The Middle East in Crisis

In the last eight months, the Middle East has undergone some incredible and fundamental changes. And while at this point it is difficult to discern the positive and negative outcomes of these changes, one thing is clear: the region is in a state of crisis, even if in some parts, the times of deep trouble seem to have subsided. After all, as one friend put it, other parts are “in flames.”

But it is not the national or political crisis that I’m interested in discussing. That has been attended to by the media for some time, and I am by no means able to offer anything beyond or equal to the various analyses. Rather, my interest is in the crisis of the Middle Eastern individual, or, differently put, the personal but nonetheless overwhelmingly prevalent crisis that individuals in the Middle East are presently going through.

What is this crisis? Although I haven’t lived in the region for the last fifteen years, I have regularly visited–every year, and at times twice in one year. The transformations that the region has undergone in those years are quite drastic, and are particularly evident to someone who comes only once a year, and so does not see the transformations as they happen, but only witnesses the aftermath. Every time that I’ve returned to Amman, I have been deeply shocked by how different the city appears since the last time I had been there. And when I relate my surprise to the locals, they nod in agreement, in such a way, however, that does not imply collaboration on their part, but rather seems to say that they are–like I am–simply onlookers, as though witnessing the ever-transforming city and its people from a mountain peak.

They also seem to agree on the general causes of these changes, which are many and include everything from war and political instability to the ever-increasing prevalence of western media. The widespread use of satellite television and the internet has brought Hollywood (among others) into every home in the region.

But there is an important difference between watching Hollywood movies, and trying to make one’s own. Ten or fifteen years ago–when satellite tv and the internet were being installed in Jordanian homes–the so-called West was something of a foreigner, entering one’s living room for a few hours, but receding into the background afterward. The situation is different today. The West cannot be said to exist only in those films, magazines and books that are imported from the US or Europe, but has found a home in the local culture as well.

An example: Within the last ten years, in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, there has been an influx of English-language magazines, which look and feel just like a magazine one would pick up in any airport bookshop in Europe. But beyond the cover, there is a small, but significant difference. The magazines are local–composed by local authors, with local models, and the articles concern local issues.

Just ten years ago, the only English language media produced in Jordan was the Jordan Times, the sister to the national Al-Rai’ newspaper. In the last decade, English language media has proliferated to such a large extent that now you can find everything from business journals and fashion magazines, to cooking magazines and political journals in Jordan–all written in English.

Similarly, while fifteen years ago there were few English-language schools in the region (mostly for the children of diplomats), today almost every private school in Amman advertises itself as offering a full curriculum in English. Arabic is offered as one course among others, and is the only course that is not taught in English. In other words, a large portion of Jordanian children are learning to use English as their primary language. It is a telling sign, I think, that yesterday at the pool I overheard two older women using English every other word. This would have been unimaginable ten years ago.

I am told by friends that this is also the case in other parts of the Middle East, particularly in Syria and Lebanon.

Why is this important? I think it shows the degree to which the West, and especially the English language, has become a part of Jordanian society. It shows the extent to which a large minority of Jordanians is interested in European or American style journals and magazines, and willing to pay what, in Jordanian dinars, is a large sum. It also demonstrates the fact that so many Jordanians actually prefer to read and write in English over Arabic. I admit–I am one of them. But ultimately, and this is the point I want to dwell on, it shows that there is a large minority of Arabs who are not entirely at home in their own home, in their own language.

This was not the case–at least from what I could see–fifteen years ago, just before I left. Today, by contrast, it seems to me that many Jordanians suffer from a double identity, inhabit two worlds, which, if not mutually exclusive, nonetheless make demands different enough that they lead to a sense of incongruence or self-contradiction.  Language, of course, indicates a lot more than what appears at the surface.

While psychologists have long recognized this double-identity in children of immigrants as well as in children of diplomats (i.e., in children who grow up between two worlds, two languages), there has been no discussion of the fact that a dual sense of identity can emerge in one’s home country. Just as in the case of immigrant children who grow up between two cultures, so in this instance, one finds that the individual’s relationship to his or her own culture is quite complicated. There is no simple, straight-forward “feeling at home” in one’s home. Instead, the individual appears to develop something like bifocal vision–every aspect or idea, every norm, is considered from two different, often contradictory, perspectives.

