Jordan (Some)Times

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THE (Occasional) JORDAN (Some)TIMES

Sunday 6 January 2002
Volume 1, Issue 1

- Weather Information for Amman:
Yesterday - sunny in the morning with little wind, cloudy in the afternoon / high temperature 14C / 57F
Today - (supposed to be) High of 6C/42F and Low of -2C/29F with snow
Tomorrow - High of 4C/39F and Low of -1C/30F with chance of snow
15 January - Snow expected (as predicted by Pierre Bikai, Director of ACOR)

- Tourist Information for Jordan:
We have no tourist information to report at this time as there are no tourists, which means no lines, no crowds, lots of competition by businesses like car rentals and hotels and reduced entry fees at Jordanian sites (50% = 10 JD [$14] for Petra entrance) and reduction of visa fee (U.S. now ca. 8 JD) and airport departure tax (now 5 JD). The downside: unemployment in Jordan is somewhere around 15-20%.

- Al-wadeh / the "situation"
Everyone calls it al-wadeh, the "situation." No one minds talking about it. The basic message is remarkably consistent from virtually all segments of Jordanian society with which I have come in contact. Al-wadeh, the political situation in the Middle East, is, as we would expect, on everyone's mind, especially those with Palestinian roots in the West Bank. Carmen and I have been in the company of several friends (some in their homes, some in ours) since arriving here a week ago. The conversation somehow at some point in some way gravitates to al-wadeh.

As always, I am welcomed with open arms and supplied with all things hospitable. And, as always, questions about how the U.S. and Israel are aligned. Foreigners, however limited in number in Jordan today, are most welcome (ahlan wa-sahlan!), but U.S. foreign policy still remains a puzzlement to most here. It is not all that much different from feelings I picked up in the immediate aftermath of the Gulf War of 1991. Whatever the ultimate truth of this extremely complex matter, these are the sentiments I hear. To keep up with Jordanian perspectives, visit the (real) Jordan Times website at www.jordantimes.com.

In terms of the atmosphere in Jordan today, it is most pleasantly quiet and peaceful. I have reports from the directors of ACOR, the American Center of Oriental Research, where I am a resident senior fellow; the principal of ATC, the Amman Training College where the MPP-`Umayri team stays in the southern Amman suburb of Muqabalayn; the Director-General of the DAJ; and the U.S. Embassy that, while there are always some risks involved whenever and wherever people travel in the Middle East (probably no more so than in Los Angeles or Detroit, I suspect, but not Walla Walla, or course), the Kingdom of Jordan has experienced no incidents which have in any way endangered visitors from other countries. The 24-hour police guard at ACOR does add some comfort as well. The principal of ATC, Dr. Saleh Naji (formerly vice-principal), expressed what he thought everyone there felt, that the MPPites inhabiting ATC over the past several seasons have conducted themselves in ways resulting in trust and confidence among members of the college staff and the community.

- Archaeological Update:
Part of my task while in Jordan is to maintain connections with the Department of Antiquities of Jordan (DAJ). In a half-hour visit to the DAJ last week, I was able to visit the Director-General, Dr. Fawwaz al-Khraysheh, for a few minutes, the new associate in charge of most matters related to digs (Rula Qasous, long-time friend of MPP), the editor of Studies on the History and Archaeology of Jordan (Khairieh `Amr) and Abdel Sami` Abu Dayyeh who directed part of the restoration of `Umayri several years ago. This is quite remarkable, as everyone knows who goes to the DAJ, having sometimes taken days to make appointments which occasionally work and occasionally don't. Carmen and I just walked in off the street. Maybe it was the fact that Carmen was with me? It was nice to have the Director-General point out to us that our MPP-`Umayri 2002 poster was hanging in the entryway of the DAJ.

- The News from ACOR Amman:
Well, it's been a quiet week in ACOR Amman, my home town. Quiet on the political front and slow economically, but not for me as I have only been in Jordan for a couple days beyond one week and have been busy making arrangements here and there for my six-month sabbatical at ACOR and then the dig season at `Umayri this summer. Getting the 375.5 pounds of luggage unpacked took nearly three weeks by itself. And now we have made arrangements for communication via email (my Jordanian email address is , to which my WWC email address will soon be forwarded automatically) and phone (no, I am not planning to tell everyone in the world my new mobile [=cellular] phone number) with international capabilities for sending and receiving and, because it came with the rental vehicle I got, it only costs me for the minutes I use. I have also kept busy renewing friendships and making official visits.

