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Politicians’ memoirs

Aug 28,2017 - Last updated at Aug 28,2017

Of the former prime ministers of Jordan, I know some who published their memoirs and others who are working on them.

The ones who already published are Mudar Badran, Taher Al Masri and Abdul Salam Al Majali. I know that Abdur Rau’f Rawabdeh is diligently working on his own. Zaid Rifai refuses to ponder the idea.

Other leading figures who published their memoirs in recent years are Bassam Saket, who wrote 1,000-pages, two volumes, on his own life and Salt, his hometown. 

Adnan Abu Odeh is working on his diaries, which are expected to be published soon. The list goes on and on. 

The most interesting memoirs I read were those of late Awni Abdul Hadi, which were written posthumously thanks to the relentless efforts of his son-in-law, Senator Samir Abdul Hadi, and his wife, Malak Awni Abdul Hadi.

Yet, the book of memoirs that really intrigued me was titled “Some of what is stuck in memory” by late Mardhi Qatameen, an iconic man: slender, bespectacled, with thick hair, big moustache, a tilted tie and a pipe dangling from his mouth.

Qatameen was born in a village 10 kilometres away from Tafileh in 1930, at the outset of the Great Depression. He was raised in a relatively well-to-do family since his father owned 200 heads of sheep.

Owning so many sheep meant that meat, milk, yoghurt and mansaf or hafeet (two traditional Jordanian dishes using the same ingredients, except that hafeet has only thin bread and no rice) were available.

His father called him “Mizel” or the angry one, a name indicating no-nonsense seriousness. 

One of his teachers did not like the name. Being the only student to answer questions, his teacher decided to change his name to Mardhi (meaning the “liked or the contented one”). From there on his name was changed.

After finishing high school, Qatameen left for Egypt, in 1948, to study geography at the Fouad I University. When the army came to power in 1952, the university’s name was changed to “Cairo University”.

During that period, Qatameen joined the new Arab Baath Party. Thanks to his commitment, activity and loyalty, he climbed the ranks to become a leading pan-Arab member of the party.

When the Syrian and Iraqi wings of the party split, Qatameen led an effort to mend fences, only to discover that the two parties were separated by an unbridgeable schism.

Joining the efforts of political revolution in Jordan, after the failed coup against the late King Hussein in 1957, Qatameen and many of his colleagues were put in jail. Political parties where dissolved and declared illegal. He was imprisoned, was under home arrest and was banished to Jafr, a hot, desert, open jail in the Maan Governorate.

Some of his former Bathist colleagues who had reached high positions vouched for him and he returned to teaching. In 1984, he became the deputy director general of the Aqaba Port. Later he became the director general of the railroads.

Qatameen started working on his memoirs in 2010, two years before his death at the age of 82.

His style of writing is enchantingly raw and his words are shot from the heart.

Despite the road of thorns he spent a lifetime crossing, he was not bitter, sour or angry; he was content and happy that he had exercised what tallied with his own convictions.

He is survived by three successful sons: the oldest, Nidal, a PhD engineering who served as a minister; Maan who runs a training centre in the UAE; and Qais who works in Jordan.

The pleasure of reading this man’s impressions about the life he had, left me in a very happy but pensive mood.



The writer is a former Royal Court chief, deputy prime minister and member of Senate. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.

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