Tag Archives: Ruba Al-Zu’bi

Telling the Story of ‘Me’

Why do we love stories?

Books have always fascinated me, especially those that told stories. As a child, my mother read bed time stories that took me to other galaxies. I managed to start reading on my own when I was three, thanks to my parents’ love and big library, and I still read stories insatiably. I’m sure I’m not the only stories-addict… but, why? Why do people like to read stories: stories of others whom we neither met nor knew, stories of joy and misery, stories of love and death, stories that happened and those that still wander in the future?


Honestly, I never gave that much thought until lately… and specifically until after my TEDx talk (TEDxArarStreetWomen – the first women TEDx in Jordan). Being forced to write and then tell a story of ‘Me’ is beyond any other experience I ever lived. The combination of stress, joy, memories and emotions was overwhelming. It is as if my life was put on hold and every single moment would pass by as if it is re-happening all over. Suddenly, I felt re-discovered… it was scary and enjoyable at once. There were moments when I felt I had no story worth telling… and then in a few hours, I would feel that strong urge to unlock my soul and let it all out. Of course, at the end, it must be in between… I chose to talk for 9 minutes only!  Undoubtedly, the story of another human impacts us somehow, whether consciously or unconsciously. A story well-told is like a time watch… it could take you across ages – backwards or forwards – and puts you on the same road and in the same seat as any of the story’s main characters. There were stories that I didn’t want to finish, and there were others that I wish I forget forever.

Emotion-izing ‘Me’

To tell the story of another might require imagination, empathy, research and intellect. However, to tell the story of ‘Me’ requires an open mind and soul, and lots of emotion-ization.

While I strive to learn how to manage and control emotions especially those related to the most unforgettable moments and situations, within a week, I deployed a reverse process to emotion-ize all data and information. I learned how to weave the mind, heart and soul into a story worth telling.

The story of ‘You’, ‘We’

I thought that was it! I prepared the talk and rehearsed several times. I’m ready for the big day, I thought.
Sitting there in the theater hall watching and feeling every talk was another experience. The 17 other women (and man) sharing their stories of ‘Me’ left me awestruck for days. Obviously having the mind, heart and soul present helped me travel in every story’s time watch to live with every single speaker throughout her story. I smiled, laughed, cried and wow-ed for hours. The story of ‘You’ awakened a new dimension of ‘Me’ that was put to sleep.

I know now that ‘We’ shouldn’t listen when we are told to disconnect the mind, heart and soul… emotions are never too much.

I know now that every story is worth telling.

I want more than ever to make every day a visible thread in my colorful story.

Here is the link to my humble talk:


With love to TEDxArarStreetWomen and all the women around the globe weaving a story every moment.

#InspireMENA Story 1: Humanizing Architecture – Through the Eyes of Abeer Seikaly

View of tent structures (day)

By: Ruba A. Al-Zu’bi
Through the jasmine-scented roads of L’weibdeh (Jordan) I navigated my way to Abeer Seikaly’s studio, an old house that resembles Jordan’s genuine and inspiring identity. Abeer Seikaly is a young Jordanian architect who has been featured on several global and local media platforms because of her innovation “Weaving a Home” that was shortlisted for the 2012 Lexus Design Award.

Influence of Education and Local Knowledge

Top architecture schools in the Arab world are heavily influenced by international trends in built environment and sustainability, and unfortunately Arabic reference material is largely ignored in teaching. The emerging thinking around built environment and its relationship with people and nature rely largely on digital and virtual practice leaving students with minimal interaction with communities and building materials. Moreover, the growing disconnect between research and market requirements in most developing countries magnifies the gap between engineering and sustainable development. Acknowledging the uniqueness of traditional Arab architecture and its historical importance in shaping sustainable building concepts raises concern on the diminishing role of local knowledge in responding to contemporary sustainability challenges.

