The International Writers
Travel Reading - From Our Archives
of the best places to read is along the promenade in Aqaba. Just
sit on one of the benches, and open your book, nobody will bother
you, the traffic is light, so no noise, the breeze is pleasant,
and every once in a while you can turn around to look at the beach
and the distant sea.
This is Aqaba in winter, its Aqaba all-year, a place where you can
watch the world go round, and not lose touch with the outside world because
of the coziness of the city, its distance to Amman, the region and internationally.
The glowy brown benches, lots and lots them, which there is non in other
parts of Jordan, bring back memories of yonder and beyond.
I like to travel, but I like to travel with a book and open it especially
when I am doing little else and it takes my mind off to another world.
In Amman, Zerqa, Irbid and Ajloun, for the most part I have been deprived
of my favorite past-time mainly because of the urbane structures of these
towns and cities and the way they have developed. Their roads and open
spaces tend to be cramped with no or narrow pavements and heavy traffic
and constant hooting.
Aqaba on the other hand, is the place to open up your book, the promenade
is ideal, its long and wide, the space gives you a sense of freedom and
tranquility, but this is actually the feeling one gets all around the
city with its parks, green turf-laden roundabouts and long sittings as
you go through the city center.
Being deprived of the sea, I must confess though the first thing I told
my companion when the bus reached Aqaba was "I want to go to the
beach", to see the sea, actually Red Sea, and breath its aura and
its smell which I miss so much, but for me the deep blue Aqaba Gulf was
seen within the wider context of sitting on my own, reading the latest
novels, action adventures and detective stories of world famous writers.
I have no quarrels with what I read as long as its absorbing and
takes you into the story. For a litarati aficionado, Herman Melvilles
Moby Dick or Ernest Hemingways Old Man and the Sea
or Anita Desais A Village by The Sea would be great readings
and adds aura to the place by the sea. Similarly, Arabic books by Najeeb
Mafouz, Abdel Rahman Mounif or Jabra Ibrahim Jabra and Hanna Menah serve
as great strides to raise ones intellect.
On the way to the beach there is the promenade, a perfect place to scratch
your head and stretch your thought and ponder about screaming ideas in
your head or in front of you in the book, newspaper or magazine. Its
lazy, pondering food for thought.
If you want to take your mind off the book, stretch your legs and take
a stroll, the promenade is certainly wide enough, you can walk as long
as your feet will take you and back in the midst of palm trees on either
side of the road. In between turning pages you can gaze as far as the
eye can take you and then plow on reading with occasional breaks of looking
sideways, you wont lose the thread of the story or whats happening
Jordanians have to get into the habit of reading and walking as a leisure
activity, something that is healthy and enlightening. People do both activities
everywhere outside. In Aqaba you can do that at your own pace, you can
walk either with a group, or a couple of friends. I prefer to do it on
my own, it gives you time to dwell on the surroundings or think.
Reading and writing require a fair amount of calmness and solitude to
be able to fathom and understand the flow of ideas whose concepts are
structured in logical ways. Readers sit to read novels, but writers take
advantage of long serene, deeply meditative walks to contemplate, analyze,
put forth and reformulate in ones mindAqaba is perfect for
From that perspective, the city is yet to be discovered. Judicious readers
who normally require reading space should think of Aqaba as
a place around the corner. Similarly writers who are thinking of plotting
out their novels should think of Aqaba as a place to really get the inspiration
to structure their novels and writings.
Writers need an intellectual breathing space, a well-known fact among
world novelists who have idiosyncratic tendencies of mentally emasculating
their stories inside their heads before they put their thoughts on paper.
Reading, writing and thinking manifests hunger. The beauty of Aqaba is
that everything is at your beck and call, you can saunter across the city
without getting tired or worn out. Hotels, cafes, restaurants and the
shopping malls are all within easy reach. So if you get hungry pop into
a diner, relax, finish your food and start another session of reading
if you are by yourself or for writing if you want the piece and quite.
© marwan asmar 2008
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