Nov 30, 2005

Zewail, Frustrations of the Egyptian Nobel Laureate

I've recently got Ahmad Zewail's biography (the Egyptian Nobel laureate for Chemistry '99). It's nice and has some interesting pictures.

Most interestingly, in the last 2 chapters he talks about his vision for enhancing the state of research in Egypt/Arab World and then US.
Apparently, after he got the Nobel prize and went to Egypt, he put the "corner stone" for University of Science and Technology (UST) and vision document for Technology Park (TP). In his bio, he stated 3 conditions for the success of this project:
1- Promise endowment (money from government & donations)
2- Promise law that guarantee's full independence from the government
3- Curriculum (he will do it with advisors from around the world)
The TP idea is cool. It aims to create a place where academia & industry can meet and do experiments & research related to the industry. I couldn't find any more info about the details - but it definitely sounds interesting.

Zewail in his book cites several successful governmental research projects to excite the Egyptian government. These are the ones I remember:
1- The Max Planck institutions in Germany
2- The IITs & India Institute of Science in India
3- The Institute de France in France
4- The Technion and Wizeman institutes in Israel
5- U of California campuses in USA
6- ... there's one more. I can't remember.

Unsurprisingly, Egyptian government put the corner stone with names of 3 ministers & Mubarak, and never did anything else. Ahmad Zewail hints to that on page 223 his bio:
"I have had first-hand experience with UST and other projects in Egypt and have seen how bureaucracy and the 'power of the chair,' or more accurately the power of position, can impede real progress."
And then finally on page 224
"Although clear orders regarding UST have been issued, the slow implementation of the plan is enough to subdue the enthusiasm of any serious person with obligations and exacting demands on his time."
he also shows his frustration while collecting donations:
"Ironically, some of the very rich were less willing to make significant contributions until they had weighed their personal benefits."
and then he goes on to say:
"The public sector was pushing me to begin a national donation campaign believing that every Egyptian should participate in this national cause. But of course, I could not do so without a new law that guarantees that UST will be able to function freely."
RECENTLY I've heard that he gave up on Egypt government and went to Qatar to create his university. It seems that they have started building the university and that it's on its way. Also heard that he asked for "10 year grace period" after which results can be expected.

So, the question for you readers - Do you know anything about his project in Qatar? it sounds interesting. I looked on the internet, and I couldn't find anything more than 1-page biography for him and nothing about the University of Science and Technology.

Any more info on this guy?

Nov 29, 2005

First Concert!

I love California, one for the sun, two for the mediterranean-like fruits & weather, and finally, for the active Muslim & Arab communities here!
I moved to the area 3 months ago, and quickly I found Aswat, a very impressive Arabic music community ensemble in San Francisco. I have joined as the most junior player on the Nay (which I've been playing for about 2 years). The group is very supportive and fun to be with. I played my first concert with Aswat at Mells College on Novermber 18th. Ah... I even got to do a short Taksim on Bayati.

Looking forward for weekends of Music.

Nov 26, 2005

Rome & Carthage: The Arrogance of “Democratic” Supremacy

In 149 BC, The Roman Senate took advantage of a minor disagreement with Carthage to wage a war (the last Punic war ~150BC). Unsurprisingly, at the end of which, the Romans triumphed against Carthage. Carthage sent a delegation surrendering the city and giving up all their weapons to Rome. But the Roman Senate decided specifically thatCarthage was to be razed to the ground, no stone was to be left upon another, the soil was to be ploughed and strewn with salt.” Needless to say, all of its people were either slaughtered or sold to slavery.

Which begs the question, WHY!?

The decision was not that of momentous anger by a tyrant individual, for that Rome was a Republic. The decision was debated and decided by the ~200 representatives of Roman people.

The decision was not that of military, for that even the famous Roman General that carried it out, Scipio Africanus, was against it. He followed the orders anyhow.

So, WHY!?

One cannot but think these days at the real value of democracy, try to understand the pros and cons beyond the usual clichés and banner-style statements like “democracy is the solution”. And to do so, there is nothing like learning the History of Rome, through which one can re-live Democracy on fast forward. There are many bright spots, and some deep bleak ones too.

Rome has started as a Kingdome and turned successfully into an expanding Democratic Republic for 400 shining years. But then, and just like magic, it turned into an Empire, and finally presented historians to this day with a mysterious fall after another 400 years.

