Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Eid in Amman

Finally Ramadan came to an end, and with it came Eid holidays. I was lucky to be invited by my friend Somaya to join her family for Eid festivities one afternoon. Somaya came back a few months ago from a Fullbright fellowship in Michigan where she taught Arabic language and culture. We met at the Abdali flea market on one of my first days in Amman, and exchanged ideas about the similarities and differences between the way of doing things in the Middle East and the West. She is a fantastic young woman.

I arrived at her house and her mother offered me home-made Mamoul (date cookies) and tea. Her 3 sisters were home, and a family friend was visiting (this is Eid tradition to visit family members and friends during the 3 days celebrations). Her very sweet father brought out a stack of about 300 pictures of the trip his wife and he had made a few years ago to their family's home village nearby Jerusalem, and explained each one with animation. Her mother let me come to the kitchen and watch her make Mansaf (the quintessential Jordanian meal). I chatted with Somaya and her sisters, and then her brother (who was home from Riyadh Saudi Arabia) came and discussed the similarities between Jordan and the Gulf, and his plans to become engaged during this trip home. We shared a lovely Mansaf meal together.

The day after that, my last day in the country, we planned to make a carnival for children in King Abdullah Gardens camp. I was out and about the day prior to that, and spontaneously met my friends Kadar, Mahmoud, and Hashim at the Souk, buying supplies for the kids. I joined them for a time. Later that night we assembled more than 750 bags of treats for the kids in the camp. Unfortunately later that night I ate something that made me feel really, really sick. I didn't eat anything the next day, and went on the trip to the camp (though I knew it might

 be a bad idea.  I felt really sad that I wasn't full of energy like normal. We played some ball games
 with the kids, Mahmoud dressed up as a clown and entertained them, and then we painted their faces. All the girls requested butterflies, and all the boys wanted the flag of the Syrian Opposition. At one point, while I was amidst the crowd watching Mahmoud the clown, a woman came with her small baby (probably only 2-3 months old) and told me that she had survived the massacre at Houla. I can't even imagine what it's like to see the things she has seen!

It was pretty chaotic and by the end of our visit, with the people in the camp (who grow more and more restless every day that they spent cooped-up in this small place) gathered together in the middle of the camp to stage an impromptu rally chanting, “The people want a change of regime!” I thought for a moment that the Jordanian army guards would be upset, but they remained relatively calm about the situation. I think that they are growing used to this. It was nice to see familiar faces at King Abdullah camp, and others who recognized me from my prior visit and came to greet me. Life is hard there, and I hope that soon they will be able to return to their homes. I hope for the chance to visit them in their own country when things settle down. In shallah peace will return to their country soon!

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