American Volunteer arriving at Smakieh

A few days ago, an American volunteer rented a house in Smakieh. It is the house of S Hijazeen. His name is Chris. He will be both teaching English and learning Arabic at Hmood High School for boys–a governmental school. Yesterday night, I met him in the house of M Hijazeen.

Chris works with an organization called “Peace Corps”. “Peace Corps aims at eliminating the misconceptions that people have about the US” Chris said yesterday evening at the house of M Hijazeen. What is more, helping promote understanding between the Middle East and the United States is but one side of the coin. “After 2 years,” Chris said. “I will be back in the US. There, I will be teaching my fellow American’s about the Middle East.”

Before coming to Smakieh, he spent two months in Irbid. He used to live at a host Muslim family. In order to understand more about Islam, Chris proudly and happily said how he fasted for five days. His next station was Smakieh. “I was astonished.” He describes his feelings when he found out some facts about this tiny southern Jordanian village. “In Irbid, I was taught how to live in a Muslim society.” He recalls. “I came to Smakieh and I found that it is an all-Christian village.” He regretted.

M Hijazeen and his wife, one of Chris’s closet neighbors, were very happy. Still, their happiness is nothing compared with that of their children. One of their two sons, Hm, aged around 8 year-old, smiled as if he was sitting beside a king. Most of the time, the tiny hands of Hm held the left hand of the embarrassed Chris. Hm looked like a son clinging to the hand of his mother. You should have seen the embarrassment on Chris’s face when the little Hm kept and kept holding his left hand. Moabite noticed a silent call of help in the eyes of Chris. Moabite, however, never allowed himself to intervene. Moabite thought that if there was anything wrong in the obvious huge compassion the child shows, then his parents are the ones who should react.

Moabite acted as a translator between Chris and this Hijazeen family. “I should make no conversation at all. This is why I was invited to drink a cup of tea, it was because they needed my knowledge of English.” Moabite told himself. Consequently, most of the time, Moabite was only doing translation. Occasionally, he looked at the faces of M, his wife, and his 6 children. Based on previous experience, Moabite used to think that people, especially young children, stares at him when he speaks English. Wouldn’t you stare at a person who speaks a language you don’t know? But that night, not on any of the few occasions he looked at the family did he find anyone looking at his direction. All of the people present, young and adult, males and females were staring at Chris. All of the time, Chris was the center of attention like a singer on stage. “I am invisible!” Moabite thought cynically. Was Moabite upset because of being ignored? Not at all! He gets embarrassed whenever he is a center of attention. “Nice, I hope that no one is looking at me now, no one will be describing my English to Smakieh.” Moabite thought the way his society teaches. He hoped that no one would ‘envy’ him because of his English. How sad is that some people, in the 21 century, still believe in myths as envy!

Over a period of 60 minutes, Moabite and Chris drank 2 cups of tea with mint. The time passed quickly because there was always something to talk about. For example, how much does the organization pay Chris? Chris told them that he receives a salary of 170 JD. Every one present, except Chris and the little children, was amazed. How could it be that an American receives such a low salary? Egyptian workers receive higher salaries. Don’t they? Chris had to explain, for many times, what it means to volunteer. On the other side, more than 3 times, M and his wife made the translator, Moabite, translate to Chris stories about a foreign family that used to live in that same house Chris is now living in. “In two years, they spent more than 100,000 JD. All paid by the organization.” M said amazed. His wife followed him to say how the Foreigns toured not only whole Jordan, but also the whole Middle East. “Jerusalem, Syria, Sharm Sheikh…” She gave examples of places they visited. After huge emphasis on the salary issue, the conversation took a turn to discuss the Foreign Family. Both of the parents praised, Ken, the husband, a lot. They stated how nice he was, how he used to come and sit with them, and how different he was from his wife. Talking about his wife, Chris laughed about a description they gave of her character. They didn’t love her as they loved the husband.