For Abeer, having the chance to study abroad provided her with new insights not only about architecture but more importantly about her own potential and abilities within a larger context. What her culture-rich home environment gave her, on the other hand, was respect and appreciation for art, creativity and surroundings. With time, exposure and experimentation, Abeer defined her own architecture. Emphasizing that the pure definition of technology is craft, weaving, and making, her definition of innovative architecture combines old and new, traditional and contemporary. It is also thinking about architecture as a social technology.

Re-defining Success

When people are focused on the product, they usually tend to neglect the joy and benefit of the process itself. Focusing on the process boosts self-confidence and self-awareness and yet requires diligence and mindfulness while enjoying experimentation. It enables us to engage more deeply with the present, and thus, allow us to learn faster and experience life to the fullest.

According to Abeer Seikaly, architecture is not about the building itself but more about getting into it and experiencing its metaphysical nature with time. “Ordinary architects nowadays are inclined to use computer software to design buildings while sitting in closed offices. This is only dragging them away from people and from nature. As a real architect, you need to be out there to feel, interact and test your designs”, says Seikaly. “Creating is about the process and not about the outcome.”

Thinking through Making: The Tent

As a firm believer in the process, Abeer Seikaly has been working on her creative structural fabric for years. When the time was right, she used this creative work to bridge a gap in human needs. Participating in the Lexus Design Award was part of engaging her fabric with people and nature. Disaster shelters have been made from a wide range of materials, but Abeer turned to solar-absorbing fabric as her material of choice in creating woven shelters that are powered by the sun and inspired by nomadic culture. The use of structural fabric references ancient traditions of joining linear fibers to make complex 3-D shapes.

Tackling an important issue like shelter for a humanitarian purpose can’t be more relevant to both innovative architecture and sustainable development. With Jordan being host to more than 1.4 million Syrian refugees, this is about humanizing architecture and meeting basic human needs. Abeer has explained everything about her fabric and its use in disaster relief on her blog.

Study model showing movement of the system and its collapsibility
She passionately mentions her ultimate inspiration: thinking through making. “Experimenting, looking at material’s behavior, testing, and slowly you are there”, says Seikaly. “It is about thriving and not about surviving. Revelation results from years of hard work and continuous perseverance throughout the process”, she adds.

Recipe to Innovate

There is no recipe for innovation, Abeer Seikaly explains, but Jordanian engineers and architects need to ask themselves the following: What are you about? What is local/sustainable? What is Jordan about?

When asked about role of engineering firms, Seikaly stressed the fact that most corporations nowadays do not provide an enabling environment for youth to learn and grow. Emphasizing the importance of innovation, she says “With no personal attention and coaching, engineers are disconnecting from themselves and from community. Despite all the difficulties we face in our country, innovation goes back to personal drive and motivation: if you need it, you will make it”.

“Define your role as an Architect in a developing country, I have discovered mine and became an aware human being. To serve society and improve well-being is who I am”, concludes Abeer.

Architecture and Sustainable Development

The straightforward link between architecture and sustainable development goals is Global Goal No. 11 i.e. Sustainable Cities and Communities; nevertheless, a deeper look at how architecture influences and gets influenced by other elements brings about a link with almost each of the other Global Goals. The unique relationship between built environment, people and nature makes it an opportunity to demonstrate real sustainable development, as highlighted by Abeer Seikaly’s innovation. Around 60% of the world’s population will be living in cities in 2030 which dictates a new and integrated way of thinking about urban design and architecture.

Green Careers – what are we missing in the educational system?

I was lucky enough to join the Green Careers booth at the International Youth Day celebrations in Irbid organised by USAID. The experience was rich as it made me realise how little environmentalists are doing to empower each other and to give hope to the new green generations. Young Engineering students already had pre expectations that the main challenge in their career is going to be unequal employment opportunities. I had to listen and try to change that perception while inside my head wondered what if that is really the case. After overcoming that first point, we started real talk about:
– the right attitude… What impression am I giving.
– how can I stay up to date with sector development and priorities (energy, environment and water).
– with over 112000 registered engineers in Jordan, how can I build my competitive edge.
– in the CV and during interview, how can I show my added value to the company.
– what would an employer like to see in my CV as a fresh graduate.
– does voluntary work count.

