December 8 2022 10:38 PM E-paper Subscribe Sign in My Account Sign out

Jordan: A land, people, and history genuinely adored

1. The Jordanians
The Jordanians and “the people of the Jordan”.
“On the sides of his taxi or truck he has painted popular sayings, religious exhortations, poems, or dedications .… Perhaps the driver or the machine operator wants to relate to this cold and very efficient piece of working metal. He wants to make it part of his life.”اضافة اعلان

"The Jordanians and the People of the Jordan” by the late Dr Kamel Abu Jaber was initially published in 1980; the second edition was issued in 2021 to celebrate Jordan’s centennial, and a celebration it is.

(Photo: Twitter)

Delving into the past with a contemporary lens, The Jordanians grasps you in a warm embrace as you drift down memory lane. Immersed in the history of the Jordan River, when flooding was a possibility, the otherworldliness of the Dead Sea, the lion dens of Zarqa, the battle of Muta, Lawrence of Arabia, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the (at the time) rapidly growing skyline of Jordan, the book underpins that the “gentle and cruel have always coexisted, and it is here in Jordan that dreams of coexistence … are made”.

Seamlessly merged into the text, yet strikingly clear is Abu Jaber’s adoration for Jordan. Adoration, not as mere deep love and respect for something, but rather, as a taxi driver once put it, the difference between existing in something and immersing yourself fully in it, in spite of its flaws. Abu Jaber’s immersion, never once forced or superficial, is genuine. It is a delight.

Present tenses in the book reference a different era in Jordanian and Arab history, one that was perhaps intangible and unknown — at best forgotten — by most of the younger generations, this writer included.
Addressing what it means to be a “Jordanian”, given the geography, politics, and demographics of the region. However, Abu Jaber speaks strictly from a place of compassion, believing firmly in the importance of brotherly understanding.
Jordan to us, the youth, is ever-changing, yet seemingly stuck, frequently infuriatingly so.

Abu Jaber’s understanding lens and contextual historical presentation, on the other hand, fills one with hope.

Through small details — traditions and customs, the election of the first Parliament, the messages from Palestinians on the radio, and newspaper announcements of deaths — the reader is, too, welcomed to live in a time so different yet so similar to the one of Jordan today.

Relatability is not something I usually aspire to find in literature. An English professor once wrote on every syllabus that to relate to something is to be human, to have emotions, it is not a measure of good writing. Yet Abu Jaber’s writing nurtures comfort while eliciting relatability. It is finally feeling like we are seen in literature, much like the taxi driver I mentioned.

The people of Jordan also want to relate, make and have meaning, and prove their presence even in the most nuanced of spaces. Abu Jaber offers an understanding, a nod to the people of Jordan, a clear, if not declared, “I see you, I understand you, and I will share our history”. The promise the preface makes to give people insight into a people so frequently “deliberately misunderstood” is easily met.

The images in the book are vivid. They do not downplay the relevance of political and historical struggles Jordanians, Palestinians, Arabs in general, witnessed and continue to witness.

Abu Jaber speaks with utmost openness about the reality of the situation. He does not sugarcoat the cultural and societal challenges Jordanians historically faced. No blind eye is turned to generational differences and expiring traditions and beliefs. And despite the book being 40-some years old, the understanding of the role of women in society, the importance of education, and family structures are as contemporary and pertinent.

Navigating a conversation around the people of Jordan can be somehow challenging. Addressing what it means to be a “Jordanian”, given the geography, politics, and demographics of the region. However, Abu Jaber speaks strictly from a place of compassion, believing firmly in the importance of brotherly understanding.

The Jordanians and the People of the Jordan is a timeless portrayal of a culture, a country, and a people so deeply adored by an author who, above all, is invested in sharing his adoration with the rest of the world. The book, unintentionally emotional and delicately honest, is a refreshing read for everyone and anyone with a connection to Jordan.

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