In another instance, a hazardous subject was started; Politics. In short, political views of Chris will bring him publicity with a Middle Easter. He stated how horrible America’s foreign policy is. Later on, he described how America, not the American government, wants money from the whole world. In many occasions, he clearly stated the need for a change. In his opinion, laws in America only support the wealthy people (Somehow, I can’t remember this point exactly.) “You are voting for Obaman?” Moabite deduced easily. Chris didn’t object on Moabite’s comment. The conversation about politics ended when M wife whispered to him, almost stealthily, “Leave it!” Moabite laughed as he was the only one who noticed this warning. M looked at Moabite and said nothing. From that moment on, politics was history.

“I wash my clothes manually; I want to buy a washing machine.” Chris asked for advice. M showed him 2 types of washing machines. One of them was very plain that only rotated the clothes within it. It had no dryer. “You can get it as low as 50 JD” I translated after M. To my amazement, Chris said that this was expensive. He wanted to know if there were cheaper washing machines. M informed him the bad news. Later, M told Chris that he can take him to Karak city if he wanted to buy anything. I don’t believe that M will profit any money from Chris. Chris thinks that 50 JD for a washing machine is ‘expensive’. How could such a person afford hiring a car when he wants to travel? “I will pay his bus fee if we go to Karak castle together.” Moabite took sympathy at Chris because he thought of how an American can get used to living by such a very low income!


Valley Of Balau

November 11, 2006 053

Originally uploaded by The Moabite!

Only in Karak… I like the scene there very much especially when you have a strong wind in your face and hear sounds of different insects and birds taking this valley as their home.

It is really a different place down in this valley. It really differ from the environment we have ‘Up’. For example, there are a lot of wild pigeons, wild birds, even some kind of an animal that resembles the fox but it is much smaller.

Date Photo Taken: Saturday, November 11, 2006
Taken By: The Canadian Kenneth Henry

Information about Fort Bashir (Qasir Bashir): written about by Johann Ludwig Burckhardt around 1812

Who is Burchardt? Here is an excerpt from wikipedia:

Johann Ludwig (also known as John Lewis, Jean Louis) Burckhardt (November 24, 1784 – October 15, 1817) was a Swiss traveller and orientalist. He wrote his letters in French and signedLouis. He is best known for rediscovering the ruins of the city of Petra (today in Jordan)


Burckhardt’s journey took place around 1812. Before reaching petra, south of Jordan, Burckhardt had to pass through karak. In doing so, he visited the archaeological sites in the area. One of them, to my amazement, is Fort bashir. Although it is situated in a very isolated place, he visited it. Even today, 2010, the area around fort Bashir is still uninhibited by people. You can navigate around Fort Bashir in google earth. Yes, you can see Fort Bashir using google earth. If don’t have the program installed, visit the google maps website. It doesn’t require a program. Click here for the link and the instruction.

In record of his travels through the area, he wrote a book entitled “Travels in Syria & the Holy Land”. The whole book is availabe online for free. I borrowed the book from the Library of Mu’tah University. The online version, however, doesn’t contain some Arabic words that the paperback copy contains. Burkhardt worte some Arabic words in his book. I guess they were mainly the Arabic names of the locations which he visited. Click here to read the online free copy of “Travels in Syria & the Holy Land by John Burckhardt”.

Here are the exerts from Burchardt’s book when he passed and visited the Roman Fort shown in this photo; Fort Bashir. The following text was written in the early part of the nineteenth century, around 1812. This is exactly the text from the paperback book without any modifications from me! The Arabic words are from the author. I borrowed the book from the library of Mu’tah University, Karak:

[On the spot where we reached the highest banks of the Modjeb are the ruins of a place called Akeb El Debs(عقب الدبس). We followed from thence to the top of the precipice at the foot of which the river flows, in an eastern direction, for a quarter of an hour, when we reached the ruins of Arrayr (عرعاير) , the Aroer of the scriptures, standing at the edge of the precipice, from hence a foot path leads down to the river in the Koura, about one hour to the west of Arrayr, are some hillocks called Kesour el Basheir ( قصور البشير) …]



Burchardt doesn’t mention any further information about the site, as you can red, there are almost 3 sites in his few hours walk. If he was going to write in details about every ruin site he met, pages and pages will not be enough. I was even amazed to know that there are that huge number of ruins near my village. Of all the sites mentioned above, I only knew about Kesour el Basheir (Bashir), since it is visible from my house. Read how I took this photo. Click here.

For further information, I went to the very great site: Virtual Karak Resources Project website is authored by American Archaeologists who did studies in the governorate of Karak. It gives very detailed information about the area. The site doesn’t only provide Archaeological studies about the area, but aslo, historical, environmental, and cultural. In a page, they write about Fort Bashir.


Another example of a castra is Qasr Bshir, a cavalry outpost located nine miles northeast of el-Lejjun. An inscription over the front entrance indicates a construction date of AD 293-305. [Photo ] It is a quadriburgium fort, which means it is square with large corner towers. It is a square trapezoid 0.31 ha (0.77 acres) in size. Four large towers (12 m2) project from the corners. They are three stories high and contain slit windows. Around the perimeter of the lower level were stables for animals. Above the stables were barracks, which could house 150 men. [Photo, Plan of Qasr Bshir – 80K ]



Wow! It was built almost 1700 years ago! This is why I love Archaeology!

# Read a very interesting article written by Written by Marc-Henry Saillard. The article is present in a Jordanian Blog called Click here to read the article.


# More photos of Fort Bashir:


Source: Virtual Karak Resources Project:

Source: Virtual Karak Resources Project:

Source: Virtual Karak Resources Project:



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the old desert fortrest in jordan



Qasr Bushir



Qasr Bhsir Panoramica






Qasr Bshir



Qasr Bushir


To Balau with Mr. Ken

Preface: I wrote this peace of diary June 8, 2007. I didn’t add it ’cause my internet connection was suspended at that time. By the way, I should introduce you to the star of this diary, the unforgettable Mr. Ken.

Mr. Ken: His full name is Kenneth Henry, a Canadian history teacher, married to Mrs. Maxine, a co-citizen of him. When they came to Smakieh as volunteers to teach English in Al-Wassieh school, their family consisted of 2 boys-Hans and Eidden, and a girl-Ezibelle. Leaving Smakieh almost 2 years after their arrival, his family was increased by one girl since his wife got pregnant -probably she now has the Arabic name of Rana, as he showed interest in this name, more than one time.

[ Mr. Ken in the conversation class on Thursday, December 07, 2006. In the photo, he was asking his students in the conversation class-I, Hisham, Sohad, Janneen, probably teacher. To pause in order to take a photo us which to be sent to his family and friends in Canada, about his life in the between the dottiest spots on earth country!]

How would I describe their staying affecting me? Although I was totally confined with Tawjihi the first year they spent here, I would happily assert that they, mainly Mr. Ken, added a lot not only to my English, but also to my personality. Let me now explain the first, my English. Mr. Ken generously gave a precious 2 hours every week in order to give an extremely not only useful but also funny and enjoyable conversation class. The second one, to my personality, I learnt that you can say compliments without needing to lie; just pick the smallest beautiful thing and show your interest in it. I learnt that I should buying books to me should be as buying falafel, always and with eagerness.

A walk with Mr. Ken

This day is a very special day in my life, since it witnessed my first time to enter a Bedouin tent, and drink water from a bowl made from Aluminum, extremely wild and fantastic. How was this day arranged for?

Yesterday, Thursday, June 7, 2007. Me, my parents, my aunt –Um Ziad-. Went to the university in order to have a talk with the vice president of the University –Dr. Mohammed Al-Abadi. We were taken by my cousine, Abu Tareq. And in order to save some fuel. Mr. Ziad took us the same time with Mr. Ken in his daily going to the school of Wassieh. It was my first time to see Mr. Ken after a time of almost 3 months (At least!). He didn’t know about my absence from the university because, firstly, he didn’t mention anything about it. Secondly and most importantly, he asked me if I had finished my university?!. By the way, forget about the first reason I have mentioned here because it is meaningless. I have sorrowfully known that he is going to leave precisely in the 24th of June. Their reason for leaving one year before the end of their official period which is three years. It started in the summer of 2005 and it was supposed to be a three year old visit to Smakieh. Anyway, the reason is that his wife, Maxine, got pregnant and she is now in here 7th month.

To make a long story become short. I told him about my visit to this mysterious and very amazing site, Balau. He immediately showed interest in making a visit to that place and a meeting was appointed which was today, Wednesday at 4 o’clock. And I am gonna explain in detail what happened in this scheduled visit.

As we have arranged, I was at the front of his door at almost 3:55. I entered the main gate of his house then walked to the door. I was a little bit shy of going and knocking at the main door of his house. Thank God, I only needed to say Mr. Ken for not more than two times then the door was opened with a big smile on his face. He said:

-Oh! Jameel… Hi (prolonged hi).

-Hi (I said it with a red face and my head facing the ground- I will surely get red of this habit.)

Before turning around to start the journey, a large number of small cats grabed my attention in the corner of the corridor with their mother cat feeding them. I said:

“Wow! You have a lot of cats. How many cats did the mother cat give birth to?”

“Six”. He said with a big laugh.

“”. Surprised, I didn’t say a word. “It is a big number”, my face gesture showed.

“She is a perfect Arab cat”. He added. Both of us burst into laugh. Just then, we started our 70 minutes walk.

I only had my metal stick with me, not only as a supportive to help you walk but also as a protective from any potential danger, a snake for example. On the other side, Mr. Ken was wearing black glasses, a rounded hat, and having a bag on his back. This bag contained two bottles of water and his digital camera. To describe the area around Mr. Ken’s house. A harvester was working in the fields in front of Murad Nassrawin’s house. One more important thing, before entering Mr. Ken’s house. I found Murad Peter Musalam and Emran 3aid Muslam setting in front of Mu7’lis house. I passed them and said: “Al Salam Alikom”. “Hala”, Emran only answered with this word. What the hell about those people? They only greet you when you are on the top of the mountain. But if you slipped your foot and went down, most people will never pay any attention to you. They will even help to put you more down. Books, Books, Books… This is the only way to know how life and people goes around you.

We went passed the potential MP’s house, in this, I am talking about Teacher Za3al. (P.S. Dr. Raid is the only one who is gonna win this elections unless a non-hijazin candidate came in. We walked then pass a tent set for sheep in front of the olive farms. When passing through some shepherd, Mr. Ken did what he did for all people we met all around the road. He said “Hi!” waving his hand.

We continued the road killing the time talking about how Mr. Ken found Jordan and the Jordanian people. He talked about how he feels that Canadian people should have the hospitality and friendliness of the Jordanian people. And much more positive stuffs about his almost 2 year experience with the Jordanian people. For example, he said: “Many times, when I get into a bus. Many people whom I see for the first time will pay my bus bill. This is amazing how people whom you meet for the first time act with you!”. Hearing these words coming from his mouth made me feel how proud should I be of the customs and nature of simple Jordanian people.

We reached the part of the road where we should decide whether to continue out straight way through the fields planted by barely and wheat. We finally reached the choice of going through the fields. However, we only made a small walk then we turned east towards unplanted fields where our walking will be much more easier. Faster than I imagined, after passing by some tents of Azazmeh, there it was, the huge complex of the Balau with the Fortress of Balau standing almost in the middle of the huge complex. It came in front of us in less than a 70 minutes of walking. The day before, I was telling Mr. Ken that it needs almost two hours to get to Balau. As a result of my inaccurate information. Mr. Ken looked at his watch and after seeing how wrong my information was, he said:

“70 minutes, I thought that… [UI]”. He muttered.

