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Jordan re-launched! Dreaming big again..

Jordan survived the global financial crisis, the arab spring, the war in syria and the emergence of ISIS. It has been a difficult 7 years since the global financial crisis hit the country in 2009. At the time, it took us 2 years to understand the toll of the crisis and start putting our economy back on track, but the region was boiling, and the arab spring erupted. Arab regimes crumbled one after the other, countries collapsed, and civil wars erupted.

The Jordanians regime felt the heat of the arab spring. The risks were too high this time. Demonstrations hit the streets every Friday for more than two years raising high slogan that didn’t shy of calling for the fall of the regime. The government struggled to please protestors at the beginning and meet their demands. Promises after promises were made, some for legitimate demands, and some not, some been kept and some been forgotten. The regime acted wisely and didn’t use brute force to silent protestors. There been some violations but they managed to cool down the streets and overcome the arab spring.

With the regime’s focus shifting from economical development into maintaining the country’s stability and manoeuvring the political pressure, the economical situation struggled. Tourism dried, ICT sector fall off, the film industry growth lost momentum, and refugees’ influx added to the rise of unemployment rates. Jordan seemed to be losing all of the development that happened between 2000-2009.

It was only last year that the regime felt secured that it is over the arab spring. Finally, its focus is shifted back now to the much needed economical development.

The World Economic Forum is taking place now again in the dead sea. It seems that the government has put some efforts into planning for a rapid economical rise to seize the chance of such an important global gathering of investors. The video issued highlighting completed and upcoming major projects and opportunities in the country is high quality. It shows high profile investors and economical leaders who testify positively in favour economical opportunities in the country. Jordan is about to rise. It is re-launching.

Re-launching Jordan focuses also on reviving tourism. The Jordanian tourism board has been doing some nice work recently using social media, inviting bloggers and prominent tweeps and instagram celebrities to show what the country has to offer. They did a good job by teaming with Tarab 3al 7atab, a Jordanian talented young group, to produce this cool commercial:

King Abdullah has just appeared on CNN two days ago emphasising the human capital of the country. He said that he hopes to attract Jordanian talents who left to work in other countries back.

With much hope and believe in this country, we are happy to see Jordan re-launched. Jordan is young, resilient and has big ambition. God bless Jordan!

And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it!

Alef’s brotherhood aims for a better arab world in 2030: Interviewing Tarek Abdo

Alef is by far my favourite book club in Amman, I believe that I am their favourite author too. I had three great sessions with them last year; at the beginning of the year we discussed “Aroos Amman” (The Bride of Amman) and had a successful public open discussion about homosexuality. Later in the year, they organised a book conference and invited me to present my new book “Janna Ala Al Ard”. A week after that, they hosted me for a first thorough discussion around the concepts of longevity, life and death and other philosophical matters I presented in the book.

Tarek Abdo

Tarek Abdo

Tarek Abdo is the founder of Alef. He is one of those young Jordanians who believe that change can happen and that it is within our hands to overturn the course of events that plagued our societies in the past few decades. He is set on a mission to change the Arab world into a better one.

Alef is not just another book club, it is a social movement that started a change and will make a change. I had the chance to talk to Tarek and asked him the following questions:

Fadi: Hi Tarek, as I said in the introduction, Alef is more than a book club, it is more of a social movement. In your words, you call it a brotherhood. Tell us more about Alef, what is it exactly? How did it start? And what’s your vision for it?

Tarek: Alef club is a non-profit service organization with a stated vision “A better arab world in 2030”, it is a secular organization open to all persons regardless of race, color, creed, religion, gender, or political preference.

tarek2Established in 2012 and organized multiple local events, and three conferences, in addition to special boot camp trainings, the members of ALEF club are known as “A” member.

Members meet every week to discuss books, movies or other subjects. Such social events help us realize our vision.

Alef’s primary motto is “Read to lead”.

Alef brotherhood it is a secret group of leaders that serve and organize our events, 
if you want to know more about them you have to become a member first.

Fadi: In the conference you explained the name Alef. Why Alef? Is it the first letter of the Arabic Alphabets?

