Showing posts from 2016


Reminds me of Alexandria Egypt. And there's a great reason for that, since Alex was founded by the hero of this part of Greece especially! -- Alexander the Great. (We visited his father's and his son's royal tombs today in Vergina) 

And yesterday we toured the major highlights of the City. 

Below, the Rotunda: a Roman temple for a time, which later served as a mosque during the Ottoman period. Now back to serving as a church with regular services on Sunday's. 

Above: Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) home - he lived here around 12-13 years. 
Below: Constantinos, our beloved guide around Thessaloniki. 

Belgrade - so much to catch up on!

It's been over a week since I've posted anything; so much to write about, but too damned busy to do so!  instead, i'll put up as many pics as possible.

Today, we had a tour of the Serbian parliament plus a lecture by a Political Economist at U-Belgrade, Dušan Pavlović, who is also a member of Parliament (and a harsh critic of the ruling party as well as the corruption and unfairness rampant in the political and economic system of his great country).

And here's our guide for the morning explaining the national Crest/Coat of Arms of Serbia 

Srebrenica - connecting Anne Frank (1945) to Srebrenica (1995)

Enroute from Sarajevo to Belgrade, we made the most important visit of our program thus far, to Potocari Memorial of the Srebrenica massacre/genocide of July 1995.  Our visit occurred 21 years almost to the exact day when the killing fields of Srebrenica ended.

Haggadah and National Museum

Our last day in Sarajevo. I gave students the day to explore on their own, with a "scavenger hunt" as a guide. Many went up to the 1984 Olympics Bobsled "chute". Others went to the Srebrenica photo exhibit (before we go to the Potocari memorial tomorrow). 
And others of us went to the National Museum where the highlight is the Haggadah. 

PSOTC and Parliament visit in Bosnia-Herzegovina

Yesterday (Thursday 14 July), we were hosted by the Commandant of the Peace Support Operations Training Center (PSOTC) in Sarajevo.  PSOTC is very proud to have received a quality assurance accreditation by NATO.  We visited PSOTC last year as well, and we're very happy to have added this Bosnian military education and training center to our regular Balkans Dialogue itinerary.

And today (Friday), we had a very busy day in Sarajevo.  We started at the World Bank's office in BiH and received an absolutely brilliant economic briefing by the Country Manager for Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ms. Tatiana Proskuryakova.  (Praying for her power point!)

Then, we walked one block over to the BiH Parliament and had an equally brilliant political analysis by Mr. Senad Šepić, a self-described "dissident" within the dominant Bosniak party, the SDA (the Party of Democratic Action), led by Bosniak president Bakir Izetbegović.  Here we are at the entrance to Parliament (with a couple of US A…

White Fortress above Sarajevo

A long hike up to a nearby hill/mountain above Sarajevo. 

Ma'a salaama Jordan, Dobrodošli Sarajevo!

Jordan Dialogue 2016 is "done and dusted".  Amman was tough to leave (only for the friends left behind, whom I shall see again!) and Sarajevo was an absolute joy to arrive!  

Balkans Dialogue 2016 has begun!  Our first full day in Sarajevo started with a walking tour with the amazing Enes, tour guide from Spirit Tours - courtesy of Ms. Maja Osmanagić, our logistics/tour partner here in Bosnia.  I'll share just a couple of pictures of our tour, and add more later today.

In 2 hours, after the "procession of the remains" (where the most recently identified remains of those massacred at Srebrenica are driven to their final resting place), I'm taking the students to the "White Fortress" for the best view of Sarajevo, and the best visual of how this beautiful city could so easily have been like a "sitting duck" to Bosnian Serb forces - those who created "the longest siege of a capital city in modern history, and produced the worst atrocitie…

KASOTC - King Abdullah Special Ops Training Center

And this is how we got to spend a day with Project GO students in Amman. 

Petra - Kingdom of Nabateans

Just before Indiana Jones found "the Treasury", he may have found our able teacher-guide, Mr. Abdullah, in one of the thousands of crevices in the Siq (canyon into the hidden city of Petra). A great hike through the ancient city of limestone temples, which honor many ancient cultures - Greek, Roman, Egyptian, pre-Islamic Arabia, Assyrians ... Talk about respect for diversity and multiple faith traditions! The Nabateans clearly had that. 

Ramadan Kariim!!