I am not an expert in this field, but I have gone through Rome’s history recently, and I find some aspects extremely interesting to share and contemplate upon. One of these events is Rome’s verdict on Carthage, described above.

And this brings back us to the question, WHY!?

The answer is, because the Romans were the strongest nation at the time. They simply could do it, and so, they did it. “War Mongering” is the term.

This brings a second question: how come a group of highly educated Roman elected-senates come up with such an unjust and inhumane decision?

Simply, (and it took me a very long time to realize this answer) democracy does not guarantee making the right decision. Democracy guarantees agreement: that most of the attendants will agree on the decision. In another way, that the disagreeing portion will never be large enough to overrule the decision by power (or so is the theory).

Democracy is a lot like human-desire. It requires a high degree of discipline and dedication to actually be guided correctly. Democracy requires that we be active and objective all the time so that it won’t be misused. Democracy cannot function with a passive population.

Democracy is not ethical by itself. The ethics of democracy are that of its people. Democracy does not tell us right from wrong. But it can tell us what we ought to be doing about it. Things are not right or wrong just because 51% of people said so. Morality is independent of statistics.

Seems intuitive… but in the same time, it is very easy to forget this and fall in the same mistakes again and again…

Nov 25, 2005

A Jordanian wins Rhodes scholarship to Oxford

Tanya Haj-Hassan, a Jordanian American, wins the Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford.

The Rhodes Scholarship is THE most prestigious scholarship available to undergraduate students in the US. Every year, each university nominates their top 2-3 students to apply. Only 32 are chosen every year. The scholarship pays for 2-3 years study at Oxford.

To put it in perspective, the Rhodes scholarship was what put Bill Clinton, a farm boy from Mena, Arkansas, on the path to US presidency.

I know Tanya personally, and she's my friend's cousin. She has lived and studied in Jordan until she moved to Stanford to study Human Biology. She's very humble and extremely active. I really hope best for her, and I hope more Jordanians will win this scholarship in the future.

The scholarship is available to citizens of about 22 countries. It'll be great if it becomes available to Jordanian citizens also one day. I'm not sure how we can make this happen.

more about the scholarship:
notable winners:

Nov 24, 2005

Looking for NGOs in Jordan, please help

Hello all,
A friend of a friend, Jesse Torrence is looking for an NGO (non governmental organization) in Jordan to work at. He has degrees in International Relations and Economics from Harvard. If you know of any NGOs in Jordan who might be interested, please let Jesse ( know. Jesse's e-mail is below:
Dear All,

I will be relocating to the Middle East/North Africa region this December
most of next year and am interested in getting involved with some
organizations engaged in development work, particularly in Palestine, Egypt,
Lebanon, Syrian, or Jordan. I'm especially interested in the following
education, capacity building for Civil Society Orgs.,
microfinance,reproductive health/sexual education (esp. HIV/AIDS
and youth exchange. Do any of you know of any organizations(especially
in these fields) that could use someone with 2-3 years of experience in NGO
organizational management, project management, grant writing,
fundraising,event planning, and/or community organizing?

My needs in terms of compensation at this point are very minimal and my
availability in terms of time and specific location are still fairly

I would greatly appreciate any leads, contacts, or advice.

Jesse Torrence
IR, Econ '02

Nov 18, 2005

Google's Arabic-to-English translation ranked first

Google's "still under development" system for Arabic-to-English translation is ranked as best worldwide.

According to NIST:

Here are the rankings:
Arabic-to-English Task, Large Data Track
1- GOOGLE, BLUE score: 0.5131
2- ISI, 0.4657
3- IBM, 0.4646
4- UMD, 0.4497
5- JHU-CU, 0.4348
6- EDINBURGH, 0.3970
7- SYSTRAN, 0.1079
8- MITRE, 0.0772
9- FSC, 0.0037

Arabic-to-English Task, Unlimited Data Track
Table 2
1- GOOGLE, 0.5137
2- SAKHR, 0.3403
3- ARL, 0.2257

more reading:
Google: The Universal Machine

Nov 17, 2005

I Lived In The Garden Of Allah (by Sir R. Bodley)

I read this story in Dale Carnegie's "How to stop worrying and start living", and then found it on the internet. I have to say that it's very inspiring in how to cope with disaster, especially in light of the recent events that struck Jordan. (source)

