I was one of the lucky ones. I really enjoyed the lockdown, spending time at home – tidying up, cooking, baking (which I never did before) and tending the garden. I actually felt more freedom than before the quarantine! Freedom from social obligations. Freedom from traffic and freedom from having to meet the demands of others. It forced me to look inside for some answers. It made me realise the incredible value in simplicity. There is so much that we can survive without and even be happy. But the one thing that you cannot skimp on is your physical, emotional and mental health. That is our biggest treasure. On the work level, it forced me to start to digitise my business – which I knew had to be done but I had resisted it for the longest time.
It was truly an amazing experience to live through this with the entire world. Countries in the Arab world responded at different times and with different levels. Jordan started early with one of the strictest responses in the world. The government activated the Defence law which gave it the authority to take certain measures. We went into complete lockdown. Everything in the entire country shut down initially for about one week, during which the government found a way to deliver bread and baby milk to people in their neighbourhoods. Later only the small grocery shops in the neighbourhoods were allowed to open between 10 am and 5 pm and people were allowed to walk to get what they needed but we were not allowed to use cars.
Three amazing things happened. Seeing Jordanians – of all ages – walking and riding bicycles instead of using their cars for everything was a novel and refreshing sight.
The second thing was the performance of the government. Prior to this pandemic, the popularity and credibility of the government was at an all time low. Within one week, the government under the direct guidance of His Majesty the King, got their act together and stepped up. For the first time in decades, every single person in the country tuned into the local TV stations to hear the live daily media briefing by the Minister of Media and Government Spokesperson and the Minister of Health. The way they were communicating with the public had changed. They were transparent, sharing information, openly admitting that they are figuring things out and are constantly reviewing their decisions as things become clearer. The Minister of Health daily told us how many cases were registered, where they were located, the situation in the hospitals, the number of deaths, and the number of random tests that were done daily around the country. When they made a mistake, they publicly took responsibility for it and took the measures to avoid its repetition. People needed that strong leadership and the return of confidence in our government created a much-needed sense of unity and solidarity across the country.
Arab culture is patriarchal by nature. The father is the head of the family and we look to him to take care of us and to make the decisions that are in our best interest as a family. We view our leaders in the same way.
The third amazing thing that happened was how everyone seemed to step up. It wasn’t about competition anymore but more about collaboration. How we can come together, put our skills and abilities together to help each other out of this crisis. The private sector stepped up to help the government in so many ways. People went online with free webinars on everything from caring for children in lockdown to managing staff remotely and keeping your business alive. Musicians and artists found ways to bring music, beauty and laughter into our homes when we needed them most.
There were so many silver linings to the dark cloud of the Corona pandemic. Now that Jordan, along with some other countries, is opening up again, will we be able to hold on to those changes or will we be in a rush to go back to the old normal?