Cultural Glimpse

Enjoying diversity

Month: February, 2014

A Perfect Example of Diversity in a Little Town in Jordan

Once upon a time, it was not uncommon for Muslims, Christians and Jews to live together in peace and harmony. These days, such togetherness is rare – but maybe not. Maybe we don’t look for it long or hard enough to find it.

Evidently the filmmakers of “At the Intersection of Faith and Culture” knew where to look. This is part of a short documentary video series that reveals Arab communities where love is what drives peoples’ relationships. For instance, in the small town of Al Huson, Jordan, where there are 7 churches and 6 mosques, lives two lifelong friends of different religions who brought their town together by forming a cultural museum.

“I am a Christian and he is a Muslim, but you can’t tell the difference,” Mazin, who teaches at a university, says of his friend Samih, a local expert in tradition and culture. “By the end of the day, we make one person.”

“Traditionally, when a Muslim bride left her house, one of our Christian brothers would give her hand away, and vice versa,” said Samih. “We are following in our parents’ and grandparents’ footsteps.”

“Our message of love unites us,” said Mazin. “Honestly, we can’t live without each other.”

He is absolutely correct. We cannot live without each other.

Different Religions

Who Loses to a Bunch of Kids?

Bowling - Copy

A British anthropologist, Sir Flinders Petrie, discovered in the 1930’s a collection of objects in a child’s grave in Egypt that appeared to him to be used for a crude form of bowling. Meaning, bowling can be traced back as far as 3200 BC.

A German historian, William Pehle, claimed that bowling began in his country about 300 AD. He shows evidence that a form of bowling was quite fashionable in England in 1366, but then King Edward III supposedly outlawed it to keep his troops focused on archery practice.

The first standardized rules for pin bowling were established in New York City, on September 9, 1895. The oldest surviving bowling alley in the United States is part of the summer estate of Henry C. Bowen in Woodstock, Connecticut, at Roseland Cottage. The alley is now part of Historic New England’s Roseland Cottage house museum.

Whatever its history, today the sport of bowling is enjoyed by 95 million people in more than 90 countries worldwide. And the other day when I played it with a bunch of kids, I LOST!

A Magic Trick for Dolma Lovers


Dolma is in the air this week – literally. Three days ago, I stuffed two pots – actually three (the third pot is only red peppers), and I cooked one for dinner yesterday, as did my sister. One of the pots I’m keeping in the freezer for the near future. With dolma, it’s always good to have a backup.

At night, my husband read me an Iraqi joke someone posted on Facebook: “Americans teach that the normal time it takes to chew a bite is 30 seconds. For Iraqis, in the time it takes to close and open their eyes, you wonder where the pot of dolma has gone.” So here’s a magic trick, if you want to learn one. Just blink your eyes and poof! The pot of dolma will disappear.

That is probably why when my friend saw the picture of my pot of dolma on Facebook, she commented, “That’s the smallest pot of dolma I’ve seen!”

Here’s a little history about one of Iraq’s favorite cuisine, dolma, which by the way, its name is Turkish.
“The Arab world was under Ottoman rule for five hundred years, and the Turkish influence is seen in many preparations, such as stuffed grape leaves. But the stuffing of vegetables has its roots in the Arab cookery of the early Islamic empire of the Abbasids in Baghdad, possibly learned from the Persians. Ottoman chefs perfected the stuffing of vegetables, and today nearly everything that can be stuffed is stuffed.” —A Mediterranean Feast, Clifford A. Wright [William Morrow:New York] 1999 (p. 322)

Is Woman a Bar of Soap or a Piece of Dough?


I received a chain email that read in Arabic:
A woman is like a bar of soap. Her touch is soft. Her smell is pretty. But if you press on her, she bolts out of your hands. And if you step on her, you’ll slip and break your bones. My advice? Treat your bar of soap nicely. Long live my country’s bars of soap!