I will provide an example as a case in point.

Recently, a friend of mine told me that last year she had been invited to a wedding, which she could not attend as she was out of the country. When she returned from her holiday just two weeks later, she called the bride to congratulate her. To her astonishment, she found out that the couple had split up and was preparing to divorce. This is just two weeks after the wedding. While at first I thought this was a unique situation, the more time I spent in Jordan, the more I realized that it is by no means singular, but seems to express something essential about the way young couples are marrying and divorcing.

There are a lot of ways to explain the rapid increase of divorce in the Middle East, among them, of course, is the education of women, their increased sense of independence, and the fact that they no longer feel the need to receive the financial support of a man. In Jordan, most unmarried women work, and while a large percentage of married women stay at home (especially if they have children, as there is no child support), many do return to work after their children are school-age.

With this heightened sense of independence, comes, of course, a need to also behave and act more independently. But this is where the problem arises. While the individual Jordanian (and here I imply both men and women) has in theory learned some basic western ideals regarding individual freedom and independence, in practice he or she continues to abide by the traditional social norms and ideals. In other words, while the individual speaks in English, he or she still acts in Arabic. And this has, to my mind, lead to some serious problems–divorce being one of them.

The issue of marriage in the Middle East is complicated and difficult. But, to put it simply, the manner in which people marry in Jordan is in deep contradiction to the way an independent individual would choose to marry. I am not making any metaphysical claims about freedom, but only speaking about the ability to choose one’s partner in the way that one sees fit. Importantly, this implies that a person may be able to choose a partner with whom she or he has developed a strong and deep personal connection, rather than on the basis of external factors (such as family pressures, cultural expectations and financial reasons).

While in the past most people were quite content with the traditions involved in marriage, today there is a dissonance between the individual’s self-understanding, and his or her behaviour when it comes to marriage. As one friend put it, in the Middle East it is difficult to navigate the terrain of relationships precisely because of the “bi-cultural expectations.” For the most part, individuals who think of themselves as self-determining continue to abide by the common or traditional laws and restrictions–and, in the case of marriage, there are many of them. This seems to lead to the unhappy consequence.

Why is this the case? Why are those individuals who think of themselves as free, independent, etc., not acting freely and independently? At this time, I can only point to an answer. It is by no means a full explanation, but a first step.

Although it is evident that certain western ideals have become a part of Arab society, especially among the young, these ideals remain incomplete and in some ways superficial (and this may be due to the way in which these ideals have been mediated, i.e. via Hollywood). In other words, while we may consider ourselves to be freer or more independent than our parents, this so-called freedom is only apparent. This is because honesty is missing: honesty with oneself and with others. Thinking one way and acting in another is dishonesty.

Honesty is extremely difficult and requires courage. But lacking honesty, the individual is not free, and neither is society. Freedom or self-determination cannot emerge in a dishonest situation.

And so it appears to me that while individuals may appear to have achieved some freedom through external factors (work, income, education), this freedom remains incomplete so long as we are not thinking clearly and deeply about our ideals, and acting in accordance with them. In other words, the individual’s crisis is not only about inhabiting two different worlds, but also involves a lack of integrity in one’s encounter with and attempt to negotiate between these two worlds.

*With special thanks to ZT for insight and input.



Filed under Culture, Middle East, Social - Political, Travel

Two Christian Weddings in the Middle East

Twenty years ago, few in the West knew or thought about the fact that the Middle East is home to a small minority of Christians. Although the existence of Christians in the Middle East is more well-known today, the exact traditions and cultural life of these Middle Eastern Christians remains generally unfamiliar. I am not an expert on this topic, but I lived in this community for many years, and most of my family members belong to it–so when I speak about it, you must consider that my thoughts are those of an insider, who does not, however, know the demographics and statistics, or the history and the various sources and influences which played a formative role in its development.

There are many varieties of Christians in the Middle East–everything from Coptics in Egypt to Maronites in Lebanon, Greek Orthodox in Jordan, Antiochian Orthodox in Syria, Catholics throughout, as well as an increasing number of Protestant denominations, among them Baptists and Born-Agains, in addition to a very small minority of Mormons and Seventh Day Adventists. With the different denominations come different traditions. And, of course, these traditions are coloured by the local (and not necessarily Christian) customs.