It was just announced that Ramadan officially starts tomorrow, Monday. Here is a sweet message we received from our host partner, Qasid Institute. 
Dear Denis Sullivan,With the arrival of the month of Ramadan, we will preview changes to the daily routine in Jordan (and throughout the world).
Of the most visible changes will be that nearly all markets  and restaurants are closed for most of the day.   Eating, drinking (and smoking) publicly also become essentially unlawful in light of the fast being observed by over ninety percent of the people.  At sunset, however, city life reawakens in full.  Mosques overflow in the evenings.   Invitations to festive dinners from neighbors, family and friends are common.   Whether you are observing the sacred month or not, we invite you to enjoy the climate of personal purification and social good will and hospitality it entails.   

Here at Qasid, we will provide a room available throughout the day for those not fasting to eat and drink, comfortably. 

A Day with Syrian refugees - outside Za'atari refugee camp and informal farming collective

Friday, the holy day of the week here in Jordan (as with most Arab/Muslim societies), we filled our day with Syrians (all refugees; some working as farm laborers) in the northern Badia (Bedouin, semi-arid region of Jordan).

We started outside the famous/infamous Za'atari refugee camp and the "Freedom Wall" that has become a site where many supporters of the refugees come to write their hopes and dreams on the wall.

Our guide was Ms. Dema Al-Aoun (similar name as our president, Joseph Aoun), a human rights lawyer and someone whose family sponsors nearly 500 Syrian refugees in a system that enables the Syrians to work (legally) as farmers.

After the Freedom Wall, we went to Dema's family farm, met her father (former Brigadier General in Jordan's army, and a successful pediatrician in Amman), and then went to the farm where we met with the leader of these 500 Syrians (an elderly Syrian woman, a "Sheikha" from a rural area of Aleppo, in northern Syria).

Women, Islam, and Politics in Jordan: Professor Abad Al Saud

Dr. Abad Al Saud brought her life experiences to our students today in Amman.  Dr. Abad was the youngest woman ever elected to the Jordanian Parliament.  She is a professor, and a former Dean, at Islamic University in Amman.  She spoke about women in Islam, women in politics, women in Jordanian society and as business leaders.

Dr. Abad spoke entirely in Arabic, with frequent phrases in English; my friend and brother Nidal translated throughout the lecture as well as the discussion.

Our students were well informed about women's issues (and general political issues), with questions ranging from the quota for women in Jordanian Parliament ("do you favor the quota system?") to her view of Western Feminists and Feminism ("I find a lot of common ground, but also women working at cross-purposes across the globe.") to her view of the role of religion in American politics and questions of violence against women and sexual harassment in Jordan -- what are the reasons b…

May 25: Happy Independence Day, Jordan! 70 years of Independence from Britain

In celebration, our dear volunteer, Ms. Aya Nidal Zannad, gave all of us a red "kefiyah scarf" to wear, in solidarity with our hosts, the Jordanian people.  Here we are in 'Umm Jimal, "Mother of Beauty", in northern Jordan, near Za'atari refugee camp and outside of the city of Mafraq. This is an ancient Roman city, also part of Byzantine Empire and later the Ottoman Empire. The city was built out of volcanic rock.

Below, our host Sheikh Khaled (Sheikh/leader of a local tribe in Mafraq) hosted us at his brother's farm, and then at his own house, where his wife prepared an amazing "light meal" (not light) for us to enjoy.  the Sheikh also taught us about his role as tribal leader, marriage counselor, dispute resolver, and otherwise problem-solver for issues (large and small) that affect his 18,000 tribal members.

"I can see Syria from my mound!"
Below, students are channeling Sarah Palin by pointing to the distant Syrian village beyon…

(Remember me?) Back in Amman, Jordan Dialogue 2016

'been a long time without posting ... time to get back in the game!

I'm in Amman with students on my "Jordan Dialogue 2016"!  Had to stop in Beirut (thanks APSA-MENA!), prior to joining up with my group here in Amman.  I want to give a shout-out to Mr. Charles, Ms. FaHu, and Lt. Briskin plus the inimitable Dr. Shakir for leading the group here ahead of me.

Now we're all together and my first day with everyone was a trip to Ajloun Castle after they all toured Jerash ... Note - I was standing right in front of this group, but they insisted on using the selfie stick!  And I found a kindred spirit with a nearly matching hat.  Plus, a non-selfie with the amazing Farhana.

Ajloun Castle - built by nephew of Salah ad-Din al-Ayyubi (Saladin), in AD 1184-1185.