24 March 2011

The End of the Beginning


"To add one more smile in the world, to remove one more tear," Michael Kouly said. There will be plenty of both before the day is finished. But notwithstanding the sadness of parting, this is a day replete with optimism, because now we know we have a future together.

This is a photo of MELA members one thousand years from now. A little worse for wear, perhaps. But part of us is still here by the Dead Sea -- aged, eroded, encrusted with salt, yet still recognizably the same people who met and learned and laughed together at MELA. Surely that is Hazem in front? Can't you spot Haya chatting with Hamoud? And there's Sarah, Bill, Saif, Andrew, Ramzi, Johnny, Zeina, Nancy, Dima, John, Firas, Mohammad, Radwa -- oh wonderful friends, they are all here! All the beloved people together in this place, today and forever. Can you see them? Close your eyes and look, and you can see them -- as they were, and are, and always will be. Thus we remember, and are remembered.

* * * * *

"Shaping the Future - The Power of MELA." Jim opens the afternoon session with a vision of the organization weaving together strands across the Middle East, and closely knit with its older sister, the Central Eurasia Leadership Academy (CELA) and the Society of International Business Fellows (SIBF).

The facilitators stand and are recognized for the profound contributions they made to the success of the program.

An inner glow suffuses Faculty Director Bill Starnes, fuelled by pride at a job well done, and animated by the prospect of getting more than 4 hours of sleep a night once MELA is over.

Hamoud, Shamma, Mohammad, Hania: Different people react in different ways...

Time for an invigorating beverage, before we move into the final phase of our agenda.


Adey receives his certificate from Michael.

Shamma is congratulated by Meisa.

The talented Mr. Mohamad prepares for an appearance on "Arab Idol."

Laughter and emotion from Hania.

Omar demonstrates again his star power.

Yasser is also an accomplished microphone performer. Mohamad clearly has some stiff competition for "Arab Idol."

Sarah was born to be on the stage.

Lama's smile says it all!

The MELA light


Saif and Mohammad share the secret MELA handshake.

An alternative version of the secret handshake, Omani style.

Some people opted for a good old-fashioned hug.

And we promised to meet again...

... somewhere soon on this small planet that we share...

but we shall not forget the perspectives we experienced, the horizons we explored, and the bonds we forged here in Jordan.

Not the beginning of the end -- merely the end of the beginning!

Face the Dragons


A sad sky emerges to express its feelings about the final day of MELA 1.

Luke and Lyutha preview the excitements in store. Top of the agenda: team presentations of key issues for the region -- and how leaders of MELA caliber could make a difference.

Stop discrimation now! The first group proposes Taqarib, an online community to raise awareness about discrimination and to mobilize young people in the Middle East to combat it.

A tough panel of four fire-breathing experts assesses the presentations. (They are dragons -- but kindly ones.) Offering feedback here are MELA Board Member Meisa Batayneh and Jordanian businessman Omar Maani.

Buy Arab! Iron-oligarch Lana introduces Rabt.com -- a proposed platform to connect businesses in the region with local manufacturers.

The minds behind Rabt.com face the dragons' heat.

The dragons in their lair. MELA Board Member Sheikh Hussein Al-Banawi responds with both praise and productive criticism.

The Middle East Learning Initiative is the third group's brainchild. Its goal is to mobilize network resources, including MELA, to achieve a better educated population in the Middle East.

Oh no! Does Group Four favor the exploitation of child labor? Fortunately, the gifted co-presenters turned out to be Gamil and Sarah's daughters (bona fide volunteers) representing Arab youth's demands to be accorded the rights and responsibilities they deserve.

The fourth group's Citizenship Arabia foresees enhanced regional cooperation by harnessing talent, irrespective of borders, across the whole Middle East.


Radwa+Dima+Sandra+Hania = unbeatable combination

As every artist knows, orange and blue are complementary colors... Ginny, Lama

Hazem, Meisa: Great minds think alike. But what are they thinking?

"We hope you had a pleasant flight and look forward to welcoming you again on board MELA Airways."

Enjoying coffee amidst refined surroundings...

... and in top-class company!

Melaphilia, cont. (see MELA Day Nine). The disease has grown to pandemic proportions by now. Infectious agent Soughit passes it on to Tom.

Sheikh Hussein Al-Banawi (Chairman & CEO, The Banawi Industrial Group) speaks powerfully on "The Unknown Leader -- The Real Difference Maker."

Sheikh Hussein's talk strikes a chord with the audience. And his joke about the pizza delivery boy is a big hit.

The morning program for MELA Day Eleven is over. We reconvene after lunch for the graduation ceremony: Don't miss it!

23 March 2011

MELA - SIBF: Meeting of the Twain


The catch phrase of the day is "show-and-tell," as MELA teams prepare to present their ideas on key issues in the region. The MELA blog peeks behind the curtain to show-and-tell the collaborative process. Firas and Lyutha crunch numbers.

Hania and Radwa communicate telepathically.

In the crossfire between Sarah and Ahmed, Randy chews his glasses. Not a good sign.

The SIBF new member class joins MELA in the auditorium for the privilege of attending the dress rehearsal of the presentations.

Hazem and Sarah take control of the lectern.

Dima and Saif receive feedback.

Lana, Omar and Firas.

MELA and SIBF members gather at sunset for a reception on the terrace overlooking the Dead Sea.

Tanveer Patel, Shamma, Radwa

Adey shies away, stunned by Sarah's light.
She tends to have that effect on people.

Zeina and Ron Carlsson

Hamoud, Sandra, Radwa with Nick Hoffman.

Soughit with Rami Koury, editor-at-large of the Daily Star newspaper.

Dima chats with Dan Ciprari.

Hitham and Terri.