Closing of Books@Cafe!

This is INSANE!

Written By: Madian al Jazerah, co-owner of Books@Cafe

This is about where we stand in hypocrisy and bigotry…and where we will be if we remain quiet.
Books@Cafe and many other establishments have been closed this week. Here is what I witnessed and what happened to us at Books@Cafe:
The night before Ramadan, the police violently stormed into the café and asked us to close down. “This is the holy month of Ramadan!” they barked. Since we are officially licensed and they could provide no official papers, we refused to close.

This is the third year we operate, fully licensed by the Ministry of Tourism and the Hotel and Restaurant Association. This is very important, because we are categorized as 3-star tourist, with recent faxes from the Ministry endorsing the permit to operate all day with regular food and drink service, including alcohol.

Last Wednesday, we hear that a security committee (Al lajna al amnia) has been formed and comprises of 3 groups: The Hotel and Restaurant Association, the Ministry of Tourism, and the Governate. All three must be present when this committee goes out to inspect.
That Wednesday night, the new committee barged into Books@Cafe (making sure every one saw them) and bullying everyone with their looks and comments.
They then walked into the kitchen while many of us including my brother were standing and witnessing.
One person proceeds to tell our chef that there are cockroaches, insects, mice in the kitchen. Every one was baffled and were telling him to show us what he was talking about! Of course there was nothing, but with every accusation, he ordered one of his committee members to write it down and then adds, “let them get what they deserve for serving alcohol in this holy month.”

Our chef kept asking the guy to show him where he saw cockroaches, mice, however the inspector was not there to listen; he was just there to write us up and penalize us.

Despite the fact that only representatives from the Ministry and the Governate were there – no one from the Hotel and Restaurant Association. The guy then tells us we should not be serving alcohol on the terrace; we immediately pulled all liquor sales indoors.
Sunday night, we get shocked with the visit from the police with an order to close. There was no reason within the order. Of course, they only come at night so that there is no one to call or anything to do.
When we showed them our papers, they kept calling us a night club. We are licensed as a restaurant. To them, if alcohol is served, then it is a night club. This is the logic we encountered, regardless of the fully accredited and legal license.
To our shock, the order started with the same Ministry of Tourism representative who received us like we were dirt at the ministry.
He had sent a document with 18 accusations at us including the basic cockroaches, insects etc. Including another accusation “jalsat 7ameema wa tabadol al qubal.” Roughly translated into “intimate gatherings and exchange of kissing.” He also mentions that someone told him to go and form his prayer ablutions with beer! The document stated that this was all happening on the terrace, in public and in front of us and everyone! The guy was lying through his teeth!
For now Books@Cafe is closed.

We are trying to get the license to reopen and have to send a “ister7am” as in begging for mercy for something we were legally doing and licensed by our ministry to do. To date the Ministry of Tourism and the Hotel and Restaurant Association have done nothing. The star rating system they have created has no value or protection.

Any comments on our system? Do we pay a rashwa to get things done or do we fight to make Jordan and our system fully protect our rights? Or do we just close up and leave the country and lose all our love and loyalty to Jordan? I prefer to fight for a better Jordan and I think everyone should do the same. This is my country and I live in it and I will contribute to a better Jordan.

UPDATE: The ministry has a list of 60 places recently closed. Cupid Cafe, Irish Pub and others are included.

29 thoughts on “Closing of Books@Cafe!

  1. Noura says:

    Oh wow this is extremely disappointing and very depressing, I am stunned beyond words. You guys have to fight this and we will support you, just tell us how, when and where.


  2. So the holy month means he doesn’t drink but it gives him the right to lie and fabricate accusations like this ? What an idiot.It sucks, some people don’t know the concept of (live and let live).


  3. Anonymous says:

    Dear FadiThanks for bringing this to our attention. What a shame…wonder where this development will take us. I always thought religion – at least in Jordan – was something between you and God and not between you and the authorities. And of course you can be respectful towards other by avoiding eating and drinking in their faces – but no one forces anybody to enter Books@, walk to the first floor and sit in their internal and not-viewable-from-the-street-gardens. This will not be good for tourism in Jordan


  4. Anonymous says:

    It seems to me this cafe is too often the target of bogus government actions. A pity, as it is such a welcoming place for one and all (well, except for those government authorities!).