But, probably the most important event of the week happened three or four days ago with the decision of a lifetime involving which of the madly courting car rental companies to engage in a deal. Not a shopper by nature, I have to admit it seemed to me something of an adventure to visit two establishments in the King Abdullah Gardens mall with glass store fronts facing each other to see which would give us the best deal on a small 4X4. Every time we went into the Rally Rental Company office, the Avis people watched. Every time we came out of the Avis office, the Rally people were looking at us across the counter. At one point, having left one company and headed down the mall, we were accosted by a representative of the other company with a better offer. The sad part of the story is that there is simply no business to be had for these companies, further adding to the economic woes of the country. This makes for a buyers' market, however, and it served us well. And we don't feel too bad as we were planning to make a contract for eight months, which would provide steady income on the car for over half a year.

Our options: a black, two-door, 2.0-liter-engine, stubby-looking 4X4, something-or-other-brand- name vehicle (resembles Tonka, but I don't think that was it) or a bright red, snappy little puppy with all kinds of features - four tires (no, make that five with the spare), 4-wheel drive on the fly, a silver skirt around it (sharpens it up a lot!), a rear-window wiper (this model also had front-window wipers), electric windows and locks, a sunroof and, get this, a spoiler fin on the back for high-speed stability. And high speed it gives, what with a 1.4-liter Briggs and Stratton, four-stroke engine which at 100 kph approaches 4000 rpm. Sheesh! This rubber band is wrapped tight! What a machine it was to see on the lot-a Daihatsu Terios! And we had to choose between the two. Given what we knew at the time (and the fact that at home we each have a red vehicle-Carmen a bright red Oldsmobile and me a brick-red Jeep Cherokee)(and the fact that keeping a black automobile clean in the summertime in Jordan seemed pointless, especially in the dust-free environment of dirt archaeology)(and, oh, the fact that the red vehicle cost about 200 JD less per month than the other)(and, of course, we would have a full tank of gas with which to begin), there really was no choice at all. Turned out to be a no-brainer. We went for the Daihatsu. And because it is about half the size of my Cherokee at home, we have decided to call it "Jeepers." It is truly a thing of beauty, a sight to behold. Oh, the heads it doesn't turn on the streets of Amman!

Already Jeepers has taken us several places. I drove on Thursday to ATC to renew contact with the new principal of the college and plan for the coming summer. I was met with hugs and kisses all around. The principal and business manager were more than gracious. The guards, overjoyed to see me, smothered me with cheek-kisses. Come to think of it, I was standing in front of Jeepers when I greeted them, so maybe they just liked my new wheels. In any case, it was good to see them all again and plans appear to be in place, although our letter needs to go through several chains of command before being approved.

Jeepers also took Carmen and me, along with two ACOR fellows, John and Diane (both Aqabites), on a grand tour Saturday of the major MPP sites-`Umayri, Hisban and Jalul. Normally observing these sites under the dry conditions of summer, I had a difficult time adjusting to the brilliant green carpet of grass over the entire landscape. Rainfall has been reasonably good so far this autumn, but the country need lots more before the rainy season ends in April. But all three sites are in good condition. The workers we paid at `Umayri to clear the dry moat all the way to bedrock seem to have been more pleased with the pay than with the instructions, as about a meter of earth still remains. Otherwise, the consolidation and restoration of the site have proven very worthwhile in the state of preservation now apparent. Some clandestine excavation going on in the northeast portion of Field B, where another large Iron 2 pithos (partially buried in the east balk) has been uncovered. Hisban looks better every time I visit it. Further clearance of the Mamluk complex on the top has revealed a lot about this remarkable structure and helped us make sense of previously excavated bits and pieces. Jalul seems to be surviving the off-season well, although all those deep text-book balks of ash and loess are eroding somewhat. Lots to be uncovered here; many years of work ahead!

The only other destination location to which Jeepers took us was C-Town in the Amman Mall. Not being a shopper, I only helped facilitate others in the shopping process. Costs money, time, energy, patience fighting traffic, virtues of clean language, everything. That's what shopping costs a person. Might lead an otherwise religious person to cuss a bit, maybe say something like "jeepers" or perhaps even something worse.

Well, that's the news from ACOR Amman, where all the directors are strong, the office staff is good looking and all the ACOR fellows are above average.

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Editor: Doug Clark
Assoc. Editor: Doug Clark
Managing Editor: Doug Clark
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