Last Tuesday was the first day of the Jordan Youth Forum, a forum that brought together well over a 1000 people, and I do not want to use the word ‘youth’ here because my definition includes that the ‘youth’ have to be 35 years old and under.

So those 1000 people came from all over Jordan to exchange thoughts on political, social, educational and economic reform. People have been demanding reform very aggressively in the past few months, and the forum was thought to be a good idea, to put these people on one table and have them come up with conclusions, more or less.

Taken by @Ghifar

This forum was ‘supported’ by the University of Jordan and The King Abdullah Fund for Development, it was not funded by them, no mention of who paid for the entire thing, but I’ll leave that for later on.

Day 1 kicked off with a bad start, we entered the parking lot, parked the car and headed towards a big tent that was put up inside the parking. In order to get into the tent you had to find your name on a piece of paper carried by one of the many security personnel. Every security man had a long list, that was not in alphabetical order mind you, so when you approach one, he takes your name, goes over all the names on his list and if he doesn’t find yours he points at another security man and tells you to go check his list.

It took us very very long to find our names, since each governorate had separate lists but the names were nowhere near organized by any means. You then have to proceed to another security man/woman to be searched and then enter the tent to finally get your badge and schedule. That much security presence is expected as it was known that his Majesty will be coming, but you’d expect them to at least be smart about it.

Things were much more organized inside the tent, younger generation ushers had all the badges and names alphabetically ordered and you can get your badge in less then 30 seconds and head out. We then got on a bus that drove us to the King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Center.

Upon entry each received a folder that contained:
– An A4 20 page document on the effects of reform on our national economy (in glossy paper zay ili allah 3ateena).
– A booklet that contains figures and statistics on Jordan from the department of statistics, very interesting.
– Another tiny booklet, our constitution, which I think many of us have never read or even laid eyes on.
– A booklet that had details on the forum with names,timings and places of everything happening there.
– And last but not least, papers and a pen, and we later each received a bag (which I noticed was left behind by many people, including myself).

Surprisingly, it was break time already. The usual, with an addition of young men standing in front of the coffee and tea machines pouring whatever you want in your cup, which I found to be very irritating. It made the process of getting out of the line longer, other than the fact that I think humans are perfectly capable of pushing a button alone or pouring themselves hot water or coffee. I don’t know whether it was an attempt at making everything seem fancy or what, but I think we could have done without that part. Maybe I’m just too picky, you be the judge.

We then proceeded to the main hall for the opening. A few hellos and welcomes and then a short wait for his Majesty to enter. It was my first time seeing him live and in person, he gives the vibe of being simple and down to earth. His highness got on stage, gave a relatively short speech reminding the youth of their role in the building up of this country. He addressed the issue of political parties and how he has hopes of governmental representations for these parties, being clear about the fact that more work needs to be done before we reach that step.

2 times (if not more) during the speech, his Majesty was interrupted by men yelling the usual ‘ya3eesh jalalet il malek il mo3atham’. Not sure what that is called. Anyway, my personal opinion on this behavior (especially when the person you’re wishing a long life to is currently giving a speech) is that it’s quite annoying. If you actually do respect your King then it would be much better if you do not interrupt him, forcing him to stop talking, to listen to you say something everyone already agrees on, and –judging by his Majesty’s facial expression- something he does not really enjoy.

His Majesty expressed time and time again that we show our allegiance and support to our country by our hard work, and I am personally bothered by how we insist on doing that by chanting words and expecting that to be the ultimate proof of our loyalty.

Back to the subject at hand, after the speech, artist Humam Ammari got on stage and sang his latest (click here), and was followed by a truly out of this world sketch by Ahmad Srour, Amjad Hijazin and Suleiman Zawahreh. The sketch communicated many problems that need to be targeted in the full picture of the reform we all want. It was funny, sarcastic and critical.

I was quite surprised that his Majesty left the main hall and proceeded to the outer hall to see the many artistic, creative and innovative displays that were on show the entire 2 days. I was disappointed by him leaving early, especially that it was communicated that the forum “will not be under royal patronage, but will be enriched with a royal hands-on participation during the dialogue.” Which, quite frankly, did not happen.

The main session followed, which meant that 4 decision makers or people in leading positions (mostly within the government) were to get on stage and each talk about whatever they were specialized in for about 10 minutes. The main theme was about social and political reform. I sadly did not memorize everyone who was in this session, as it was very boring and not interactive at all. Typical and expected from people who have been in their positions for 20+ years now.

The only person who stuck in my mind from this session was Abla Abo Ilbeh (People’s Democratic Party and member of the parliament). I fail to remember now why I liked her, maybe cause she was the only woman on stage.

Taken by @ghifar

Another break was due and then off to the sub sessions. There were 20 rooms with sub sessions, each with 30 up to 75 participants in the hall. Each attendee at the forum received a schedule with the names of the sessions they should attend plus the location and time, but no one checked who goes where, anyone can easily switch sessions and no one would know.

The 20 rooms were divided to 7 subjects.
– Youth and institutions (2 sessions)
– Violence and bigotry (3 sessions)
– Civil or public freedoms (3 sessions)
– Corruption (3 sessions)
– The elections (4 sessions)
– Citizenship and identity (2 sessions)
– Political Parties (3 sessions)

The first sub session was from 1.30-3.30 followed by lunch and then a different sub session from 4.30-6.30.

The first sub session I entered was on corruption, the second on violence and bigotry. In each session the moderator would introduce the subject, talk a bit about it, then give the floor to everyone who wanted to speak. He would moderate, interrupt someone if they took too long, and insist on giving everyone a chance to talk.

The moderators made sure that the note takers in each session were always taking notes, and a few of them specified a time at the end of the session to come out with conclusions and suggestions.

I will speak about what was suggested in each of the sessions I attended in separate posts.

Throughout the entire day, we had access to movie screenings by the RFC, but going to watch movies meant missing out on sessions, so I decided to skip that and simply pay the commission a visit in Rainbow street soon to watch the movies on my own time.

The movies screened on the first day were:
-كعب عالي (High heels) by the one and only Fadi Haddad (trailer)
– احلام (Dreams) by Mohammad Oleiwat
– مدينتي (My city) by Abdel-Salam Alhajj
– سفر (Travel) by Asma’ Bseiso
– الشركس (Circassians) by Mohi Aldeen Qandor

We could also go around the booths checking many innovations and inventions as well as IT companies. There was also a mural in which participants painted on, a caricature gallery and another art gallery by students.

Now after the sub sessions was the time for some music and shows in the main hall followed by dinner, but I missed both because I had to head back to Amman. That concluded day 1 for me.

*Stay tuned for a post on day 2, another detailed post on sessions I attended and last post with general comments on the entire forum*