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art. language. travel

A Few Nights in Jordan

Guest Post by Asha Kansal

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Every other year or so I am lucky enough to have the chance to visit family in India. Traditionally, after our big, fun visits there I extend one of my layovers back to the States in order to take advantage and explore another country. This time around I was determined to visit a friend of mine who had recently moved back home to Jordan. I’ve been to the Middle East only once before (another extended layover) and got to see about 5 hours worth of Dubai. But this visit would be different. In the end I would be there for a little over a week.

My other key motivation to visit was to see for myself what a piece of the Middle East is really like. I’m fed up being told by an ignorant and biased media what to think and believe. Even the term Middle East makes some cringe. The more I interact with Arabic people in the U.S. the more I realize what a diverse, intellectual, and fascinating part of the world they come from! It is becoming increasingly worrisome that the atmosphere in too much of the U.S. is becoming conducive towards hate and racism against a culture that some are too lazy to even try to understand and respect. So I wanted to see for myself what Jordan has to offer, despite a slew of dear friends and family telling me to reconsider because “it’s too risky.”20160121_164706

Before going I had no idea what to expect. I’m an American girl in my late 20s, and I was just thankful that I have this ambiguous brown skin and dark hair which would help me blend in. The first few times that people asked me where I’m from, when they realized I wouldn’t respond back to their Arabic questions, I hesitated to say “America” out of fear that they would have some negative feelings towards our country for some reason I don’t even know. But 100% of the time, Jordanians, young, old, fluent or not in English, taxi driver or acquaintance, would say “welcome” with a smile that was genuine and respectful. Some days I would just meander through the streets alone, taking in the sights, getting lost occasionally, and making small talk with street vendors. Every single interaction with someone there was positive. They see no reason to discriminate!20160120_142813

On nights that we went out, bars would sometimes be swanky enough that I felt underdressed in my expensive jackets and red lipstick. Even their martinis are better than ours.

Cafes on all nights are packed with a mix of people smoking hookah and drinking the biggest variety of delicious non-alcoholic drinks you could imagine. Women in hijabs, women without, friends mingling, old and young, Christians, non-Christians…it was an eclectic mix wherever I went.

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I traveled to Jarash and hiked around the ancient Roman ruins that lie 50 kilometers from Syria. I was so grateful to have such a beautiful experience there. In such a magnificent and breathtaking place, it was completely empty of tourists, due to the unfounded fear that the city is too risky to visit now, due to ISIS’ presence in 2 different countries outside of Jordan.

The Dead Sea was an extraordinary experience. With the high salinity of the water, all you can do is float and bob around in the water; even swimming to the deepest parts is safe as it’s impossible to drown! It’s tradition to get a full-body mud pack from the black, gooey mud straight from the bottom of the sea. It’s chalk full of nutrients for the skin. You can get a lovely and eerily close look at Palestine from the coast as well.20160119_160226

Amman itself offers such a cool mix of things to do. Their shopping malls are like the U.S, except you can sit down and have some hookah in the middle of the mall if you want a break! There are plenty of neat cafes, restaurants, and bars to hang out at, with a surprisingly big number of Westerners enjoying life there. Amman has its own special Roman ruins and amphitheater, part of which impressively sit on top of a hill near the center of the city. Visiting a Hammam and getting the biggest full-body exfoliation and bath of your life by experienced women is another amazing experience! It’s a fascinating city to be in and the people in it make it that much more fun and interesting – good conversation is never hard to find.20160119_161838

I want to share my experience so that people get used to hearing the term “Middle East” and not immediately associate it with “war,” “ISIS,” and “terrorism.” The world is made up of so many different cultures that all we can do is respect one another and even learn a little from each other. There’s no reason to hate. It just doesn’t do any good. And as stupid and common sense as that sounds to me, there are millions of people who do just that towards Arabs.20160118_151130

What an eye-opening experience that I hope to continue to expand upon! Not everything is how we think we understand; we can truly understand that which we actually experience.

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Asha Kansal is a graduate of Linguistics/TESL at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, currently working as a full time ESL instructor. She’s an aspiring travel and food blogger.