Tarek: Yes Alef is the first letter of all alphabet languages. The letter aleph looks like the human being body however if you take a look on our logo you will see the fusion between the human entity and the letter aleph.

Alef logo

Alef logo

Fadi: We are also intrigued to know about Tarek Abdo. How old are you? What did you study? What are you currently doing? And what are your plans for the near future?

Tarek: I am 24 years old, finished my bachelor’s studies in Marketing from 
Amman Al-Ahliyya University and planning to pursue a master’s degree in Business administration. I am also working on my dream project “a public speaking academy”.

My next step in the next year is to grow with Alef and go global, starting from Dubai, Cairo and Morocco.

Fadi: Growing a book club must be a challenge in the Arab world. In my 3 sessions with you guys, I noticed a wide reach that I haven’t noticed in other book clubs. How do you reach out to people? Who are your audience? How many other people help you? What obstacles did you face in growing this book club?

tarek1Tarek: hehe this is one of our secrets Fadi. In the Arab world, the book has a nerdy stamp; readers are usually known as nerdy and boring. Here in Alef we break this wall, we carry the book to the entertainment department, we are cool readers, we do a lot of crazy things, we ask the forbidden questions, and we try to find an answer to it. We actually want to start the change .

Fadi: I have always said that what we need to do in order to revive the culture of reading in the arab world is bringing the cool factor to the books, thanks for helping in doing that! 

Do you see the popularity of the book growing among youth in Jordan? What do you think are the factors that still standing against a mainstream reading culture?

Tarek: I think yes the reading habit started to grow between the youth, because the main factor against this culture is the forbidden questions.

Nowadays there are a lot of young leaders who make the right decision to start asking. They seek the right answers where they can find it best – the book

Fadi: I really enjoyed most of the speaking sessions at the conference. It is an annual conference, right? Tell us more about it? Where did the idea come from? What do you intend to achieve with it? Is it easy to find support/funds for such important cultural activities?

Tarek: First of all, I would like to thank you Fadi for coming to our conference, This idea came from our team after 4 months of starting the club. We thought about a new step for Alef and looked into mass media. We decided on a yearly event to be a speech conference about reading culture and it actually worked.

me at Alef conference

me at Alef conference

Honestly it’s very difficult to organize such event, because there are little companies who are interested in supporting the reading audience in Jordan, but our team has found the way to persuade some companies and it also worked.

We also got the full support from Princess Sumayya University in the last conference.

Fadi: How successful was the conference this year? Give us numbers.

– 225 attendance (133 positive feed backs / 5 negative)
– 10 speakers (2 authors, 2 Writers, 2 book clubs founders, 4 Alef Members)
– 3 sponsorships
– 15 volunteers
– 15 social media volunteers
– 4 coordinators
– 25 trending the hashtag of the conference on twitter
– More than 100 signed copy sold for Fadi Zaghmout new book “janna ala al ard”

with Alef's team

with Alef’s team

Fadi: Haha, you helped me sell many books in the conference, thank you for that!

In one of the sessions at the conference you introduced Alef’s debate club. It reminds me of the debate you hosted for me earlier in the year around homosexuality. One thing that I admire about Alef is that you don’t shy of discussing any issue. You are always ready to talk about any topic no matter how sensitive it is culturally, religiously or politically. I see that a formula of success and a needed breath of air in the country. Tell us more about the debate club. When will it start? Do you have any policy in regards of topics planned to be discussed?

Tarek: It will be one of the most important achievements this year, it’s a world class club which discusses everything with no limits, and we call it ASPRDC: ALEF, SEX, POLITICS, RELIGION, DEBATE, CLUB, with a slogan says: “We Talk Up to the Sky”. But it needs more time because of the security approvals and other operational issues we expect to launch it on 1st of July 2015.