  5. First of All,they dont “bark”.. they shout!.. have morals man. they save our a$$ses all the, dont you know that serving liquor is violating ministry of interior laws and regulations? I am muslim and i know, i dont belong to islam in any.. but i dont accept to not respect others believes.. so either to have faith or just to have your “cafe” shut and reopen it in london!if we dont respect any religion, let us respect laws, and for that auditor man who lied, he just did that to revenge for being a muslim fasting while others having funcky fun! and we might not blame him, we might blame you for just leaving the liquor bar opened while inspecting the place.. at the end of day, its your fault not their!one more thing, notice the what-so-called TRADITIONS, dont you repect traditions? dont tell me that they are wrong and misleading! they are the faith we raised on.. and dont tell me that people come to your cafe to read books and discover our culture.. no and a big no! i bid and dare for anybody opens and reads whats inside..and my reply to this hani, please dont be small minded enough to look at their lies and forget about serving liquor! this is so childesh!sorry man, but i hate to see the truth and not saying it.


  6. Dear Amr…Darling…Please READ THE GODDAMN LAW! Books@cafe was licensed to serve liquir,food,whatsoever !they have everything sorted out, 100% LEGAL !and you can ask for the papers to see…Whats happening here my dear is they are USING Islam so they wont look bad…Its a free country…ACCEPT AND RESPECT !Traditions ?! i’d love to see you being misjudged and pointed at,degraded and stuff and i wanna see where would tradition stand…I mean come on…its obvious !Observer…thanks for the post !


  7. Amr Hourani says:

    Hi Rafique,the LAW says: whatever the minister or governor decides and a booklet or and issue or a rule or a regulation would work on all and treated as a law🙂I am not into laws and how to fake, but am not fighting for closing books@, but am telling how this post will not convince Eid El-fayez (MoI) in anyway to let them open books@..One more point, this post is very week and shows tiny issues that look childesh (with all due respect to the owner/writer) and if eid would accept to re-open it, i will will be the first one to clap for all of you and i will be the first one to support you.. i am not envying your business, it is waaay creative to make.people who hate liquor are 90% of our population.. what side you are and what side is heavier? i think (and its ture) freedom ends whenever the heavy side decides.…and i see you talking traditions! well, if you are into traditions (and i doubt) talk to your tribe to make some Jaha (and plz dont bring them from cafes!) or wasta to reopen it if you can or if you have a wieght in this community (again, with all due respect) also the blogsphere is weaker than you imagine to force or talk from power place to re-open books@.P.S: Eid elfayez is tough in such issues, and hes straight forward man, and if you still believe in your freedom (and not others freedom/prides when you drink in front of them) you can contact him (call or send a paper to his office) and please let us know what his “opinion” would be..Another note: I will be the first visitor after they reopen books@ and will have fun definitely and owe you a xxl shot😉I would love to help, but i really cant when it comes to liquor, coz my family wont agree to press on people for such things.. sorry


  8. Amr Being small minded is taking other people’s freedom when they are not affecting your own just because they are different than you.A few people drinking inside a cafe aren’t hurting anyone outside. Nobody fasting is going to walk into a restaurant/bookstore.If they were breaking the law as you said, then the auditor wouldn’t have had to fabricate lies. Perhaps he doesn’t know that lying, giving false testimony, and cutting off people’s source of income is against the religion he claims to be protecting.


  9. noura, it is disappoing and depressing. We will fight it, and inshallah we will win.hani, it seems like a ploy to use moral values in order to get some money in bribery! This is a kind of invividuals movement rather than a state policy!Anon, I thought the same! Obviously there is still a room for extremists to shake our boat and destroy what we have achieved so far.Amr, this is insane, because the government give liceneses for liquer in one hand and then punush them in the other hand! How would any business man be comfortable in doing business in Jordan now? It isnt about liquer, they would apply it on a lot of things. Allow something then put people in jail! What a modern country of law we have! This is an offense to all Jordanians who believe in the law of their country. Rafique, thank you a lot for broughting this to my attention. I appreciate it🙂DM, I hope that this is just an obstacle in our way. It shouldnt be an indication for us going backward, but a small battle to win. I hope.


  10. Samia says:

    SHUT UP GUYS! Those of you who decided to speak on behalf of Christians in Jordan, speak for yourselves. You are embarrassing us with your rudeness. This is not about tolerance and freedom of religion. This is about a few who want their lifestyles to trump all others. I am a Christan and in Ramadan I can drink alcohol at home or at my friends’ house. It’s not against the law. We have parties in Ramdan and we drink to our hearts’ content. We go to church every Sunday in Ramadan or in any other month without any restrictions. We hang the cross before, during, and after. So please stop speaking on Christians’ behalf. All of you are Books@Cafe regulars and you are loyal customers and friends of the Jazeerahs. Great. Nothing wrong with that. But they way you are conducting this campaign makes us look like we want hedonism or bullying not tolerance.You want to fight the Books@Cafe issue as a case of government corruption and selective enforcement of the law, I am with you. But DON’T F***NG TURN IT INTO A RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ISSUE. you are abusing the concept and you have no clue what it means. Want to know what it means? Go to India where they are killing Christians for being Christians. Go to Philippines where they target-shoot Muslims in remote islands. We are so fortunate to have a country like Jordan. This part of the world is the homeland of Christianity and we have been here for hundreds of centuries because of the culture of co-existence.


