Skip to content

The lady who gave me a pound

February 9, 2012

I shared this story as a status update on Facebook a couple of days ago. The responses I got from my friends made me think that I should blog it, so here goes:

It was around 1:30 am on a weekend and I was going back home from a friends place. I was stopped by a lady who asked if she could use my cell phone, so I let her do so. She used it for a few seconds and when she was done she insisted on paying me a pound! I told her that I had free minutes anyway and I don’t want to take any money from her but she insisted saying “take the pound or I might end up hurting some body tonight, not you though! So, please, take the pound!”. At the end I gave up and took the pound and she kept repeating “remember, this was a good thing you did” …. to this moment I wonder why the lady was so grateful; its not like I went out of my way to help or anything.

Any way, the funny part of the story is this: I reached the bus stop to discover that I left all my change in my other pants and I ended up using the lady’s pound to get on the bus instead of walking back home in the cold weather!

Moral of the story? Whatever you want it to be! But I would say: be nice!

The Iron man photo shoot … behind the scenes!

January 4, 2012

Post summary: get a mask, put on a lightstand or a flash to get the glowing eyes effect … for more details and photos read on…

The mask was created from paper by my brother using the “pepakura” method (google it if you’re interested!). I also had a new wireless flash trigger that I wanted to try… see the setup bellow:

A water container tapped to a container filled with water, on the other end I used a wire from a coat hanger, a flash (YN468), a wireless transmitter (Yongnuo RF-603), pieces of cardboard paper and rubber bands to bring them all together. I needed the wire from the coat hanger to bring the mask away from the flash because placing it directly on the flash resulted in a big ugly light spot.

Placed the mask on the flash setup (“on a stick” … got it 🙂 ? ) took it to a dark area, with the assistance of a friend (@iMadiD) and my trustee Canon 450D on f/11, iso 100 and a 1/200s exposure (fastest sync speed for my camera/flash combination) here is what I got:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Looking at this in retrospect I would have done it indoors … it was windy that night and the mask kept shaking (Madi had to keep it from flying away!), a smaller aperture could easily compensate for any ambient lighting indoors, I tried it!

I hope you enjoyed the most useless photography post ever :)! Use this trick with any mask you can think of … or use your imagination and use other objects, Thanks for reading!

My top 10 artworks and photos for the year 2011

January 1, 2012

Happy New Year people!

2011 was a year full of challenges but it turned out for the best and for that I am truly thankful…

I browsed my photography and art folders and came up with this top 10 list. Its more of a “random 10 list” and I’m sure if I dug deeper into my folders I would have gotten a different list … but I like this one!

So … 5 artworks and 5 photos … with no particular order, here they are:

Smiling down on me

I have been told that “smiling down on me” is a mediocre painting, which might very well be the case. Why add it to a top 10 list? Because it taught me so much! I stumbled upon a bottle of acrylic paint which -at that time- I have never used before. I got myself a brush and a black paper, this was the result and my pencil-only style was changed … forever!

FacebookDeviant Art


Sweet dreams

“Smiling down on me” opened the door for a new experimental style and obviously enough I called it “inverted contrast“. “Sweet dreams” is my favorite in this series, it was technically challenging (again only one color, I didn’t use any black paint) and I actually carved some pattern into the hairs with a painting knife … you can’t see it here though!

FacebookDeviant Art


Goodbye Halcyon Days

“I wish I had 5 lives . . .
I would have have been born in 5 different towns,
I would have eaten my fill of 5 lifetimes worth of food,
I would have had 5 different jobs,
And for five times . . .
I would have fallen in love . . .
with the same person”

I’m not a big fan of doing fan art, but I thought the quote was absolutely brilliant so I had to sketch it! The scene is from the Anime “Bleach” episode 141: Goodbye Halcyon Days (if you want to see the scene, follow the YouTube link bellow)

Facebook Deviant ArtYouTube


Amman in Jeans - a beautiful night in a beautiful city

“Amman in Jeans – a beautiful night in a beautiful city” was the first in my “jeans canvas” series; I already have a blog entry and a time lapse YouTube video about it, links bellow if you’re interested!

