All things considered, a 0410 wake up is not too bad for my first day in Amman- just in time for the first call to Prayer. The morning is cool (55 FO on my iPhone). The sounds of spring- time birds fill the air over the gentle hum of the hotel air conditioners. I am 3 shawarma’s and 1 coffee deep into my first adventure in Jordan! So, I will try this blogging thing- recall I can’t tweet and I only venture on to Facebook to throw out occasional rants about the political lunacy in the US.
I arrived at Queen Alia International Airport last night after a pretty uneventful 12 hour flight from Chicago O’hare. My seatmate was named Joe, an Indian National who works in telecom out of Kuwait City and coincidently enough, does some tele-health infrastructure work.
“It’s all about bandwidth”, Joe told me. Yep, and getting it mobile, and powered, and having the right tech team and medical team on both ends, and having an easy, common sense interface that links with some universal platform that can do analysis and mapping… But, I digress.
My driver and fixer is named Muhammad (Moh’D) Shabakeh (Shabakeh meaning “Network” is now also the common parlance for Internet). So, jokingly, I asked if he referred to his son as “ibn Shabakeh”- of the Internet (I can actually hear my wife groaning in Charlotte). Fortunately, Moh’D sense of humor is apparently as demented as mine and he got a good laugh out of it. Moh’D is Palestinian and Jordanian. So far, he is hooking me up.
Moh’D gave me a brief run- down of the city. Amman is the capital of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. It is a richly historic and complex city. Even a simple question like, “How many people live here” gets a variety of answers.
• Wiki (2010) 2.8 million
• CIA world factbook (2009) 1.088 million
• UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (USISDR): 4.04 million
Moh’d says between 5 and 6 million people (though he may mean all of Jordan). 2.5 million Jordanians, 1.5 million Syrians, 500,000 Iraqi’s, 500,000 Egyptians.
Amman is divided into the Old City (Seven Mountains) and the New City (Seven Towers). The city now spans 19 mountains and has an elevation of 700-11oo meters which keeps it relatively cool (comparatively in the Middle East). There are apparently 7 circles (roundabouts) in the city that are landmarks for neighborhoods and food- I will revisit this for accuracy later.
3rd Circle Amman
Last night’s dinner was at the Circle 2, Reem Shawarma. Reem is a hole in the wall Shawarma shop with a bunch of guys packed into a kitchen with a register. A huge cone shaped piece of lamb rotates on the spit and scores of people pack the side walk waiting for food or eating their meals. 1 shawarma runs (0.5-1 JD or ~$1.25-1.50 USD).
Circle 2 Shawarma
I tried not to dive too deeply into the work side of the trip last night, but it will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that the conversation quickly turned to the challenges facing the families and communities in Jordan. The responses were uniform and completely in line with the various assessments, reports and opinion pieces I studied prior
One father I spoke with about healthcare gave this response, “On one side you have free but poor quality care from the government. On the other side is expensive private care- that I can’t afford. So, what do you do?” Now, to be honest, I don’t know if this reflects the general perception (though it is consistent with many large scale population surveys) or, frankly, if the question would be answered differently in any other country around the globe.
The fact is that Jordan is largely landlocked, has no significant oil resources, and has a rapidly expanding population (one issue they are aggressively addressing). They have graciously taken in around 600,000-800,000 refugees from the Iraq War and post war violence and now are hosting between 600,000 and 800,000 refugees from the Syrian Civil War (Note: I am a stats guy or a population surveyor and this is the best I can tell from my research). So, this country of 6.7 million people has taken in- call it 1.5 million new visitors/guests/neighbors in the past decade (23% of its population). Put in context, that would be like the US taking in 72 million Canadians and Mexicans. The magnitude of the challenges is staggering.
Today, I have my first meetings. Time for some last minute preparation.
Signing off 0545
It was not until 1938 that congress passed a billion-dollar naval construction cheap essay act, but then it was too little, too late