The brother of the sender responded, also in Arabic:
A woman is like dough. The more you knead her, the tastier she comes out. So my advice is to knead your wife, put the dough in a warm place, and trust in God!

I always found it interesting that men, the gender that for thousands of years has been the cause of most of society’s pitfalls are the ones who try to define women, the gender who gave birth to them and raised them. And don’t give me the story of Eve and the apple she ate. Let’s look at the atrocious wars, holocaust, massacres!

Many societies have thrived as a result of powerful women. Enheduanna of ancient Iraq was the daughter of Sargon of Akkad. She is the world’s first recorded writer. She was a high priestess in Ur of the Chaldees until after her father’s death, the new ruler of Ur removed her from power. Kubaba, a Sumerian Queen in ancient Iraq, is the world’s first recorded woman ruler in history. She was said to have reigned peacefully for one hundred years.

Matriarchal communities existed in the past, and there are a number of them surviving today. The biggest difference between them and patriarchal communities is that where women rule, there was and is no need for violence. When men are able to master how to run the show without killing each other, then they can begin to describe what a woman is really about.

Saudi Arabia, our Ally – Oh, the Irony!


I wrote in my recent book that terrorism in Iraq did not exist until 2003, when the borders were left unprotected by the US military, allowing major terrorist groups from all around the world to come and set camp in Iraq, then to recruit through force and with bribes. During the start of the war, Arabic news channels who reported incidences of terrorism in Iraq identified the terrorists as Moroccan, Yemeni, Egyptian, etc.

I wrote that terrorism was bred in Iraq after 2003, which explains why none of the 9/11 hijackers were of Iraqi origin, nor had there been any major terrorists in history who carried the Iraqi nationality, except for the Dawa Party, which was led by Iranian extremists and which Saddam tried to annihilate in the 1980s and which the United States in 2003 welcomed into power with open arms.

So I’m not surprised that Dr. Kamal Al-Saedi, president of the International Organization for the Defense of Human Rights, is spreading this message: the United Nations should list Saudi Arabia as a terrorist country because all the bombings that have took place in the United States, London, Spain, Russia or any other countries have been caused by Saudi terrorists and people that have relationships with the Saudi Arabian King – for example, Osama Bin Laden.

I’m just surprised that this concept has not yet taken form, despite all the evidence supporting it, and that Iraq, the country that paid the price for another country’s terrorism is still paying that price, without anyone having corrected it. Oh, the irony!

Coming to this Country 33 Years Ago

Coming to America

Today marks 33 years that I’ve been living in the United States. I remember on our drive home from Metro Airport February 2, 1981, I was in awe at the sight of all the snow that covered the streets. Having come from a land of sand and rivers, I was not accustomed to so much whiteness.

For years, I’ve wondered why I ended up in this country. It was not I who chose to flee Iraq and come to America. My parents made that decision, of course, since I was a child. I’ve oven thought, did they foresee the terrible condition that Iraq and the rest of the Middle East was going to be in in the upcoming decades?

“You are a creative person, and that’s why you came to this country,” one of my mentors once said to me. “You came here to be able to do your writing and to be able to help women of that region which you came from.”

Thank God, my parents were able to foresee the future and bring us to a place where creativity, and not oppression, is what’s encouraged.

The Benefits of Being Snowed In

Snowed In

While getting some fresh air during a nice walk around the block is out of the question these days, being snowed in does have its benefits. Due to Michigan’s weather condition this winter, I have:

1. Finished a book I’ve been working on for years
2. Started a new project
3. Rested quite well
4. Found creative new ways to play with my kids
5. Organized the entire basement

Since this weather might resume for February, I might learn another half-dozen things. As I write this, I am reminded of my teacher Lynn Andrews, who wrote: “Once again we move into the season of winter, Mother Earth’s gift to us of hibernation, of dreaming and being within ourselves as we allow our dreams to germinate and gain clarity before we plant them in the coming spring.”