In the last week, I went to two Christian weddings in Jordan: one was Greek Orthodox (in Arabic “Rum Orthodox”) and the other was Catholic (in Arabic “Latin”). As my knowledge of the history of wedding ceremonies in the Middle East is limited to the past thirty years, I cannot say with any certainty at what point very recent developments in Europe and the US (such as the bride’s white dress) became widespread in the region (although I can say that my grandmother, who was married in the 1920s, wore a white dress). Nonetheless, it is safe to say that the Christian weddings I attended were, on the surface, not dissimilar from Christian weddings elsewhere. In addition, while there were obvious differences between the Orthodox and Catholic ceremonies, these differences appeared to mirror the diverging customs of Orthodox and Catholic weddings in the West.

But the two weddings had some significant similarities that distinguished them from their European (or American) counterparts. These characteristic differences are, in large part, drawn upon from the local culture and tradition.

Prior to the wedding, there is some times (though not always) a “zaffeh,” which can take on many forms depending on its country of origin (Egyptian, Syrian, Jordanian, Lebanese). Both Christians and Muslims can choose to have a zaffeh. The zaffeh is a first taste of what is to come, an announcement of the celebration. A group of men (singers, drummers) come to the groom’s home, where close friends and relatives have already arrived, and drinks and sweets are being served. This troupe celebrates the groom and his family, and with loud music and drumming, prepares the groom for what is to come. Here is a video of one such zaffeh in Jordan.

Following the zaffeh, the groom departs to the Church, where with his best man (and groomsmen), he awaits the bridal party. In the meantime, his family–and most importantly, the older men representing his family–go to the bride’s home where they partake in the celebrating that is happening there. But this time the pre-wedding celebration has a more official reason. The groom’s family–once again, the men–seek approval from the bride’s family for the wedding. In some instances, this public approval takes place at the engagement party. Below, the groom’s father asks the bride’s family to “grant them the bride.”

Following this, the bridal party, along with the groom’s family and representatives, make their way to the Church, where the groom awaits. What is interesting here is that upon arrival, the priest greets the bride, walks her to the groom, and the two–bride and groom–go into the Church together. There is, in other words, no father of the bride handing over his daughter to the groom at the altar. While in the past, the role of groomsmen and bridesmaids was relatively limited (only one of each), with the influence of American customs, more and more couples have several of each and dress them either identically or in the same colour.

At the Church Entrance

Inside, the Church is usually lavishly decorated, with flowers and ribbons.

The Orthodox ceremony lasted just under an hour, while the Catholic one was about 35 minutes. As is the case in Greece, so at the Orthodox wedding in Jordan, the couple (with the priests and the maid of honour and best man) circled around the altar three times before they were declared married.

Circling around the Altar

In both weddings–and I believe this is the case with all Christian weddings in Jordan–the ceremony was followed by greetings. The bride, groom and their families are greeted by all those who attended the ceremony. After congratulating the families and couple, every guest receives a piece of chocolate.

Chocolate Excitement

Although thirty years ago, the chocolate at the end of the greeting line was the last part of the wedding, over the last twenty years couples have chosen to continue celebrating their wedding well into the night, with lavish feasts that often take place in country clubs or reception halls. These parties consist in thumping music, dancing, a very late dinner, followed by more dancing. The newlyweds don’t usually go to bed before 3 or 4 in the morning.


Filed under Christians in the Middle East, Culture, Events, Jordan, Middle East, Social - Political, Travel, Weddings

It’s always summer somewhere

Although I understood that, upon leaving Sydney and travelling to the northern hemisphere, I would leave winter behind and enter summer; although I’ve moved between seasons several times already; although Sydney’s winter is relatively mild so that the difference is not extreme; still I had not fully realized that I really was transitioning to high summer.

It was when I first stepped off the airplane at Abu Dhabi airport, and felt the dry heat rising from the concrete platforms, that summer really came upon me.  It is always summer somewhere, I joyfully thought to myself. And while I didn’t stay long in Abu Dhabi (two hours), the sudden extreme heat prepared me for the slightly lower, but nonetheless sweltering, 38 degree weather of Amman, Jordan–where I’ll be for the next few weeks. Tomorrow, it is meant to get up to 40.

As this is my first blog post *outside* of Australia, following the end of my one year in Sydney, I have transformed the blog’s theme to include non-Australian travels. This is in part due to the fact that I have enjoyed tellings the stories that emerged out of my travels in Australia, that I didn’t want to put an end to the story-telling. Below are some  images from my first days back in the northern hemisphere–ones which are particularly apt portrayals of the heat and the landscape (and cityscape) of Amman.

another hot crowded street at mid-day, Amman, Jordan

rocky escarpments in the middle of the city, Amman, Jordan

just before the crowds arrive at the pool, Amman, Jordan


Filed under Nature, Seasons, Summer, Travel, warmth, Weather

A Year Later & A Party to Celebrate

the first thing we read upon arrivalThe 24th of June marked our one-year anniversary in Australia! When we arrived in the Brisbane Airport in 2010, we were shocked to read that the country had a new prime minister. I was fresh-eyed and curious, and interested to learn about Australian life and politics. But what struck me most at that time–besides Australian humour–was the warmth of the country.

I found Australia to be not only physically warm (even in winter), but to have an emotional and mental warmth as well. I felt nurtured by this warmth, and I slowly began to let down my shields, and opened my heart to the land (since that time, I have often called Australia a ‘big mother’). Though I haven’t been able to see much of it, my positive feelings toward Sydney and Australia have not waned. And while I have become more familiar with the ‘shadow side’ of Sydney–and often describe the city as ‘high maintenance’–I still find myself thankful to be here. Whether it is the natural beauty, the good weather, the beach, the amazing cafes and restaurants, or the generally down-to-earth manner of the people who inhabit it, Sydney has been a wonderful place to live. And so to thank Sydney, and celebrate my birthday, I threw a party!

Though I hadn’t thought much about the party–in the email I had simply asked my guests to bring ‘a song, a poem, puppets, or a bottle of wine’–I found myself making up a ‘schedule of events’ on the day. This included the times when the appetizers and the main meal would be served, as well as the times we’d sing ‘a pre-dinner song’ and undertake ‘artistic sharing.’ I wasn’t sure how well I could follow my schedule, or how easily it would be to bring everyone to sing, dance, and play. But, I have to say, the party and the guests went well beyond all my expectations.

Jenny, one of the first guests to arrive 🙂

From the start, William graced us with accordion. He obliged me with French songs (a special request for Jacqueline), and then played the music I had asked him to prepare. And we all sang along!

The accordion was the muse of the night

About half way through Christian took to the piano–they made an impeccable duo.

accordion and piano -- and Luisa: what more does one need for a party?

The party took off with the music: I sang. Luke read poems. Luisa sang and danced with Maryla, and, soon, others were getting up to join them…

the first audacious dancers

the beginning of the dancing

Jakob, Neil and Analuz read poems, and Anthony read a poem and sang a song. Everyone joined in for the pre-dinner (thanking) song and for my coordinated singing of my favorite Italian partisan song bella ciao! And the night evolved into more artistic contributions and spontaneous dancing and singing.

sing for the joy of singing!

It was a night filled with warmth, love, play and nice food (you can get some of the recipes here). It was a four course buffet dinner, with two dessert courses, thanks to the contributions of so many wonderful cake-bakers and dessert-crafters: Miream, Marian, Jenny and Jacqueline!

first dessert course!

While I am still getting used to having my birthday in winter, this was one of the warmest and most joyous parties I’ve thrown! And, what was especially exciting was that I blew out all thirty three candles in *one puff*! (It was noted that the party will be remembered as the party of the ‘perfect puff’!)

Birthday Cake

just before the perfect puff


Filed under Festivals, Music, Sydney, warmth

All vegan, gluten-free perfect party recipes

For the party celebrating our one year anniversary in Australia (which was also a celebration of my birthday), I made an all vegan, gluten-free dinner. The dishes included: Hummus, Okra with Tomatoes, and Spinach Coconut Dahl. I shared these three recipes with my guests, and I thought I would share them here as well. They are perfect, not only because of their simple yet wonderful taste, but also because they go well together, and everyone can enjoy them. Here are the Hummus and Okra recipes (as I have mentioned the dahl recipe in a previous entry, you can find it here). Enjoy!

Hummus (serves 10)

  • 500 g dried chickpeas
  • 6-8 tbsp tahini
  • 1-2 lemons
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • olive oil
  • 1 cup warm water (add more if necessary)
  • chilli flakes (depending on whether you like spicy)
  • salt (to taste)

Drain chickpeas overnight (12 hours). Put chickpeas in water, let simmer for 2 hours. Put half of the chickpeas in food processor with 3-4 tbsp tahini (depending on your taste), 3-4 garlic cloves, 2 tbsp olive oil, water, chilli flakes, salt, lemon juice. Mix. Depending on results, add more of any of the other ingredients (usually some like it with more lemon). Repeat for the other half of chickpeas. Serve with olive oil, paprika, and olives as garnish.

Tomato Okra (serves 4-6)

Fresh Okra
  • 500 g okra
  • 3 cans chopped tomato
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper (to taste)
  • coriander (as garnish)

Wash and cut the tops of the okra, and cut okra in half.  Fry onions in olive oil until golden and add garlic. Fry for 2 minutes, don’t let garlic burn. Add okra, 3 cans of tomatoes, salt and pepper. Bring to simmer for 30-40 minutes, occasionally stirring. Remove from heat. Garnish with fresh coriander. Serve with brown rice or basmati white rice.


Filed under Food, Food & Drink, Gluten-Free, Sydney, Vegetarian

Out of touch…

The last three weeks have been busy and difficult. This is entirely due to the fact that on the evening of the 4th of June, our apartment flooded. The flooding was not caused by natural disaster, but rather by the fact that our neighbour’s hot-water tank broke, and water spilled over from their apartment into ours — and as they were not home, this went on for quite some time (until the police came and broke into their apartment). It is a long story (that involves also the rescue service and the fire brigade), and maybe I’ll tell you about it some time, but for now, as I haven’t updated my blog recently, I thought I’d share a friend’s blog, which details some of the things I’ve been doing… So I’m getting away with relating life in Sydney without actually doing the work of writing! Still, it is definitely worth your while to read her recent entry, and to enjoy those amazing recipes!

Here is the link.


Filed under Food, Food & Drink, Gluten-Free, Recipe, Sydney, Vegetarian

Sydney’s “Cultural Capital”

Not too long ago, I learned the (likely paradoxical) term, “cultural capital.” In the context in which it was used, it concerned the generation and communication of knowledge through research. While this was not an entirely exciting or new idea, the term “cultural capital” stuck in my mind, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

On my walks along King Street, at the various concerts I’ve attended, and in a number of conversations, the term returns to me. Though I admit the term slightly irks me — and, as I said before, it seems to be even paradoxical — it has also been a useful (and maybe even interesting) conceptual tool as I take in Sydney’s sights and sounds. Yes, I think to myself, Sydney certainly does have a lot of “cultural capital.”

I haven’t done much writing on the arts and culture scene in Sydney, although I did mention going to a spring festival back in September, and a puppet show a couple of months later. (And, in one entry, I considered whether there is any such thing as “culture” in Sydney and Australia in general.) But (the question notwithstanding), while these events were certainly memorable, they do not represent the largess of Sydney’s cultural life. And, what a life it is!

During the penultimate week of May Sydney was home to the annual Sydney Writers’ Festival, the third largest festival of its kind in the world (the other two being in the UK). There is a lot to like about the Writers’ Festival. First, its location. Not only is Walsh Bay a particularly beautiful part of the city–with views of the Harbour and long stretches of pier dotted with lounge chairs where one can have a drink and take in the mild afternoon sun–but the Festival revolved around this one location. This simple fact gave the Festival the feel of a village or community. Strolling past the deck chairs and tables, I’d often run into someone I knew, or, while enjoying one of the deck chairs myself, I repeatedly found myself starting conversations with people I’d just met. And though it would be an exaggeration to say that I felt like I was part of a community–the Festival is simply too large–there was nonetheless a sense of unity and recognition among those pedestrians making their way from the Circular Quay train station to Walsh Bay.

View from Walsh Bay

Another important and extremely likeable aspect of the Festival is its cost. Many events were free, and those with a price did not cost very much. No one was paying more than $25 for a talk or a panel discussion, and all-day workshops seemed to be also reasonably priced. But it is the free events that caught my attention. Though I some times had to line up more than half an hour before the event to ensure that I get a seat, I was always impressed by the speakers and left the space feeling extremely lucky that I was able to listen to them speak. That they were free did not take away from their quality. In fact, some of the biggest names at the Festival spoke at several free events.

The diversity of the authors and topics discussed is the third great advantage of the Writers’ Festival. Writers of all stripes–from the young Commonwealth prize winners to more established novelists and poets, from political prisoners, environmental activists to economists and radical journalists–talked. It was an event that would interest anyone who is slightly interested in anything… While in the daytime I listened to the sober conversations of politically-minded folks, in the night time I made my way to the wine bar where poets were reading their most recent works. It was an experience of joyful abundance.

But beyond the Writers’ Festival, Sydney has an incredible array of events that never seems to end. I was lucky enough to have been invited to two concerts in the last month–one at the Opera House, and the other at Angel Place, where the Australian Chamber Orchestra performed. The ACO performances are full of energy, and even mystery. They always find the right way to bring older pieces to life, and make the newer works exciting. This performance began with Mozart’s most famous piece, Eine kleine Nachtmusik. Although performing this piece may  have seemed redundant, the director of the ACO simply explained: “we are giving it a fair go.” And their performance was anything other than redundant–it was exciting, even uncanny. But it was their performance of a clarinet concerto by the Swedish composer, Andres Hillborg, and Brahms’ Hungarian Dances, that made the show truly remarkable. The clarinetest, Swedish Göran Fröst, played the clarinet with such beautiful ease and elegance, all the while acting in accordance  to the “theatrical instructions” given by Hillborg for performing his piece. Fröst put on a mask, danced, took it off, put it back on, danced some more, while playing the clarinet and directing the Orchestra. It was the perfect mix of theater and music, virtuosity and laughter.

This was the third time that I’ve been to the ACO, and they have impressed me every time. The fact that the musicians remain standing throughout the concert (with the exception of the cellists) may have to do with the high energy of their shows. But they also exude a strong sense of excitement, newness, and their bold gestures and grand theatrical performances often give me the feeling that I’m actually listening to rock musicians blasting their electric guitars–only extremely skillfully and creating immensely beautiful sounds!

But there is yet another side to Sydney’s “cultural capital,” and that is the side that slides in through the back door, that does not receive the attention of the press or the government sponsorship, that does not maintain a high profile. This is the world of small clubs and cafes with live music, the world of community-organized events. In the summer, I went to one such community event at Elvina Bay, where a young friend was playing accordion.

And then there are the ever-resilient street musicians. On any given Friday night, a walk along King Street reveals scores of young (and old) people playing a variety of instruments–everything from the usual rock and Mariachi bands, to individuals playing the shakuhachi (Japanese flute), and, in one instance, Tibetan throat-singing. Most recently, I listened to a classical Spanish guitarist, and only wished I could dance flamenco.

A few nights ago, I was invited to a small event in Sydney where I listened to and saw some of my favorite acts from the Woodford Folk Festival. And although I am not permitted to give any of the details of the event, I can say that it was one of the most memorable concerts I’ve been to in a while!

But the list can go on and on… Sydney’s “Cultural Capital” is indeed both deep and wide. And although it would always be good to have *more* government support, *more* institutions that sponsor the arts, and *more* recognition of the significance of the arts in general, Sydney offers exciting, diverse, and high-quality arts events–large sections of which are either free or very reasonably priced. It would not be hard to claim that, as far as the arts are concerned, Sydney is certainly one of the most exciting cities to be in.

There are many other events that I haven’t mentioned. So here is a very quick glance at what else the city has to offer (that I know of–please let me know of any other interesting events):

1) Sydney Festival — annual, every January (almost full month).

2) Weekly Markets (Glebe, Paddington, The Rocks, etc.): These markets are fantastic places for meeting people and also buying curious objects, second hand clothes, hand-made crafts, and even up-market designer clothes. There is often live music.

3) Monthly Poetry Readings at a number of places throughout the city, including cafes (such as Sappho’s) and private homes (see

4) Live music at cafes — with the recent change in the law, cafes can now serve alcohol and have live musicians. This has been a wonderful gift to music lovers all over Sydney. (This is a large list, but most recently, I was at Well-Co, where I saw singer-songwriter Anna Salleh.)


Filed under Art, Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO), Culture, Elvina Bay, Festivals, Glebe, Music, Newtown, Sydney, Sydney Writers' Festival, Travel, Wharf