  11. excuse me Samia. I checked and re-checked the comments, and no one mentioned anything about Christians! Freedom of religion doesn’t only apply to Christians. I am an atheist, and I hate seeing the lifestyle that some Muslims chose to follow being forced upon me! Some Muslims who do not see drinking as ‘Haram’ are also deprived from their right to practice what they believe in.So chill out! This has nothing to do with Christians.


  12. Yeah I was a little confused by Samia’s harsh rebuke because I didn’t recall anything in regards to religion. It is rather unfortunate that a few men decided it is their responsibility to take the law… or rather their view of what the law should be… into their own hands.This is the type of insulting treatment that I would expect out of Egypt but not Jordan. I have found the whole Ramadan experience to be a bit of a conundrum. Egypt’s society is much more conservative than Jordan but come Ramadan Jordan buckles down while Egyptians are free to go to any restaurant, etc.I am however all for respecting the religion of the Muslims. I have personally avoided eating/drinking in public altogether so as to be respectful. We have loved eating out on our patio this summer but we have stopped for the last few weeks… even though our patio is sub-level… but we didn’t want to be disrespectful to our upstairs neighbors who might see us from their windows.


  13. Don’t you just love it when people don’t respect others rights and decide to force themselves in any way upon the other?This is why Jordan will not become a true democracy until the majority realizes that it should respect and uphold the rights of the minority, whether it agrees with them or not.


  14. Younis says:

    Dave, you shallow redneck. let’s take a small example on regulated freedoms. while the US constitution grantees your freedom of assembly, you can’t go anywhere and demonstrate anytime. You have to obtain a license, and you have to assemble in certain areas and not in others and at certain times. But you still get to assemble. that’s one example of regulated freedoms. the same in Jordan. no one in Jordan is stopping anyone from drinking alcohol if they wishto, but WE IN JORDAN have the right to tell you where not to drink alcohol. But in the end, you get to drink alcohol at home in ramadan. I am sure you can take the right to assembly and apply it to other regulated freedoms in the US and any other country. What you want is not freedom to consume alcohol, which is legal in Jordan, you want to run amok with that freedom. If you can drink on the job or at work in the US, then come and lecture us all about unlimited unregulated freedoms and I will be the first to go along with you. Until then, you are just a rude, shallow American.


  15. Anonymous says:

    On another note… does anyone know if the bigger, more influential cash-cows like the Intercontinental, Four Seasons, Hyatt, etc have experienced any restrictions. I would assume, although possibly incorrectly, that these hotels would most likely be covered under the same tourism ministry office. I think if some guy went in there and started writing up false accusations they would only have to make one phone call and he would disappear promptly from the premises.I’m thinking that there is some bullying going on against the smaller, more defenseless companies. A bully can only intimidate those weaker than him.Just a thought.


  16. Anonymous says:

    At the official level in Jordan, it’s rarely about religion or righteousness, even when this is the articulated objectives. It’s almost always about $$$.if Books@Cafe is shutdown, it means someone else from their inner circle will jump in to replace it and reap the profits of weakened competition. This is sort of like the counterfeit DVD shops downtone and how some are closed while others florish. It’s so corrupt around here it’s hopeless. We even beat Syria and Egypt now. I bet most of those thugs will hang the King’s photo and a flag inside their cars and blast the radio wheever Abudllat sings Jayshuna. Some of the most corrupt people in Jordan are the ultra nationalist blowhards. And rightly so. Jordan is their cow and boy does it produce lots of milk and the smaller the circle, the more milk portions. You know we have a serious problem when patriotism is directly related to the spread of corruption. That’s how the inner circle was conditioned. It’s about the loot.


  17. I just wanted to re-share my take on the issue:Well, the regime and the system has to be seen as protectors of our “values” espcially at this time when the economic policies and the promised “reform” is actually bringing the country down to its knees. You see, if they keep you open, some will say look at the government protecting “immorality”, and those “some” are too many -they are loud too-, so in a way the government is doubling down on their argument and stripping them from their potential “supporting” argument.The government will say: See, we care about your values, we even closed those immoral joints.. It is our little version of culture wars. The people are like: Hey we are OK with starving, we don’t care what our foreign or economic policies are, we don’t even want to know what they are, we don’t want reform, hell we will accept the racist elections law, but HEY Don’t touch our “values”, we don’t want people to drink or “not fast” even if we don’t see them.. It is our version of social authoritarianism, that will make sure you conform even when you are in your own private space.Dude, you should have cameras in your place where you record all this stuff, and maybe add some microphones..Good luck.And to Amr, lets cut the crap and call it what it is, this is hypocrisy, it is not like god only watches us in ramadan, and one more thing: WE ARE A SECULAR COUNTRY, eventhough the constitution says we are a muslim country. If you want to implement the islamic law I suggest you take your anger to the regime and the ruling elite.This is a shallow diagnosis of the issue at hand, the government did it this year because of their failures economically and politically PERIOD. What their tools say(The security apparatus) is of no importance because they are as shallow(and even more shallow) as our society.


