Sunday, May 20, 2007 dollars for education in the Middle East!

The stultifyingly boring mission for which our group of motivated volunteers was pulled back out of Iraq has one upside: more time for reading. In this photo, my friend Jad is reading a book on WWII. He has been devouring magazines, and prowling my shelves for books that aren't in French or Spanish, or about birds. In just a few days I finished Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat, read half of a book on prehistory which turned out to be of little interest to me, and I am working on Mario Vargas Llosa's La Ciudad y los Perros, which is a very difficult read for me because it is filled with Peruvian slang. All the while, I have been reading the newspaper every day, The Economist every week, and various online newspapers and blogs. I haven't read that much since I worked for a polling company on suburban buses in France almost ten years ago.

I came across an interesting article on the BBC's Spanish news website ( Apparently, the Sheikh of Dubai announced at the World Economic Forum that he is giving 10 billion dollars for education in the Middle East. I was expecting to find this news on the New York Times' website, but even after searching UAE news within the Middle East section all I got was a depressing scoreboard of suicide bombings and deaths in Iraq and the Palestinian territories. The deed was not even mentioned in an article on the World Economic Forum in the Kuwait Times!
Apparently, only 40% of Arab women can read and write, Turkey publishes more books than the entire Arab world combined (thanks to Ataturk), and fewer patents and research papers come out of all Arab universities each year than out of a single company like Hewlett-Packard for example. As for the books that are published in this part of the world, the majority of them are mostly religious books that extoll stasis over progress. In my admittedly limited experience in the Middle East, I have come across many things that are simply wrong - pervasive racism, religious intolerance, illegitimate leaders, etc... Most of them are better addressed by schoolteachers and books than paratroopers and bombs. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid al Makhtoum of the Emirate of Dubai is doing the right thing here, and he should be praised far and wide for it. At the very least, he should get more press coverage than suicide bombers.
I made only one really good bird observation lately: a very tame flock of black-crowned finch larks Eremopterix nigriceps landed right next to me when my camera was packed away for the move. I think they are fairly unusual around here.


Anonymous said...

Hi Paul! Have you & JAD seen this yet? Another interesting milblog.

It has some links worth looking at.

Anonymous said...

Hi Paul,

Your "gray warbler below" is in fact a Garden Warbler Sylvia borin. New species for you, huh?

Found your site with google for coturnix.
Best wishes,
Erik M.

Paul Norwood said...

Thanks for the ID! That was an unexpected good surprise.