Fadi: I know what you are a big fan of Paulo Coelho. Did he help implanting the seed of believing in yourself and what you could achieve in your heart? Which of his books is your favourite? Any favourite quote for him?

tarek3Tarek: Oh, Paulo Coelho inspired me when I was down and flooded in fail and doubt, then one of my close friends recommended the alchemist novel to me. I found myself in that novel, I felt like I was Santiago, and Coelho was talking to me, it was such a miracle! Coelho was my guide to the road of success, his books makes me a better person, who loves life, and understand why I’m here.

“and when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it” That’s my favourite quote!

Tarek Abdo as the Alchemist

Tarek Abdo as the Alchemist

Fadi: That’s one of my favourite quotes too. Paulo Coelho has been a big inspiration for me as well. He planted in us seeds of dreaming big. It actually works for those who believe in themselves.

Who is your favourite Arab author? And favourite Arabic book?

Tarek: Najeeb Mahfooth, “Awlad Haretna or the Children of Gebelawi”

Fadi: What’s next for Alef?

Tarek; The Alchemist Trip 
reading the Alchemist Novel in:

1- The desert of Rum, Jordan
2- The pyramid of Giza, Egypt
3- Dubai Desert safari, UAE
4- Sahara Desert, Morocco

Stay tuned for more craziness reading ideas.

The Alchemist reading in wadi rum

The Alchemist reading in wadi rum

Fadi: You have already done the first reading of the Alchemist in wadi rum. How was it? tell me about the whole experience 

Tarek: hmmm it was an amazing experience. It’s one of our event types called novel stimulation witch is living the same atmosphere for the novel, which will makes the reader understand the message. It brings more inspiration and a chance to think and meditate about the idea of the book,

In wadi rum we followed santiago’s journey in check points reading stations and we put the readers in the same process that Santiago followed in the book (crossing the desert, stealing,  being kidnapped, finding real alchemists, learning the desert language, finding his destiny, and going back to his own treasure)

In addition to the spiritual and learning processes, we had fun. Wish you will be with us next time.

Fadi: I hope so! Thank you Tarek! I look forward for that. Best of luck to you and to Alef. Drastic times calls for drastic actions, with so many arab youth falling for religious extremist ideologies, it is good to see others with such passion to stand up and force a change. Alef might be what the arab world needs today. Best of luck!

Full cover - The Bride of Amman

“The Bride of Amman” is out for pre-orders

I can’t believe that this is finally happening. The English translation of “Aroos Amman” is finally ready and up for pre-orders. It is already out there on (paperback)! and a publishing date is set on 21th July. I am so happy about the translation and so thankful for Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp who has done a great job in brining my written words into English. I am also very thankful for my publisher (signal8press) for the great work put into ensuring best quality of the English production. It was a long process but I enjoyed working with both of them and witnessed them shaping what I thought to be a good book even better.

When I first started blogging in 2006, I wanted to communicate issues of sexual and body rights that were not addressed by traditional media at the time. I could see how our cultural heritage and obsession in regulating sexuality is making an already tough life due to economical conditions even tougher. I wanted to open missed debates around these issues in hope of change. Few years down the road, I was able to collect my thoughts into a full story, a novel that came out in January 2012. At the time, I didn’t anticipate this success of Aroos Amman, and didn’t anticipate the huge amount I received. People seem to be fed up with the old doctrine that limits their body and sexual freedoms. They are happy to see someone bringing it up right front and are ready to fight for it themselves.

Today with the book coming out to English, I am hoping for a wider reach that could trigger even bigger change.

Thank you all for your love and support.

I dedicate this book to Arab young men and women: those who are struggling to conform, those who are fighting for autonomy over their own bodies, and those advocating for sexual rights.


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Fadi Zaghmout’s ‘Paradise on Earth': Family Dynamics in Futuristic Jordan

Fadi Zaghmout:

This is a well written comprehensive review by Jona for Janna Ala Al Ard published on Arablit blog today.

