Jordanian faculty, students share their patriotism over pastries

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The International Student Center’s International Coffee Hour event is an opportunity for foreign faculty and students to share their culture with their K-State family. The first of this semester’s five coffee hours focused on the Egyptian country, Jordan.

Jordan is rich with historical sights and wonders such as Petra, the Decapolis and the place where Jesus was baptized, the Jordan River. It is also the home of amazing food from both the eastern and the western cultures of the country.

Jordan has a deep history that spans eras and kingdoms. It is home to one of the seven wonders of the world, Petra, built by the Nabateans in the fifth century B.C. The beautiful man-made kingdom is carved into the rocks and completely surrounded by mountains, with no way in except through a narrow gorge called the Siq. This made the kingdom very safe. However, not only was it safe, but it was also wealthy.

“They were a rich kingdom at the time,” Bacim Alali, assistant professor of mathematics, said. “Their valuable commodity was water.”

Alali said that recently, archaeologists discovered that the Nabateans found a way to store water underground so that it would stay ice cold. This and safety made it a thriving kingdom.

In the Greek and Roman civilizations, Jordan played an important role as well.

“Jordan was part of the first Greek Empire, then the Roman Empire later on,” Alali said.

Within those empires was what is known as the Decapolis or “ten cities” grouped together because of their language, culture, location and polical status. Jordan contained six of these important cities, including Philadelphia, which is now present day Amman, the capitol of Jordan. Philadelphia, or Historic Amman, still has an ancient amphitheater that sits in the heart of its city, harkening back to Jordan’s prominence during Roman Era.

Currently, Jordan is ruled by a king, but it also has a parliament.

“It’s kind of a mix between a king and the people having power,” Alali said.

The land mass of Jordan is half the size of Kansas, but its population is almost double that of Kansas. The official language is Arabic, but Alali said that English is common. At 92 percent, the majority of the population is Muslim; 6 percent is Christian, and the other 2 percent is a mix of other religious choices.

“We have one of the oldest Christian communities in the world,” Alali said.

The food from Jordan is a mixture of eastern and western cultures.

One of the desserts served at the center event was kunafa, a cheese and flour pastry. Alali said the top is made of flour and butter, then shaved into hair-like pieces on top and baked. Another food served was manakish, a piece of round bread topped with olive oil and thyme. Alali said this was a popular healthy snack in Jordan.

According to the presentation, one of the advantages of Jordan is its education system and hospitals.

“We have good service and education, the best in the region,” said Mohammed Gharaibeh, one of the presenters and a doctorate student in statistics. “You have a lot of people coming from surrounding areas to get treatment in Jordan and to get an education.”

Alali also said that the quality of education in Jordan is one thing that sets the country and its people apart from surrounding areas.

“Many people are highly educated and openminded — conservative but modern,” Alali said.

Jordanians have different styles of dress, different kinds of dancing and even different ways of greeting than in the U.S. This can occasionally cause social blunders when going from one culture to another.

“When we shake hands, like greeting, men kiss each other,” Gharaibeh said. “When my daddy came to my dissertation, he kissed one of the community members.”

Gharaibeh also said Jordanians make family bonds and responsibilities more of a priority than Americans do.

“You have to take care of your sisters, your aunts – you have to visit them periodically,” Gharaibeh said.

Jordan is also a friendly country and has good relations with its neighboring countries. Alali said the difference between traveling from Jordan to Iraq or Jordan to Syria is more like going from city to city in the U.S.

Muchen Geng, freshman in business, said she learned from the coffee hour that Jordan is a religious country and that it is very beautiful. She also said the presentation really impacted her.

“I think I will remember this presentation for a long time, because the food and powerpoint is better than just a newspaper,” Geng said.

She also said she liked the traditional clothing that some children had on.

“I see the little boy and girl in traditional dress and I think it’s very cute,” Geng said.

Jordan has a lot to offer visitors including astonishing sites, a variety of foods, as well as good health and education.

“I am proud to be Jordanian,” Gharaibeh said.

The next International Coffee Hour is scheduled for Friday at 4 p.m., and will feature Venezuela.

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