Some things never change!

The best thing about Jordan is that in some ways it never changes. I think it’s for that reason that it always feels like home. I came to this conclusion yesterday after paying visits to a number of government institutions to take care of some pressing paper work. The experience was typically Jordanian and one that has just become expected when dealing with public intuitions.

In addition to battling bureaucracy and incompetence, we (my sisters, mom and I) had to drive all over town (Hubby at the wheel) in pursuit of the designated public edifice, which keep relocating on the days you need them for reasons impossible to fathom. But it is actually when you are inside a government building that you realize Jordan’s rapid national development has skipped this vital public interface.

What I experienced yesterday was something I’ve been experiencing here for as long as I can remember: Very dirty, unattended buildings, men gathered about a small window who have absolutely no knowledge or respect for queues and of course “smoker friendly” environments, evidenced by cigarettes in both visitor and employee hands. And, of course, we are greeted by sleepy workers, their infamous Jordanian grumpiness and the message: “We don’t do these things here sister. Go to our other office across town!”

After three hours of driving across the city from one public building to the other we didn’t manage to take care of a single thing, returning home disappointed –- a typical Jordanian situation. Ah, it feels like home!

I do understand the need to keep things authentic in Jordan. But really, this authenticity would not be altered if smoking was banned from government buildings or if they hired one or two workers to clean things up once in a while! But then again, perhaps things would not feel so like “home” if these issues were resolved. Maybe, maybe not!

By Natasha Tynes

I’m a Jordanian-American journalist, writer, and media development professional based in Washington, DC.


  1. Well, smoking is “wajaha” isn’t it? So is “la’3loo’3” and “karsh” btw. Weren’t most of the esteemed MPs smoking when they passed the law banning smoking in governmental agencies?
    The important question though, did you have enough “stamps”?

  2. I agree with Jameed about the ‘tawabe3’ dilemma and its omnipresence in governmental procedures.
    A little anecdote, one of my Mom’s friends graduated MIT in the late 70s early 80s and came back to work in Jordan. She needed a ‘mu3adaleh’ or equivelancy to get a job, upon handing in the papers, the employee looked at the college name field which said “Ma3had Massachusets Lil Technolojia,” handed her back the papers and snapped “Ma min3adel ma3ahed.”

  3. Thanks my friends. You reminded me of some experiences I had four years ago when I last visited Jordan. Hmm.. I am postponing this summer’s visit …..four more years ! see you in 2009

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