“Umm… Umm…” I was confused at what to say. “I’m sorry, it might be because, because… The last time, I used to stop now and then and look at my way.” I said apologetically. In fact, I should have told him that my calculations were not so precise back then.

“” He didn’t add anything.

We completed our south to north way reaching the main road then turned 90 degrees and then headed west to the complex which was almost beside the road. I noticed an old man setting there with 2 women.

“It would be very useful of we can have a Bedouin guy as a tourist guide to us”. I suggested. “Do you think that we might get help by passing by them and saying hello”.

“Yes, I seems like a nice idea”. He answered with confidence.

I was like: “Are you really that confident of approaching people whom you don’t know”. Nevertheless, he showed complete confidence of this.

“As you wish, Mr. Ken” I talked to myself.

Before reaching them, we passed by a peace of land surrounded by piles of black rocks forming what seems to be like a circle. We stopped and I started trying to figure out what this rounded place could be, I suggested:

“It might be something like a small theatre?!”.

“Maybe!” he answered.

We were going to leave that intriguing place when I suddenly said with a relatively loud voice: “Wait!”. He turned and looked at me in a gesture I didn’t see, but I do expect that it consisted of a sense of being alarmed and waiting. “What happened? What is there?” He would probably would have said that. However, I didn’t give him the time to make any comment. I was already heading toward the center of the rounded structure then bending down to look closer towards a relatively big turtle which was hiding in its shell. It was just a matter of seconds for Mr. Ken to follow me then he bravely hold the turtle with his bare hand and told me that he give it the age between 10-15 years. “How can you know that?” I asked him eagerly to know the answer. He told me that he has a scale in his house which measures the length of the turtles back part and then gives you the age of the turtle. He added: “it is a female turtle, because it has a flat back part of the shell. While a male has a curved part not like this one.”

We reached the old man sitting with two young women. “He doesn’t want to talk with us.” I thought, because he gave his back to us. To my surprise, he turned his face to us suddenly with a smile that grow bigger and bigger as we approached him. Mr. Ken said: “Alsalamo Alikom”. And this would make the old man’s face brighter and then he headed towards us and shacked Mr. Ken’s hand then mine. Mr. Ken then asked him in Arabic about how he is doing and some other things. Finally, the old man pointed to a tent in the east of us and said in Arabic: “Come to my tent to have a cup of tea!”. I immediately translated this to Mr. Ken who in his turn had a big laugh of gratitude and said in Arabic: “Shokran! Ba’adin, Ba’adin”. Which means: “Thank you! Later, Later”.

I firstly took Mr. Ken to the cave that contained the bones and skulls of dead people. “you should take out your camera now!” I said. He took some pictures then we headed to the main fortress, where he took more and more photos. Later on, I took him to the main gate of the fortress and showed him the (secret) doorway and also showed him the underground houses, and the mill stone.

We decided to go to thenorthern edge of the fortress where we found how the fortress is naturally protected. Steep hills which are walls like gave it perfect protection from the north and the west. I found some different shred of potteries this time. Those shreds had some kind of black lines on them. I was later told by the old man that pieces of pottery that had coloring on them goes back to the Islamic period. We then continued our wondering through the different parts of the intriguing and very large complex. We finally finished our sight-seeing and headed to the tent of the old man. His name was Soliman. On our way there, Mr. Ken talked how he thinks that developed countries shouldn’t (steel) the treasures of the east and put it in their museums. I told him that I think that I consider it like a reward for the large effort and the huge amounts of money they put doing excavations in this area. I also told him that without the foreign expeditions, those treasures would probably have been destroyed.

We were taken to Al-Qasr by a Palestinian from Bethlehem who lives in Jordan (this is how he described himself). He told Mr. Ken that he has a large collection of coins that he can bring some sample of them to Mr. Ken.