I Lived In The Garden Of Allah
By R.V.C. Bodley
Descendant of Sir Thomas Bodley, founder of the Bodleian Library, Oxford Author of Wind in the Sahara, The Messenger, and fourteen other volumes

IN 1918, I turned my back on the world I had known and went to north-west Africa and lived with the Arabs in the Sahara, the Garden of Allah. I lived there seven years. I learned to speak the language of the nomads. I wore their clothes, I ate their food, and adopted their mode of life, which has changed very little during the last twenty centuries. I became an owner of sheep and slept on the ground in the Arabs' tents. I also made a detailed study of their religion. In fact, I later wrote a book about Mohammed, entitled The Messenger.

Those seven years which I spent with these wandering shepherds were the most peaceful and contented years of my life.

I had already had a rich and varied experience: I was born of English parents in Paris; and lived in France for nine years. Later I was educated at Eton and at the Royal Military College at Sandhurst. Then I spent six years as a British army officer in India, where I played polo, and hunted, and explored in the Himalayas as well as doing some soldiering. I fought through the First World War and, at its close, I was sent to the Paris Conference as an assistant military attaché. I was shocked and disappointed at what I saw there. During the four years of slaughter on the Western Front, I had believed we were fighting to save civilisation. But at the Paris Peace Conference, I saw selfish politicians laying the groundwork for the Second World War-each country grabbing all it could for itself, creating national antagonisms, and reviving the intrigues of secret diplomacy.

I was sick of war, sick of the army, sick of society. For the first time in my career, I spent sleepless nights, worrying about what I should do with my life. Lloyd George urged me to go in for politics. I was considering taking his advice when a strange thing happened, a strange thing that shaped and determined my life for the next seven years. It all came from a conversation that lasted less than two hundred seconds-a conversation with "Ted" Lawrence, "Lawrence of Arabia", the most colourful and romantic figure produced by the First World War. He had lived in the desert with the Arabs and he advised me to do the same thing. At first, it sounded fantastic.

However, I was determined to leave the army, and I had to do something. Civilian employers did not want to hire men like me-ex-officers of the regular army-especially when the labour market was jammed with millions of unemployed. So I did as Lawrence suggested: I went to live with the Arabs. I am glad I did so. They taught me how to conquer worry. Like all faithful Moslems, they are fatalists. They believe that every word Mohammed wrote in the Koran is the divine revelation of Allah. So when the Koran says: "God created you and all your actions," they accept it literally. That is why they take life so calmly and never hurry or get into unnecessary tempers when things go wrong. They know that what is ordained is ordained; and no one but God can alter anything. However, that doesn't mean that in the face of disaster, they sit down and do nothing. To illustrate, let me tell you of a fierce, burning windstorm of the sirocco which I experienced when I was living in the Sahara. It howled and screamed for three days and nights. It was so strong, so fierce, that it blew sand from the Sahara hundreds of miles across the Mediterranean and sprinkled it over the Rhone Valley in France. The wind was so hot I felt as if the hair was being scorched off my head. My throat was parched. My eyes burned. My teeth were full of grit. I felt as if I were standing in front of a furnace in a glass factory. I was driven as near crazy as a man can be and retain his sanity. But the Arabs didn't complain. They shrugged their shoulders and said: "Mektoub!" ... "It is written."

But immediately after the storm was over, they sprang into action: they slaughtered all the lambs because they knew they would die anyway; and by slaughtering them at once, they hoped to save the mother sheep. After the lambs were slaughtered, the flocks were driven southward to water. This was all done calmly, without worry or complaining or mourning over their losses. The tribal chief said: "It is not too bad. We might have lost everything. But praise God, we have forty per cent of our sheep left to make a new start."

I remember another occasion, when we were motoring across the desert and a tyre blew out. The chauffeur had forgotten to mend the spare tyre. So there we were with only three tyres. I fussed and fumed and got excited and asked the Arabs what we were going to do. They reminded me that getting excited wouldn't help, that it only made one hotter. The blown-out tyre, they said, was the will of Allah and nothing could be done about it. So we started on, crawling along on the rim of a wheel. Presently the car spluttered and stopped. We were out of petrol 1 The chief merely remarked: "Mektoub!" and, there again, instead of shouting at the driver because he had not taken on enough petrol, everyone remained calm and we walked to our destination, singing as we went.

