes sure we don’t get kicked out of Jordan by taking us to the Police Station to renew our visas.
On one occasion during a visit to the Fulbright House Abdalrahem Alarjan, a well known photographer, met with Alain to discuss the application procedure for a Fulbright Scholar Award. Abdalrahem Alarjan is one of the seven artists who will be showing their work in the Seven Women’s House Keys show.
Once a year Dr. Nidal Younes and Dr. Abla Al-Bsoul host a dinner to honor the Fulbright scholars in their beautiful home in Shafa Badran, an area outside of the city. (The only glitch in the entire evening was that the photographs I took of Nidal, our host, were too blurry to use on this blog).
Abla prepared a spectacular feast.
Dinner, chef Abla Albsoul-Younes
Their home is gorgeous and the conversation with the scholars, faculty and administrators of universities and guests was stimulating and enjoyable.
Soon after this wonderful evening, Nehal Abu-Lail (a Fulbright Scholar from Washington State University in Pullman, Washington) hosted a dinner for the scholars in her home in Irbid, located near the Syrian border. Nehal and her mother cooked the feast, which was delicious, and it was a very enjoyable afternoon. We had the opportunity to meet her wonderful family. (The only glitch was that the battery in my camera needed recharging; therefore, I only have one blurry picture of the event).
Christina Gordon, a Fulbright Student from Washington D.C., and I shared a cab when renewing our visas.
She’s teaching English at the Modern Educational Academy, a private school, located in the seventh circle. I volunteered to teach a class in lettering to her junior high students. I demonstrated printing their names (in English and Arabic) and creating bubble letters.
(The only glitch was that the cab driver was late picking me up, which made me arrive ten minutes late and the class was only forty minutes long). I absolutely do not like being late to anything, so I eliminated that cab driver and hope to have better luck with another one.
The other night Christina, Ibraheem and I went downtown to see the Roman Steps and eat dinner nearby. It’s a gorgeous area in the day time but it is even more gorgeous at night. (The only glitch in the evening was that I lost my trusty Guatemalan carry-all bag that I’ve used during my travels for twenty years. Nothing was in it except a bottle of hair conditioner I bought before going out, but I will most certainly miss my bag)!
Near the steps
A couple shop spaces from Ibraheem’s flower shop is Khaled Homsi’s Young Eye Gallery. Shortly after arriving in Jordan I met Khaled Homsi. Until a few months ago Khaled had a design business in Syria. After his place of business there was bombed, he moved to Jordan and opened an art gallery in Paris Circle. When I first saw Khaled’s gallery in September it was a gutted portion of a building. He told me he had great plans for the space and the renovation would be completed in October. It is absolutely magnificent.
Young Eye Gallery
Young Eye Gallery
Young Eye Gallery
Young Eye Gallery
I am considering adopting him, not that he needs it. He is 27 years old and has wonderful parents. My thoughts are that if I adopted him I could have him design my house as payment for being my son.
Khaled’s passion is working with recycled materials and cleaning up the environment. When he lived in Syria he formed a volunteer organization that cleaned up waterways, lakes and rivers. Ultimately over a thousand people took part in the cleanup, men, women and children.
Khaled and I are putting together a workshop for children during the Christmas season. The workshop will involve creating a Christmas tree comprised of painted recycled materials: bottles and other discarded items. The tree will be displayed in Paris Circle on Christmas day in conjunction with a children’s party. The theme of the tree is not religious, rather it will reflect the concept that “everyone is a star.”
It is impossible to be in Jordan and not have some fun and unusual experiences every day. Interspersed with the daily events that I have mentioned in my previous blogs, are the following fun experiences [click on images for explanations or to enlarge]:
My Palestinian artist friend, Ahmad Canaan – with whom I worked on artistic endeavors twenty years ago in Palestine and the United States – recently left after visiting me for five days. The purpose of his visit was to be a liaison for finding the Palestinian women embroiderers for my art salon, to introduce me to established male artists from whom I will select seven to include their work in the art salon exhibition, and to help secure a gallery space for this exhibition in January.
Securing an exhibition at a top notch gallery within a four month time frame is not an easily reached goal – here or anywhere else! Gallery exhibitions are normally scheduled one to two years in advance. Before Ahmad’s departure today – miracle of miracles – these goals were accomplished!
Shortly after Ahmad’s arrival he introduced me to a photographer, Abed Al Raheem Al Arjan, who has volunteered to contribute in major ways to securing excellent press coverage and opportunities for the exhibition.
Raheem has personal relationships with everyone in the art world in Jordan, including the press and media throughout the Arab world, and is dedicated to establishing formats for the exhibition of contemporary art. He is also a laudable professional photographer.
Raheem drove Ahmad and I to Madaba, 20 miles SW of Amman, via the scenic route. We passed through the outskirts of Amman and small villages. On the way we stopped at Hisban, where Raheem’s father and grandfather lived and raised sheep. On the top of the hill is an old castle in disrepair. Luckily, I was able to snap a few photos before my twenty-five year old pocket camera was relegated to the trash.
Sheep in Hisban
Sheep watching men
And men watching sheep
View from Castle, Hisbon Valley
View from castle
0ld Palace ruins
We then proceeded to Madaba, a major tourist and Pilgrimage destination, known for it’s Byzantine and Umayyad mosaics. It houses the Shrine of the Beheading of John the Baptist, and the oldest existing mosaic map of Palestine…
…and numerous other mosaic floors. Madaba is affectionately referred to as “mosaic city.” [Click on photos to enlarge]:
Mosaic floor, Madaba
Mosaic floor, Madaba
Mosaic floor, Madaba
Raheem currently has an exhibition of his photography (and his private art collection) in a Contemporary Art Gallery he established in the Historic Museum in Madaba.
Raheem, entrance to Historic Museum, Madaba
Raheem, photographs for Historic Museum displays
Raheem in Historic Museum Contemporary Art Gallery
After viewing Raheem’s exhibition and the historic museum collection we had coffee, smoked sheesha and had dinner at the newly-constructed restaurant next to the museum: Rakwet Cafe. The restaurant owner, Azziz, also has a restaurant in Paris Circle (I posted photos of his restaurant on my blog previously – the photos of the gorgeous tiles and ceilings) and another restaurant in Downtown Amman.
The two owners of the Rakwet Cafe, Azziz and his partner, were being interviewed by Jordan Television while we were smoking sheesha and drinking Turkish coffee. Jordan television also interviewed Raheem.
After the filming concluded, we smoked more sheesha and Raheem showed my Family Ties-Occupation Art book, which I had self-published, to Azziz. Azziz expressed interest in publishing my book because, “It shows that all Americans don’t think the same.” He requested to keep the book for a few days and he and his partner generously graced us with a delicious dinner.
The following is a photo of my new hair-do, blowing in the wind. Although it’s not apparent in the photo, my Elvis duck tail is just what I wanted. I invited my hair stylist in Arizona, Lorrinda, to visit me while I’m in Jordan, but so far she hasn’t accepted my invitation. Yosef is now my “trim” hair stylist. I couldn’t have asked for a better or more affable “away from home” barber!
The following is a photo of Yosef with Khalid. Khalid was sent to stay for awhile in Jordan by his father, a good friend of Yosef’s.
Everything that is essential for daily living is available in Paris Circle. We have the Stop and Shop that sells every item a household could want or need, including a food counter with ready made entrées, cheese and condiments. Stop and Shop has every soft drink in the world, including canned coffee from Taiwan, kitchenwares and mouse traps.
The Arab bank is in the Paris Circle (for withdrawing and exchanging money) and there are plenty of cafes within the first block of the five intersecting streets that converge in the circle. We also have shops for stationary, Jordan Hand Crafts, Mosaic Tile (and ceramic ware), beads and thread, fresh fruit and vegetables, hookah lounges and restaurants, and an internet cafe.
The internet cafe, @Cafe, is owned by Amjad Al Barcothy (pictured in the photograph).
Today my mission was to get photocopies of documents. I thought I’d need to traverse a million steps to find a copy place Downtown. I was pleasantly surprised to find Amjad’s @Cafe in Paris Circle. It is the second shop from the Circle on the street next to Sandra Flowers and More. @Cafe charges one JD per hour for use of one of their many laptops, free coffee and photocopies for ten piaster’s per page, with a discount for seven or more copies. It is open from ten in the morning until one in the morning. Amjad and I had an enjoyable lengthy conversation, using the translator on one of his laptops, while Mohammad printed photocopies of my documents.
Now that I’m familiar with the neighborhood, I feel more comfortable about branching out into greater Amman. The shops are, almost on the whole, owned by generation after generation of the same family. The family business has been passed down from one generation to the next, ad infinitum. Each generation has pride of ownership that is evidenced in the quality of their service and hospitable interaction. As I said before, I couldn’t have been plopped in a better place in Jordan than Jabal Al Weibdeh (pronounced, and sometimes spelled, Web-dah).
Each day and night I do some beading on the canvas. Beading through thick, heavy canvas isn’t easy, and the light at night is not good, but art must go on!