Facebook DeviantArtBlog postYoutube


Amman in Jeans - An Ammani Sunset

“Amman in Jeans – An Ammani Sunset” was the largest in my “jeans canvas” series; sometimes I wish I added more intense colors to the sunset but I really like the carved windows …. I already have a blog entry and a time lapse YouTube video about this one too, links bellow if you’re interested!

Facebook – DeviantArt – Blog post – Youtube


I just love the colors in this one! I think it was my first day out with the University of Edinburgh Photography Society. We went to the Royal Botanic Gardens  … a gorgeous place indeed!



I went with my friends to the Edinburgh Zoo … came across this white face Saki monkey in the “magic forest” … an open primate house (no bars between humans and monkeys). I was captivated by the sad look on its face!
I later submitted this to the PhotoSoc photography competition … the theme was moods and I didn’t win 🙂

Facebook Flickr 


This photo of the Scottish Monument won me the first place in the “Edinburgh Discovered” photography competition, it also got published in the Scotsman news paper. Full story in a dedicated blog post, link bellow!

FacebookFlickrBlog post


I was walking down the Royal mile (Edinburgh,UK) with a friend and for some reason I couldn’t get any good photos … then I noticed that the outline of the buildings to my left could look like a palace! So, a faster exposure to get the colors in the sky and silhouette the buildings gave me this!



Sunset at the Citadel, Amman, Jordan. This is arguably the most beautiful place in Amman and the citadel has a large stretch of empty land that would make a very fine park with spectacular views … unluckily though this place has limited access hours and you can’t enter at night unless there was an event going on …

That’s it! Happy new year everybody 🙂

My First Photography Win: The “Edinburgh Discovered” Photography Contest

November 22, 2011

The Scottish Monument ... my wining photo

I don’t get to blog that often … but if this doesn’t get a blog post I wonder what does!

To be honest I have never expected this win … when they called my name for the first place I was astounded: my photo? me? As I walked up and shook hands with Professor Timothy O’Shea (the principle of the University of Edinburgh) I said: “wow … this is really happening”!

My photo was a long exposure photo (130 sec at f/14 & ISO100) of National Monument of Scotland on Calton Hill, I really liked the photo when I first took it so I submitted it to the contest! Later on I regretted this decision because I discovered that photos of this monument are so many: people have shot it from so many angles in so many different times that someone somewhere is bound to have taken a similar photo! This is why I was genuinely shocked when they called my name for the first prize … I only have one explanation for this: maybe I some how captured a “newcomer’s fascination” with this photo?

I’m trying to turn this into a good story and almost every good story has a moral and this is what I learned: “trust your gut; listen to your first instinct!” here is why:

When I first took this photo I remember tweeting this:Image

However, few days after submitting this photo I looked into those “pillars” I took a photo of and found out that they were called the “Scottish National Monument” and many, many people have taken photos of them! I remember saying this to my friends:

“I have submitted the most generic photo ever … I wish I have submitted something else!”

Lesson learned…

Finally, I would like to conclude with this: I have seen so many photos with amazing technique and composition; I deeply respect the photographers who took them and I would have been glad to see any of them get this prize! Luck was on my side this time and my photo is by no means “better” than at least a dozen other photos I enjoyed that evening.

Update 25/11/2011: This photo has made its way to the Scotsman newspaper today!

The Scotsman 25th of November 2011 Scottish perspective P.36-37. Caption: The Scotsman's Jane Barlow selected this image of the National Monument on Calton Hill by Mohammad Hirzallah as winner of Edinburgh University's annual photography competition.

An owl in jeans!

October 4, 2011


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This one took me around 6 hours over 3 days, I saved some time by using a “secadic medium” which makes acrylic paints dry faster … very useful with the thick layers I keep on adding!

Materials: acrylic paints on a “jeans canvas”; I got the denim from an old pair of jeans and pasted it with an “acrylic wall size” to a wooden board, I primed it with 2 more layers of the wall size.