  18. samia, as I replied to you at 7iber, the issue the discussion lead to (not the main issue of authorities bullying) is not about christians only, it is about other non-religious muslims, muslims who dont fast, muslims who chose to drink alcohol, and others who identify themselves to be agnostics or atheists or anyone who doesn’t conform with the beliefs of some religious extremists who like to impose their beliefs on others. It isn’t about respect. I eat infront of my fasting friend at office when I am hungry. I resepct his fasting, and he respect my hunger. If I fast (being christian), I wouldnt be offended if he ate choclate or drank milk infront of me, and it wouldnt be an act of irrespect or offence in anyway. People should stop being shallow and give others the rightful freedom. Mohannad, I understand the moral play you are talking about, but I dont think this is the case here. This isnt a government policy, it is a scheme of a set of authoritive people to get some money in an underhanded way.


  19. Observer,It is the case.If it was only one or two places I would say you are right. But the fact that the government is publicizing it and 60 places were affected is a proof. Mark my words: The worst days are yet to come, the crack down on our already limited freedoms will only increase in intensity. The scape goats will be the like of Books@ and the true liberals.


  20. tariq says:

    Some people insist the Books@cafe closure issue is a religious and personal freedoms campaign. Well, if this is the case then how come dozens of hotels in Amman still serve alcohol in Ramadan? How come?So do yourselves a favor and accept the fact Books was closed for other reasons than alcohol or some religious campaign. There are better ways to attract support for your cause other than lying. I like Books, but I could care less for the dishonesty of certain loudmouths.


  21. Here is my intake from my comment that I posted at Black Iris:This is a very controversal issue, and I can see that people have different point of views, but to set things str8 here are some points to be concerned:1. If a place is licensed by the Government to operate and serve alcohol during Ramadan, then why are we blaming Books and other cafes?2. If this measure upsets Muslims in Jordan and the local traditions of the Holy month, why arent we bitching the Government about giving permissions and letting people have alcohol during Ramadan?3. I went to the airport on friday morning and during Ramadan, and the cafe in the arrival terminal was serving food and coffee during the day! Is this exceptional, to have food infront of the public during the day? where are the traditions, how come I didnt hear any of you bitch about it?4. If books is closed because its a Gay heaven, why didn’t the Government and Intelligence close it down? Is having Gays and Lesbians in a palce makes it worth closing down? What about Nai, Kanabayah, Starbucks? Gays are everywhere5. The law should be respected and if this case invloves corruption, bribary, then shame on us and them!


  22. Anonymous says:

    Random two cents:1- Books@cafe served alcohol outdoors (as Median admitted)…that is a violation of the law.2-Books@cafe was confrontational from the beginning, when they taped the Minister of Tourism memos on the front door.3- While choosing to engage in homosexual acts is no one business, Books@cafe takes pride in open in endorsing homosexuality (ie allowing for abnoxious flaming fag to disturb the patrons) and takes pride in that it “challenges” the old-fashioned values in Amman.


  23. Anonymous says:

    I deeply believe that what’s happening is natural inescapable result of your endorsement of the totalitarian regime that governs this country. And allow me to explain: The family that governs this country is Muslim, and they are the torch holders of prophet Mohammad’s doctrines. Please understand that Islam is the corner stone of this regime. And if Islam crumbles, so will the system. So what’s that got to do with Box@Cafe? I’ll tell you: If box@cafe continues to server alcohol in Ramdan, the masses will be upset because the masses are mostly “thoor all fi barseemo” that know nothing about freedom or democracy. This is Chinese to them. And they are by majority Muslims that cherish the royal family through through their undeniable link to the messenger aka prophet Mohammad. So you guys at box@cafe are missing with the fire here. Let me put it this way: if you serve alcohol in Ramdan, you’re shaking the throne! So i guess the solution to that is so clear, but i can’t say it damn it!


  24. Khalid says:

    This is completely unacceptable! How could they? You have every right to serve alcohol. I would suggest meeting at Books@ next week to show our support.


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