Originally posted on Arabic Literature (in English):

Fadi Zaghmout’s second novel, Paradise on Earth, takes readers eighty-odd years into the future, imagining a Jordan where we have control over the aging process:

By Jona Fras

jannaFadi Zaghmout’s Paradise on Earth (Janna ‘ala l-ard; Dar al-Adab, 2014) has been labeled a “science fiction” novel — although a more precise description might be “speculative fiction with futuristic elements.” It is the Jordanian writer’s second novel, following The Bride of Amman (2012), to be published in English translation by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp later this year. Like Bride, Janna explores interpersonal relationships and the issues individuals face when their desires and ideals clash with societal norms — but this time, with a futuristic twist: The novel’s central premise is a form of medicine that can reverse human aging, and in effect grant eternal life.

Janna is set in Amman, Jordan in the 2090s, and is narrated through the eyes of Janna Abdallah…

View original 1,394 more words

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The silent majority are no longer silent: Dr. Dala’een case

I have been observing the growth of a strong online network of voices in Jordan that champions individual freedoms and human rights. This is a positive indicator that shows a u-turn in public opinion and a stronger passion from what we used to call as “silent majority”. This “silent majority”, with the help of Facebook and social media,  seems to seize being silent anymore, they now stand firm against oppressing traditional voices that has always used the agency of religion and local traditions to hold us back.

We had a good win yesterday when Dr. Dala’een, an ex parliament member and opposition leader was pushed to issue a statement denying the misogynist comments he posted on his Facebook page a week ago attacking the new appointed Minister of Telecommunication, Majd Shawikha. On his page last week he posted a photo for her (most probably taken from her Facebook account) in a night dressing gown. He added a comment saying that in the past such profane scenes had a place in pornographic magazines for perverts to look at, but today these women are appointed to rule against us! He got a few supporter to his post and many likes, but then hours later, the tide change, and angry people started flocking to his page, attacking him for his sleazy comment, and standing up for the minister. A day later, someone started an online petition on, a call for the public attorney to take actions against Dr. Dala’een. The petition gathered 2276 supporter so far. It has triggered some newspaper columnist to address the issue and stand up for Dr. Dala’een. It may also be what prompt him to issue a statement yesterday and claim that it wasn’t him who posted that on Facebook, but a hacker that took over his account.

Whether he is lying or not about the hacker is not the point, we could be nice and give him the benefit of the doubt and believe his story. The point is that Jordanians are forming an organic coalition online that will no longer stand silent for misogyny or discriminative discourse.

Few months ago, the same Jordanians stood up for Kharabeesh, a video content website, for posting a homophobic video for an immature standup comedian calling for burning gay people. The reaction was strong, fast, and organised. People showered Kharabeesh with emails and FB comments and messages, forcing them to issue and apology and delete the video carrying the hate speech from their youtube channel.

In the same line, Jordanians stood up before to both Amjad Qorsha, a religious leader, for his offensive posts against christians. And also Abdul Hadi Raji Al Majali, a popular columnist, for his hate speech against Iraqis in Jordan. Both of them seemed to be tamed these days after witnessing the hard reactions.

One could consider Dr. Dala’een retreat as a win for women and women rights. I see it more of a public statement and endorsement for individual freedoms and human rights at large. With all of the negative aspects that social media brings, this one is a positive welcomed social change that brings hope for a better future.

Happy women’s day!

مع حيمور زيادة واحمد شوقي علي وابراهيم الهندال

مهرجان القاهرة الأدبي وندوة الأدب العربي بعيدا عن مراكز النشر

أود أن أشكر الصديق الروائي أحمد شوقي علي، الذي صدرت له رواية جديدة جميلة عن دار الآداب أيضا تحت اسم “حكايات الحزن والحسن”، على دعوته لي لحضور مهرجان القاهرة الأدبي الأول الأسبوع الماضي.

في الحقيقة فأن التواجد في مهرجان أدبي بهذا الحجم يعد فرصة كبيرة لي. وقد قام أحمد، مشكورا، بتقديمي إلى العديد من الكتاب والصحفيين والنقاد والأدباء في مصر ممن حضروا المهرجان في خطوة مهمة لي كشاب يعد في بداية مشواره الروائي.

