Tonight's Jordan Blogger Gathering
You never know who'll show up for a bloggers’ gathering. The Jordan blogger meetup – a joint Jordan Planet/Global Voices effort – turned up not only some of Jordan's best bloggers, but superstars from Bahrain and Egypt as well. Representing Amman were Ammar Ibrahim, Roba Assi of And Far Away, Nader Shnoudi, Jad Madi, Ahmad Humeid of 360east, Hind Sabanekh, Rai'da Al-Zu3bi, and Jordan Planet founder Isam Bayazidi. Home for a visit from Utah was Jordanian Iyas Masannat and his wife. Open source activist Mohammed Sameer represented Egypt at the table, and veteran expat Jordanian blogger Haitham Sabbah, who blogs from Bahrain, brought a regional perspective to the group.
Haitham's incredible blogging productivity was one of the major topics of discussion – when I asked bloggers to write down the address of their blogs, Haitham listed six blogs – including palestineblogs.com, arablogger.com and NoToTerrorism.com – before pausing and saying, “I guess those are the major ones. There was a great deal of skepticism that Haitham had a “real” job, until he produced a business card, and an explanation that he works eight hours a day, blogs for 12 hours and sleeps for four.
More serious topics recieved attention as well, including the fact that blogging in Jordan is largely confined to bilingual residents of Amman and hasn't spread beyond the capital into secondary cities or rural areas. A number of Jordanian bloggers are interested in organizing outreach efforts through community internet access centers in rural areas, encouraging people to blog about community events, possibly using audio and photo blogging to make the process more accessible to less literate participants. I talked briefly about how Hossein Derakshan's Farsi-language blogging instructions helped spark a blog revolution in Iran, and there was a general sentiment that there needed to be a good Arabic-language introduction to the hows and whys of blogging, oriented towards a Jordanian audience outside Amman. It will be very interesting to watch what comes out of this conversation over the next few months.
Throughout this trip to Jordan, I've been struck by the extent to which Jordan is a bridge nation between North America and Europe and the Middle East. My plane was filled with pilgrims to Mecca; my hotel is filled with security experts enroute to Baghdad. Amman is rapidly becoming a popular venue for conferences that bring together the region and the world. And Jordanian bloggers are at the leading edge of this phenomenon. The bloggers around the table write largely in English, largely for a global audience. And many of the bloggers acknowledged that they're writing explicitly to combat oversimplified images of the Middle East in mainstream media, to challenge generalizations about the Arab world by talking about the details of ordinary life. Jordan is rich in bridgebloggers, and the rest of us are richer for it.
Thanks to all my friends in Jordan, Egypt and Bahrain who joined me at Wild Jordan tonight, both for coming and for being part of a global project to make the world more interesting, more complicated and more personal. Special thanks to Isam Bayazidi for his hard work in organizing tonight's gathering. And we're all looking forward to seeing more Jordanian voices as part of Global Voices soon.