A previous blog discussed commonality among the nations of Israel, Jordan and Egypt. All three are in the news on a daily basis. I will write individual blogs for each nation in the future. However, there are common artifacts of everyday life in the three nations that are the best of and the worst of everyday life compared to a location like Chelmsford.
In some ways, this part of the world is more ecologically minded than in the States. We still debate the type of light bulbs we use, wanting to retain incandescent bulbs and not the more energy efficient bulbs. Incandescent bulbs are not to be found in the three nations, even in places of worship, regardless of perceived economic level. Hotel rooms and some homes have an interesting energy conservation feature: a card, like a room key card for a hotel, is found when entering the hotel room or home. Unless this card is keyed in, electricity will remain on for only five minutes. Finally, the toilets have two buttons for different amounts of water to be used in flushing, as different volumes are needed for 'number one' and 'number two'. As water will increasingly become a more costly resource in the future, this is not a bad idea. However, the level of road side trash and pollution in some areas are horrid, worse than anything ever occurring in the States, appearing as if there is no concept of using trash receptacles.
Water is life in this part of the world. There are no swimming pools in private homes. Potable water is usually by way of plastic bottles. Nestles seems to have the monopoly on the water in plastic bottles. (Nestles is ubiquitous in food related goods, while we associate it only as chocolate powder to add to milk; in addition, they make an incredible coffee machine found everywhere.) The plastic bottles are thinner than our bottles and cost of bottle water less than here. (As a precaution, if traveling to this area, have some Imodium.) There is one advantage to the scarcity of water and incessant heat and low humidity: you don't need a clothes dryer. Clothes drying outside are found everywhere, regardless of the living style.
One of the things that I consistently found was little or no ramps and other necessary accommodations for the disabled individuals or any workplace safety measures. The region would get a F if graded by an OSHA inspector. This also occurs in popular tourist areas, limiting the mobility and consequently the visits to these areas.
Finally, there are good and bad aspects of our culture. Coke and Pepsi seem to be the national drinks and available even in the smallest hamlet. Junk food (chips, candy) is pervasive everywhere. Marlboro cigarettes and pictures of the Marlboro cowboy are common as is smoking. I anticipate a dramatic increase in obesity rates and Type 2 Diabetes in a generation. Food is unique and very good (cucumbers are exceptional), but for some reason the only rice is white rice, which is probably the worse of all the rices to eat. Satellite dishes are found almost everywhere and everyone, even if they look they came from a time machine from 3000 years ago has a smart phone. The standard furniture appears to be the all plastic, cheap white chairs sold at our discount stores.
This area has its economic, political and social problems, but I'm hopeful they will be resolved as they can take advantage of our 'lessons learned' and resolved within the area's political and religious values. A common observation is new homes looking partially completed when in reality the incomplete story is the foundation for an addition story to be added to a home for other family members in the future.
I don't intend to give the impression that all part of the world are somewhat backwards. Cities have areas as up to date and look like Newberry Street in Boston or Fifth Avenue in New York City. The social and economic ecology is diverse and very interesting.
I'd advise readers to consider taking a similar trip as it expands your perspective. I also emphasize these observations are not valid for all areas in all three nations and are my observations.