كنت قد تعرفت على أحمد قبل أشهرعن طريق دار الآداب، فهو قد كان قد أرسل نص روايته إلى الدار في نفس الفترة التي أرسلت نص جنة على الأرض، وأعتقد أن الرد على كلا النصين باهتمام الدار بهما حصل في نفس الفترة. أنا كنت قد أرسلتها في بداية حزيران وكان علي أن أنتظر الرد الذي وصل في نهاية في  أب. أذكر بشكل جيد ذلك اليوم الذي وصلني به تقرير دار الآداب، فرحت جدا بالتقرير الذي وصلني عن الرواية من الدار لسببين: الأول أني كنت أتطلع لخطوة أكبر في روايتي الثانية ممكن أن تصل بها الرواية إلى دول عربية أخرى، والثاني أني كنت أحتاج إلى تقييم مهني يؤكد على ثقتي بالعمل الجديد المطروح خاصة أنه مختلف عن العمل الأول “عروس عمان” بشكل كبير.

تم التحضير لروايتي ونشرها بسرعة لإصدارها في معرض الشارقة الدولي للكتاب، ولذلك فقد تواصل معي أحمد في ذلك الوقت لسؤالي عن تجربتي مع دار الآداب في وقت كان ينتظر هو صدور روايته.

 في القاهرة شاركت في ندوة بعنوان “الأدب العربي بعيدا عن مراكز النشر”. شاركني في الندوة الكتاتب السوداني حمور زيادة الذي فازت روايته “شوق الدراويش” مؤخرا في جائزة نجيب محفوظ وكذلك تأهلت إلى القائمة القصيرة لجائزة البوكر العربية، وكذلك الكاتب الكويتي ابراهيم الهندال صاحب المجموعة القصصية “بورخيس وأنا”. أدار الندوة الكاتب الصحفي محمد شعير.

تحدثت في الندوة عن تجربتي مع دور النشر والفرق بين التجربة الأولى في نشر عروس عمان والتجربة الثانية في نشر جنة على الأرض. في الحقيقة فأني أود أن أنصف دار النشر الحالية لعروس عمان، جبل عمان ناشرون، لأنه في كلامي الذي ظهر في عدة مقالات صحفية لم أعطهم حقهم. كنت قد ركزت على تجربتي السيئة الأولى مع دار فضاءات وعلى عدم توزيع الرواية خارج الأردن ولذلك اختلط الأمر. في الحقيقة فأني لم القى سوى كل الحب والدعم والمهنية من دار جبل عمان ناشرون. لقد قاموا بتنقيح الرواية لغويا في الطبعة الثانية وبتغيير الغلاف بواحد أفضل وبتوزيع الرواية بشكل جيد داخل الأردن خلال السنتين الماضيتين. التواصل معهم كان دوما سهلا ومهنيا، وكلامي عن عدم توزيع الرواية خارج الأردن لا يعد عتبا على الدار بل اقرارا باختلاف التجربتين.

أعتقد أنه هنالك خصوصية معينة لكل دار نشر ولا يجوز المقارنة بين الدارين. هنالك عوامل عديدة مختلفة تلعب دورا في انتشار الكتاب منها حجم دار النشر وربما مكانها وكذلك اسم الكاتب وحجم صيته.

لا يمكن إنكار أن بيروت مازالت تتصدر الدول العربية في احتضان أهم دور النشر العربية، ولا يمكن انكار قوة الإعلام المصري واللبناني على الخارطة العربية. على الفرد أن يجتهد ويحاول ويتعاون مع الجميع وبالرغم من المعيقات والتحديات التي يواجهها الكتاب الجديد في الدول العربية التي تعد خارج مراكز النشر التقليدية إلا أن لكل مجتهد نصيب، وما علينا سوى المثابرة والعمل والتواصل مع الجميع.

رواية عروس عمان

Coming to English This Summer: Fadi Zaghmout’s Controversial, Feminist ‘Bride of Amman’

This summer, Fadi Zaghmout’s debut novel, The Bride of Amman, will be released in English, trans. Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp:

Read full article on Arablit blog:

Coming to English This Summer: Fadi Zaghmout’s Controversial, Feminist ‘Bride of Amman’.