Pictures, Arab Names, New Job

Amman, Jordan

There are more pictures up on my Facebook album “Back to Jordan,” from Wadi Ram and my trip to “my” village where I lived as a Peace Corps Volunteer:

A Brief Explanation of Jordanian Names

In order to understand some of the captions of my pictures, you might want to take note of some Jordanian naming conventions. These are pretty standard for Arab countries, although Saudi Arabia has a somewhat more complex system, as I understand.

In my village, almost everyone has the same last name, so it’s useless to call someone Muhammad al-HaraHsheh; there’s one in every other house. Instead, an individual is known by his name, followed by his father’s name, and sometimes his grandfather’s name. So, to take my “favorite” Jordanian (because he didn’t speak more Arabic than I when I lived in Mshairfeh), we get Zayd Radhwan Ahmed al-HaraHsheh, i.e. Zaid, son of Radhwan, grandson of Ahmed, of the HaraHsheh family. His sister is Aiat Radhwan Ahmed al-HaraHsheh, i.e. Aiat, daughter of Radhwan, granddaughter of Ahmed, of the HaraHsheh family.

Similarly, people’s homes are referred to by the name of the father of the family, so that Zaid and Aiat live in Dar Radhwan (House of Radhwan).

Radhwan, however, is rarely referred to as Radhwan. Instead, he has what’s known as a kunya, a particular kind of nickname. Radhwan is usually known as Abu Muhammad (Father of Muhammad), because Aiat and Zaid’s oldest brother’s name is Muhammad. Their mother is generally known by her kunya, Umm Muhammad (Mother of Muhammad).

Kunya can be a bewildering concept for many modern Americans, who are loathe to be reduced to their roles as parents and feel that the kunya erases a parent’s individuality. My mother, however, tells me that kunya is actually a common shortcut in American PTA meetings. “Oh, you’re Wesley’s mother!”


I am now employed as an early elementary teacher at the Modern American School in Amman, Jordan. Teachers start work next week!

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