Day 3: Roman Ruins and Modern Ministers
On the third day, we started out our day by going off to see the Center for Strategic Studies and meeting with Dr. Mahjoob Zweiri, who spoke about his studies about the region and the regional conflicts, including trouble areas such as Iran, and the Arab-Israeli conflict.
He also spoke about the effects of the economic crisis on Jordan, mentioned their minimal negative ramifications on the region due to the low price of oil helping the government.
He mentioned the importance of media to Middle East politics, saying he believes it will help shape the political arena of the region due to its ability to shape public opinion.
Zweiri explained that he thinks the problems in the world today come from a lack of leadership throughout the world, saying that there is a problem with maturity in politics.
The next stop was certainly less business oriented and more on the side of tourism. After our meeting Center for Strategic Studies, we drove over to see the beautiful city of Jerash or as it was written in ancient Greek – “Gerasa.”
The city itself is full of ancient Roman ruins. While I have seen my fair share of Roman ruins, and particularly Roman amphitheaters, all throughout Europe (I think the count is somewhere between 3 and 5 by now), it is quite different to see them in the Middle East. We wandered among the ruins, through the various gates and even heard our own voice echo while standing at the center of the amphitheater stage. Of course, being the big kid that I am, I then proceeded to run up to the very top of the amphitheater and look down. Stairmaster galore.
After getting in our daily share of culture, we got back to business and the city. Our next meeting was at EDAMA with Karim Kawar, who actually attended Boston College. The initiative which he heads is focused on environmental issues and their affects on Jordan such as energy, water and the environment.
As Jordan is one of the most water-poor countries in the world, this is certainly a topic that came up again with many other ministers. Kawar spoke about the importance of desalination of Jordan’s water supply and the danger of the low levels of the Dead Sea. He almost noted that agriculture was consuming a significant amount of the water supply and that of this farming was being outsourced to Sudan.
Kawar mentioned that nuclear energy was being considered to help with the country’s energy supply in addition to the solar energy and the solar panels being used in some parts of the country.
The next and last briefing of the day was at the Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs where we met with Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh. Judeh spoke primarily about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Jordanian and American involvement in the issue. He noted that while both Israel and the Palestinian Authority have approved the roadmap for peace, there is still much to be done.
As with many other Jordanian officials, he reemphasized the Jordanian official position on the issue, repeating the words of King Abdullah II about working for progress rather than process. As many others as well, Minister Judeh mentioned that many in the region expected President Obama to deal with the economic crisis first, but were surprised at how dedicated he was to reaching out for peace in the region from his very first couple days in office.
He noted, once again as other leaders did, that the fundamentalists use the lack of a Palestinian state as a playing card in their actions, citing it as an excuse for violence. He said that taking this card away leaves little room for excuses.
After a short break, we attended dinner hosted by Hashemite court at Lebanese restaurant. In attendance were two media and communication advisors to the king. While the food was very good, I did not notice much of a difference between Jordanian and Lebanese cuisine. The only major visible distinction was the dessert part of the meal, which included very good cheese blintz-type dessert with a sugary syrup and a cake made of thin noodle-like dough and a cream in between. Both were very delicious, as was the outing that the group of journalists attended after the dinner. We went to an Arabian nights themed lounge, where we had several Jordanian brewed Amstels and watched some very strange music videos on the large projector screen, including a dancing baby, which I now know is called “One Desire” by Jakarta.
Watch it here!