I really like how it turned out but looking back at it I wish I left some empty space for the denim material to show out rather than over-painting it.

That’s it for now, I have some other jeans canvases that you can find here if you’re interested:

Finally, please share! If you think this work is any good please help giving it some exposure, thanks 🙂

My Entry to The UNICEF Photography Award: Could a Camera Capture a Happy Childhood?

August 16, 2011

Vote here !

(My photo is here)

The competition wants us to answer the following question:

How can you reflect a happy childhood through your lens?

I thought the answer should be kept simple and I simply had my camera around when this photo presented it self … I won’t use words to answer that question: my photo should!

I’m not asking you to vote for my photo; vote for all the photos you like and enjoy!

Update (17/08/2011):
I contacted the organizers to inquire about the judging process: the 10 most voted photos will be judged by an independent committee … may the best man/ woman win!

An Ammani Sunset (Amman in Jeans)

August 13, 2011

Its been 3 weeks since I posted about my first jeans canvas (check it out here) ! Today I present my second Jeans canvas which I finished more than a month ago & exhibited at Café des Artistes in Amman … I finally got to work on the images and videos to upload them, enjoy!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In my previous post, I discussed some technical details. The basic technique is similar but this one is much bigger, I chose to “carve” the windows instead of only painting them and each layer is made of multiple stacked folds of denim (to give a more prominent 3D effect – or so I intended at least). If I could re-do this the only thing I would change is using more saturated and darker colors for the sky!

Like many of you requested: the time lapse video is much shorter this time! Last time I time-lapsed 6 hours of work into a 5-minute video, this time 25 hours of work are time-lapsed into a 1.5-minute video + 1 minute for  intro and outro.

That’s it for now! If you have any questions or critiques about the technique feel free to drop me a comment bellow or on Facebook or Twitter! Thanks 🙂

My first Jeans Canvas – A Beautiful Night in A Beautiful City (Amman in Jeans)

July 18, 2011

Yep, jeans canvas and I dare say it could be the first jeans canvas ever 🙂 !

Technically speaking its more of a “painting board” than a “canvas” since I used a wooden board to support the fabric (denim instead of canvas fabric in this case) but the elevated sides could trick one into thinking its a canvas rather than a board … I’m working on one without a wooden board too!

So … I had this old pair of jeans and I wanted to stretch my own canvas … one thing led to another after that and here is the result!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

[The watermarks link to my facebook page … I hope you don’t mind them! Some people don’t credit artists properly when they share their work … so I though “why not take measures?”]

I want to blog more about the technical details some time, but here are some tips if you want to try this!

– To prime the canvas I used acrylic instead of gesso … gesso is white, acrylic gel is transparent! I needed a large amount of acrylic gel, so, to reduce the cost I substituted it with “acrylic wall size”, you know, the one they use for wall papers: much cheaper than art-grade acrylic gel with very similar results!!

– Always paint in thin layers! wait for the layer to dry before you add another one; otherwise, you;ll be stuck with a brownish, dirty-looking clump of acrylic!

These are my two dimes for now 🙂 I have a video of this thing in the making, take a look at it! And if you have any questions or comments keep them coming 🙂

Stolen Smiles – can something be done about child labor in Jordan?

June 22, 2011
 Dear world,My name is Mohammad and this is me taking a stand against child labor!This is the last of 4 posts; click on the images bellow for the previous ones.


Child labor in Jordan . . . if I learned something from the reactions to my previous posts it is this: everyone is against it yet few talk about it!

It’s a phenomenon caused by the interplay of many many problems with one thing in common: the poor children are the victims at the end! But, Can something be done? I believe so, however, if you’re reading this post for a quick genius solution then you’re looking in the wrong place!

To be honest these posts have put me under some pressure: people started expecting me to come up with a solution . . . I don’t have a solution! I merely had an idea when I started these posts – a rather incomplete one – and its up to you to build on it! Feel free to criticize, change or tear it apart! As far as I’m concerned: the importance of an idea is not only intrinsic to it or the general concept behind it; but equally as important is how many times it travels back and forth among people and as it does it gets more & more refined.