I know I wanted to keep doing this… And reach out to all those feeling its a curse to study green … If I can’t… We all can try though.



“Serve to Lead” – Memories from the Royal Military Academy of Sandhurst

Serve to Lead” is the motto of RMAS and yes we were handed the book itself… just as any privileged RMAS graduate.

Quoting Sydney Jary MC 18 Platoon – from Serve to Lead:

‘Sound leadership – like true love, to which I suspect it is closely related – is all powerful. It can overcome the seemingly impossible and its effect on both leader and led is profound and lasting’.

Almost three years have passed since I completed the leadership and policy programme with King Abdullah II Fund for Development KAFD/IDG for senior civil servants. Nevertheless, the influence of that week in Sandhurst Military Academy is increasing with time. It is probably because of the special training style and real battle locations that induce you to re-think leadership.  I had the chance to visit the room where HM Late King Hussein and many of the Hashemites stayed while studying at RMAS… lots of glorious yet humble feelings and stories are hidden in that room captured in the photos hanged on the walls. Had the great pleasure of meeting Jordan’s Ambassador to the UK Mrs Alia Bouran over a special dinner.

UK2 July 2010 116  Group_Picture

RMAS.Day2 045

While seeking to understand what makes Military la good leadership school, we were reminded of the fact that you lead people through serving them and never vice-versa.

It was fun too… lots of physical and mental activity… maps, compass and good fellows.

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My Aspen Experience – Philosophy, Values & Leadership

It was a lovely surprise to receive my nomination for an Aspen Institute Seminar “From Success to Significance” last June (2013). It was a unique kind of leadership seminars that you don’t witness everyday. Navigating through the deep tough readings of Aristotle, Ibn Khaldoun, Darwin, Confucius, etc and then reflecting back onto our daily lives… it was hard not to find areas of the soul, mind and body that were undiscovered or maybe forgotten. I can’t remember the last time I had to be this close to my own self… to my own values and how I’m basing my leadership decisions on some of them. Grateful to have met great people like Tim Boyle, Diane Tavenner, Mahmoud Elashmawy, Diana Tase, David Langstaff, Robert Avossa, Aimee Guidera, Eric Scroggins, Frances Mclaughlin, Alejandra Castillo, Angela Cobb, … it was my big blast of the year!

It was because of my Eisenhower Fellowship and the kind recommendation from Gehan Elsharkawy that this was possible!

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Marked efforts and valued partnership between USGBC and JordanGBC

To reiterate Jordan Green Building Council’s commitment to the successful and strategic partnership with the US Green Building Council, issues of  mutual interest were discussed with Jennivine Kwan, Vice President of International Operations. Ms Kwan has been a great supporter and mentor for Jordan GBC throughout the founding phase. She deeply and gladly welcomed teh official announcement of the new milestone for Jordna GBC at the World GBC ‘the established status’.

Jordan GBC and USGBC are cooperating on activities related to education and training on LEED and also on policy advocacy and visioning the International LEED framework.

Maggie Comstock shared her experience within the USGBC in policy advocacy and impact made on legislations and Standards.  Jordan GBC is working with other NGOs to strengthen the rold of Civil Society Organizations in policy-making and we know the road is still long.

Another active green lady in Philadelphia is Heather Blakeslee from US GBC Deleware Valley Chapter. She highlighted their excellent working relations with USEPA Region 3 and with other stakeholders in the area. She explained the efforts with Schools and also the Impact Map they are developing online for their members. Such efforts were also acknowledged in my meeting with the USGBC indicating that this Chapter is one of the most active in the US.

Green Build 2013 may take place in Philadelphia… news are music to our ears in Amman… we hope to get the 2 Philadelphia s to meet in the Green Built Environment.

Takeaways and follow-ups on the above issues already initaited with Jordan GBC!