Day 2: Briefings, Broadsheets and Banquets
Yesterday, on our first day of meetings and activities, I learned two expressions in Arabic on our way to the ministry.
Saba aher – Good morning.
Shukran – Thank you.
Our guide on the bus told us that he will try to teach us a couple words every day. This seems like a solid start. Throughout the day, we had several briefings and a few tours.
The morning included a meeting with Dr. Nabil Al-Sharif – the Minister of Media and Communication, who let us know that Jordan is at an important time in its history, as King Abdullah II will soon be celebrating 10 years in his role and the reforms he has managed to make throughout his time as a leader.
The minister continued by talking about the current major hotspots of the region, including Israel and Iraq. He explained that it is impossible for Jordan to separate itself from either conflict because of its proximity and involvement in the region. He spoke about what issues and whom he thinks is to blame for the problems in Israel. In addition, he expressed Jordan’s interest in the Arab Peace Initiative, which basically would provide Israel with recognition from Arabic states in return for the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Al-Sharif also expressed the importance of President Obama’s upcoming speech in Cairo and how the entire region is awaiting to hear what he will have to say.
In addition to discussing various conflicts, Al-Sharif also covered topics relating to Jordan’s lack of water supply as well as the refugee situation.
One thing we learned throughout this first day is that anywhere and everywhere we went, we would be served tea. At every briefing we attended, we were served drinks, if not refreshments as well. Another thing we also came to terms, yet another journalistic lesson, we will be hearing a lot of diplomatic and suave curbing of issues rather than substantial information, unless we speak to unofficial people.
Our next stop was the Ad-Dustour Newspaper, where we were given a tour and served tea or coffee once again. The managing editor, Ahmad Shakar, spoke to us through a female staff member from the paper, who translated his words and his answers for us. We learned about the history of the paper as well as his opinion on the changing media landscape, the Jordanian journalistic self-censorship and how the US is viewed in Jordan. It always amazes me just how much some of the world is led to think that the US media is one-sided and conservative, where I had certainly learned from my experience as a student and intern, that this is quite the opposite in our media world. Shakar expressed a concern for writers who take a news feed and simply remake it without doing their own homework, but he told us that he felt confident in our group as new generation of journalists.
A short break from briefings took us to the citadel in Amman, where we saw the view from the top as well as several pieces of the region’s history, including the Greek, Byzantine and Islamic history of the small space. We visited the archeological museum, which traced the region’s history from the stone age and included some of the leather Dead Sea Scrolls.
Our final briefing of the day was at the US Embassy of Jordan, where the security was certainly the tightest. We met with some senior US officials and to our chagrin, once again heard a lot of diplomatic talk about the great relationship between Jordan and the US over the past 60 years. Of course, some of that is certainly true, but true to journalistic form, we don’t really care about the good and happy stuff. We want conflict and complications.
After returning to our hotel for some time off before our dinner, we got back on our bus and headed off to dinner and more cultural experiences.
The restaurant, Kan Zaman, is located on a hilltop and is surrounded by small shops and entertainers. The place looked like a ranch with it stone fortress type build and it’s open nature. In addition to a lavish buffet of the salads and meats will have been eating on a regular basis already, there was musical entertainment and part of the way through dinner, we saw a group begin to dance as well.
After dinner, we headed to the artisan shops on the hilltop, and were entertained as we shopped for gifts and souvenirs. One man offered to write our names in Arabic and make silver necklaces. While I passed on that, I bought several gifts with some bargaining skills and managed to even receive a free souvenir because of my “beautiful smile.” As we wandered the craft shops, one man taught us how to play some of the instruments he was selling. While we did not buy any of them, some of us managed to have a go on the drums or even some old-fashioned string instruments.
Watch a video of us learning to drum!
The night ended well, though a little late for the jet-lagged sleep that was to come. Here’s hoping that the jet-lag will subside soon.
~ by Olga Belogolova on June 1, 2009.