The seven years I spent with the Arabs convinced me that the neurotics, the insane, the drunks of America and Europe are the product of the hurried and harassed lives we live in our so-called civilisation.

As long as I lived in the Sahara, I had no worries. I found there, in the Garden of Allah, the serene contentment and physical well-being that so many of us are seeking with tenseness and despair.

Many people scoff at fatalism. Maybe they are right. Who knows? But all of us must be able to see how our fates are often determined for us. For example, if I had not spoken to Lawrence of Arabia at three minutes past noon on a hot August day in 1919, all the years that have elapsed since then would have been completely different. Looking back over my life, I can see how it has been shaped and moulded time and again by events far beyond my control. The Arabs call it mektoub, kismet-the will of Allah. Call it anything you wish. It does strange things to you. I only know that today-seventeen years after leaving the Sahara-I still maintain that happy resignation to the inevitable which I learned from the Arabs. That philosophy has done more to settle my nerves than a thousand sedatives could have achieved.

You and I are not Mohammedans: we don't want to be fatalists. But when the fierce, burning winds blow over our lives-and we cannot prevent them-let us, too, accept the inevitable. And then get busy and pick up the pieces.

Nov 2, 2005

Typical Jordanian... (a post by my brother Muneeb)

Fate & destiny caused my brother Muneeb to wake up today and write this e-mail... enjoy :-)
Subject: Who are jordanians
From: "Muneeb Arrabi"
Date: Wed, 02 Nov 2005 16:46:43 +0000

I came across 2 web pages that define jordanians. I don't know if you would see what i saw in these 2 web pages. I copied them in this email.
One taken from amman stock web site, and the other taken from addustour web site.
شعار جديد لبورصة عمان

بدأت بورصة عمان اعتبارا من يوم الأحد الموافق 14/8/2005 باعتماد شعاراً جديداً لها، حيث يعبّر الشعار الجديد عن رسالة البورصة بالإضافة إلى رؤياها بالتطوير الدائم والتحديث المستمر.

لقد تم تصميم الشعار الجديد لبورصة عمان مع الأخذ بعين الاعتبار القيم والرسائل التالية:-

• الديناميكية.

• التجدد والحداثة.

• التطور والتقدم.

هندسة الشكل

الشعار الهندسي الجديد هو عبارة عن نجمة تعبّر عن التطور والحركة الدائمة للبورصة، حيث أخذ الطابع العصري والحيوي.

لون الشعار

اللون الرمادي يعكس النظرة المستقبلية للبورصة والتي تساهم في تحقيق رسالتها ورؤياه

اللون الأزرق يعكس الطابع المؤسسي للبورصة.

الخطوط المستخدمة

هي خطوط ثابتة وقوية توحي بالمصداقية والثقة.


fe3lan.... As soon as i saw the slogan i figured out enno borset amman laha mesdaqeyyeh wa theqa wa laha nathra mustaqbaleyyeh thaqebah wa adraket 3assaree3 arro'ya wa attabe3 al mu'assasy lel borsa........... erhamoona ya jama3a
Why do we always have to give reasons and meanings to everything. Why can't we just say... "I like this because it's beautiful".
Not to mention the disappointment when i see jordanians in TV interviews. You feel like you are listening to a profesor be athaqafah al 3alameyyeh who won noble prizes in all fields while the interviewee has just finished setting up jarret el ghaz la baitak. And by chance, every interviewee's voice becomes harsh and deep to go along with look on his face when he's talking about ashafafeyyeh wa t'atheerha 3ala al 3awlameh
This reminds me of the famous commercial on Jordan TV " tabee3ty al e3teyadeyyeh enny baheb atsallaq al jebal....."
"tabee3ety al e3teyadeyyeh" ...... come on maaaaaaaan.........
And the other thing is the following:
نتيجة التصويت
أين تفضل أن تقضي اجازاتك؟
سياحة داخلية - الاردن (24.124 %) 1198 صوت
سياحة خارج الاردن (39.6698 %) 1970 صوت
في البيت (36.2062 %) 1798 صوت

من : 6/3/2005

الى :20/3/2005

المجموع الكلي #: 4966

P.S: look at the number of people who like to spend vecations at home "ya rabbi laish nehna nekdeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeen"