Floating in the Dead Sea (Mar 26 – Apr 2)

After settling in Amman for another week, JOHUD went to the Dead Sea for the UNESCO Youth Development Summit. We walked in the footsteps of the Arab League Summit leaders that gathered at the Dead Sea 48 hours before!

The week started on Sunday, March 26. It was my second week at JOHUD and I am already starting to feel at ‘home’ at the job. My coworkers at JOHUD made me feel really welcome, help me out whenever they can, and answer every question I have :). I tried a new Jordanian dish; manakish. On the photo below from the left to the right, you see a man’ousheh (single form of manakish) with Za’atar and white cheese, one with white cheese and tomato sauce (like a pizza), and one with only Za’atar. The most popular form of manakish is the one with Za’atar. Za’atar is ground dried thyme, oregano, marjoram or some combination thereof, mixed with toasted sesame seeds, salt, and other spices such as sumac as a topping. The Za’atar is then mixed with olive oil and spread onto the dough before baking it in the oven. It is a Middle-Eastern pizza, and tastes delicious!

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This week the security increases exponentially every day until Wednesday. On every big roundabout and along the main roads you will find the Jordanian military guarding the city. It looks a little frightening, but they are for protection.

The increased security measures are due to the fact that Jordan is hosting the Arab League summit this year. This is an annual summit that gathers the political leaders of the Arab countries together to discuss international affairs. The Arab League (formally the League of Arab States) was established in 1945. The Arab League calls for close cooperation among member states in economy, finance, culture, social affairs, and health. In its first years in the mid-1940s of the 20th century, the League included seven members—all independent Arab states at the time—which were Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. The League now encompasses 22 member states.

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Sidenote: Close to my place they are building two towers. They have been building those for years now and had to close it down since the foundation was equipped to carry the gravitational forces. They went back to square one and recently started construction again.

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Part of the facilities at JOHUD is a football field. Every once in a while we gather all the youngsters together to play a friendly match. We have great fun, but watching it probably hurts your eyes 😉

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At work, we often have breakfast together. Arab style. That means opposed to everybody bringing their own lunch, and eating their own breakfast, everything is shared. Big plates of Mezze are prepared and placed in the middle of the table. When the starting sign has been given Darwinism rules. The one with biggest hand & reach eats the most :P. If you are too late, literally nothing is left.

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On Wednesday, Eike, Fawwaz and I went to Abu Jabr. The best falafal in Amman. Everything is freshly prepared there. The bread is only seconds old when it is served to your table, the falafal just exits the frying pan and the restaurant itself even has smoke-free sections.

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After dinner, we came across a little gem in Amman. This date shop had millions of different dates. Small, big, sweet, bitter, you name it. This place is heaven for every date lover.

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On Thursday it was time to pack our belongings and head towards the Dead Sea Marriott. The Dead Sea is the lowest point of the planet and going from Amman to Jordan means a descent of around 1300 meters, that is more than 4 times the difference between the highest and lowest point in the Netherlands 😛 .

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At the Marriott, JOHUD partnered with UNESCO to organize the first National Youth Development Summit. The summit was attended by representatives of 60 youth organizations coming out of every corner of the Kingdom of Jordan. The Youth Organizations’s colation objective is to create an enabling environment in which young men and women can develop their competencies, exercise their rights and meaningfully engage in their communities as active citizens. The purpose of the summit was to give the youth organizations the opportunity to get familiar with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to create innovative and effective messages to connect and collaborate to achieve these goals.

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Luckily, the conference was held at a beautiful hotel near the Dead Sea and we had some time to explore our surroundings. The Dead Sea is the second saltiest lake in the world (salinity of around 34%, about 10x times more than your average ocean) and bears its name due to the lack of animals living it. The high salinity prevents macroscopic aquatic organisms such as fish and aquatic plants from living in it, but minuscule quantities of bacteria and microbial fungi are present. The high salinity also means that it is almost impossible to drown in the Dead Sea since you will float! You float because of the natural buoyancy your body has. Buoyancy it the upwards force exerted by a fluid on an object that gets immersed into it. It is captured in Archimedes’s law that states that the amount of force exerted, is equal to the weight of the displaced fluid. Since salt water is heavier the buoyant force will be greater hence making it easier to float. It is a strange feeling, especially at first, but once you get used to it it is quite comfortable. You have to make sure however to cover any wounds you may have since the water can be stingy in those places. Another pro tip is: Don’t get it into your mouth and eyes. Unfortunately, I tried both and I wish I didn’t. Oh, and bring some footwear to the shore. It will save you numerous cuts on your hand and feet.

The Dead Sea is also renowned for its health aspects. Supposedly the mud is extremely beneficial to your skin, so that had to be tried! Researchers have found that patients with psoriasis who bathed for an hour a day in the Dead Sea improved by 88 percent. The water is also said to be effective in treating allergies. It is claimed, too, that the Dead Sea helps relieve arthritis, because warmth and buoyancy reduce the release of prostaglandins – hormone-like substances present in a variety of tissues and body fluids that induce inflammation and therefore pain. Interestingly, anti-inflammatory drugs found in the chemist are based on the ability to reduce prostaglandins. Read more: here.

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The Marriott itself wasn’t a bad place to be. After the conference, we stayed for one more night enjoying the relaxing poolside, the excellent food and the great service. I also set foot into the gym for the first time here in Jordan, definitely needed after all the deserts ^^

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During the conference, I also spend some time in Eindhoven (virtually). I was invited to talk about my experience winning the Global Impact Competition (GIC), for the 15 best entries of the current GIC. I beamed in for 2 minutes before the power gave up on me. Not everything runs smoothly.

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And that was my second week in Jordan. Completely recharged at the Dead Sea, ready to have a productive week again. I have an important meeting planned at the Dutch Embassy in Amman on Tuesday. Inshallah! Next week more!