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EVENT: The Pre-Emptive Bulldozer

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The Media is invited to an URGENT exchange on the above subject, in the context of the demolition of the Artists’ Village at the National Theatre, Iganmu. The venue of this exchange could not be more symbolic and pertinent, since Freedom Park itself is the product of a spirited struggle by a few individuals who were committed to a creative option for the disposition of national landmarks, pitted against real-estate developers.

Please make time to join, and contribute to, the debate.

VENUE: Freedom Park.
DATE: Tuesday, Jan 26
TIME: 11 a.m. Please be PUNCTUAL.

This Press invitation is being copied to the Federal Minister for Information and Culture, as Special Invitee.

Convener: Wole Soyinka.

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For background, read this long Facebook post by Qudus Onikeku about the National Theatre DG ((Kabiru Yusuf)’s armed invasion of the Artists’ Village in Lagos on Saturday, January 23, 2016.

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Secret Lives… in London

Rosemary Ajayi - Open Rehearsals v2Rosemary Ajayi - Open Rehearsals v3 Rosemary Ajayi - Open Rehearsals Kayoko Yamakoe Marcy v3 Olufunmilola v3 Patrice v2 Patrice v3 FEJ v4 FEJ v5 FEJ v6 FEJ v3 Anuska & Kayoko AyoDele v4 FabricThe director of the stage adaptation of the Lọlá Shónẹ́yìn’s The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives, Mr. Fẹmi Elúfowójù Jr., sent me these pictures from Workshop Production last month in London. The Elufowoju jr Ensemble will be meeting with the Theatre Royal in a couple of weeks with a view to discussing securing a firm and positive decision re a full co-production for later this year.

The adaptation was written by Rótìmí Babátúndé.

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Petition to Stop the Prosecution of Performance Artist Jelili Atiku.

Jelili was accused of public disturbance with his performance of 14th January 2016 at Ejigbo community in Lagos. The arrest, detention and ongoing trial is a flagrant abuse of the artist’s fundamental human right as enshrined in the Nigerian constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Banjul Charter on Human and People’s Rights, the Belgrade Recommendations on the Rights and Status of the Artist, the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, all of which Nigeria is a party to. It also shows the level of impunity with which some powerful individuals in the society use the police and magistrate courts to oppress individuals exercising their freedom of expression through artistic creations. This should not be allowed to continue!
CORA/Arterial Network Nigeria and the Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA) have formally submitted a joint petition to the Commissioner of Police in Lagos CP Fatai Owoseni, the Attorney-General/Commissioner for Justice Barrister Kazeem Adeniji and the Governor of Lagos State, His Excellency Mr Akinwunmi Ambodefor their urgent intervention to drop the criminal charges instituted against the artist.
It is Atiku today, it may be anybody else tomorrow! We invite you to support this campaign against injustice, oppression and malicious prosecution of an innocent citizen by enemies of freedom of artistic expression.

Add your voice! Please click the link below to sign the petition to drop the charges against Jelili Atiku
http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/petition-to-drop-criminal-charges-against-artist

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Nigerian Artists in Solidarity with Ashraf Fayadh

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If you are in Lagos today, please join Africa’s first Nobel Laureate in Literature Prof. Wole Soyinka and other eminent artists in solidarity with Ashraf Fayadh.

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Events: READING, PERFORMANCES, CONVERSATION(s)

Date: THURSDAY, JANUARY 14, 2016

Time: 4PM

Venue: Freedom Park (Old Colonial Prison Ground),

1 Hospital Road (by Broad Street) Lagos

On Ashraf Fayadh

Ashraf, 35, has been active in the art scene in Saudi Arabia and has organized and curated exhibitions of Saudi art in Europe and Saudi Arabia. A key member of the British-Saudi art organisation Edge of Arabia, he was originally sentenced to four years in prison and 800 lashes by the general court in Abha, a city in the south-west of the ultraconservative kingdom, in May 2014. But after his appeal was dismissed he was retried recently, and a new panel of judges ruled that his repentance did not prevent his execution.

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