Saturday, January 25, 2014

My First Arab Bloggers Meeting #AB14

I wrote these lines on my flight back home after an amazing week in Amman, reflecting back at the inspiring group of people I spent the last couple of days with, the activists, artists, bloggers, editors, journalist, visual tools and digital security experts along with all the organizers, sponsors, and facilitators.

It was the first time for me to attend an Arab Blogger's Meeting and although I hadn't met many of the participants physically before, through our interaction over the years our virtual connection had been well established. There was an air of familiarity, comradeship and solidarity which laid the basis for new friendships. Sadly, there were activists and bloggers who were absent either due to unjust incarceration or shameful red tape which prevented them from being physically there, yet their presence was very much felt amongst us.

Unfortunately, I caught a cold in my first day in Amman which I spent catching up with close and longtime friends and walking through the old streets of the city I lived in and loved. Ironically I developed laryngitis and started my first Global Voices event, which I looked so forward to, without a voice! 

The circle time with our remarkable MC Mohammed Alqaq was a fun time which we all looked forward to, for warming up and getting energized for the long day ahead. I had never thought about the advantages of being cloned until I was faced with the tough choice of determining which track I wanted to follow for the next 3 days of the closed sessions.

On the first day, I chose the digital security track and through the afternoon clinics offered, we learnt about internet security, how to choose a strong password, how to protect the hard drive and were given a list of other valuable tips. Some of the very helpful team of experts even extended their offer to be in touch to guide anyone through the process, if needed.

On the second day, I switched to the Visual Tools track. As a writer I always appreciated the power of words but the visual tools team taught us ways to pair that with strong visuals to make our storytelling more impactful. Through one of the fun and creative exercises we did, we learnt that Palestinians love having eggs for breakfast and hence "Palestine Eggsists."

In the afternoon tracks we sought help from experts in fields we needed advice and tips in. Dina Elhawary from Midan gave us tips on news fact checking and verification. We also learned more about the struggle in Syria from the personal recount of the brave Marcell Shewaro from Aleppo and more stories were shared by Laila Nashwati's "Syria Untold," Ahmed Jedou briefed us about the ongoing struggle and multiple challenges facing Mauritania. Abir Kopty and Ramzy Jaber among others were fine examples of Palestine's dedicated youth using their knowledge, expertise and resources to champion for the Palestinian cause. The artists amongst us were the positive and creative vibe, and their spontaneous performance was always welcomed.

The brainstorming sessions, discussions, interactions, inspirations and the overall motivational boost the meeting gave us was among the many things that made it outstanding. We plan to keep that momentum by developing a platform for more concrete and consistent collaboration among us. 

I was humbled by the experience and knowledge, inspired by the dedication and determination, and touched by the human interaction and solidarity that were shared in the Arab Blogger's Meeting, all of which can not be captured in words. All I can say to conclude is that it was an enriching and extraordinary experience and I look forward to be invited in future Arab Bloggers Meeting, hopefully in a country where all Arabs are welcome.

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