Back to our topic:

Again, no short term solution is effective; this issue should be targeted on the long run. It is not a single problem with a single solution it is the result of many components that should be isolated and targeted one by one!

How is that? Yep a flow chart! I guess this post looks more entertaining now, huh?
(No??? *sigh* that’s how they taught us to spice things up at med school …)

So; we can act on two levels, alone on a personal level and collectively as a community (one pours into the other though).

Act as an individual:

  1. We should stop giving them money! Look for someone in need who is not parading his/ her children in the streets to get paid . . . help those! Simply, dry out the revenue of this business.
  2. I really like the idea suggested by “Kinzi” and “Majdooj“: give the children something for themselves, buy them a sandwich if you’re in a restaurant (insure the kid eats it in front of you!) give him/ her a piece of candy, a cap or a T-shirt . . . smile in their face . . . be friendly: do something for them not the ones who exploit them.

Acting together as a community:

For a community to target a problem it needs to 1. Admit that there is a problem 2. Know more about the problem 3. Work on the problem by targeting its components.

  1. Admit there is a problem

Awareness, AWARENESS, AWARENESS! This problem will never be treated if people don’t know about it. No problem ever will! Governments and volunteer organizations will not look at it unless people start asking questions and demanding actions. Again, the importance of a problem is not intrinsic only to it but also to how people react to it!

So; we should share more stories, photos and articles about child labor with others, more people should know about it!

Some people expressed their willingness to help; a Facebook page and a Twitter account for this would be great. More important are people who can admin those (not me . . .), I’ll update this post with the links once it happens; reply in the comments bellow if you’re interested in taking part!

2. Know more about the problem

Several facts remain unclear about this problem, more needs to be known and data needs to be collected before anyone can effectively do anything! This can be done on two levels:

First: us, the non experts, we should pool all the news articles and current statistics in one place (the Facebook page hopefully?)

Second: social experts with well-designed studies should collect more data about this.

Why data? Because many questions remain unanswered and you can’t act effectively without knowledge! For example, here are some few questions that come to mind:

Is this really an industry controlled by “syndicates”?

Do the parents of these children have access to work yet choose to offer them for hire as an “easier” option?

For the above two questions the police needs to be involved!

What is the level of education of their parents?

Do these children attend formal education?

For those social services and NGOs need to be involved!

Are they refugees (Palestinians or Iraqis)?

If they are the UNICEF and the UNRWA need to be involved!

And, of course, it’s almost certain that they are all “under privileged” families . . .

In which case every one – individuals, governments, organizations – needs to be involved and help out!

3. Work on the problem

If you’re still looking for a short term solution, here you go: organize a festival, get a bunch of “underprivileged kids”, teach them to sing or dance or something with proper media coverage you will get a spike in awareness and send everyone home thinking they solved the problem!

Don’t get me wrong, I would LOVE to see such an event . . . BUT, I would HATE to see people think that’s all that could be done!

In short, as mentioned under “know more about the problem” we need to know more about this and target the gears that have set the beast of child labor in motion; remember: the sum of multiple small actions can turn into something great!

 Dear world,When will all children have access to equal opportunities?When will human beings stop destroying an innocent existence at the very begging of its journey?

I don’t know! But I would rather do something than stand idle asking questions! I will keep sharing as much stories as I can; that’s all I can afford to do . . . what can you afford to do?


Spread the word: Tweet, share, reddit, Stumble, Digg, like, reblog . . . do you thing!

Stolen Smiles – Children for rent

June 16, 2011

Children for rent

 Dear world,My name is Mohammad and this is me taking a stand against child labor!This is the third of 4 posts; as promised, I will edit the last post based on your comments on the first 3 posts!


It is not a story I have seen; but it’s a phenomenon that has circulated in newspapers and websites . . . a phenomenon that is well-known to most of us . . . “children for rent”, an ugly form of human trafficking.

In Jordan, some families offer their children for rent! The “street price” is around 20 JDs per day per child (according to this article) and – of course – a “handicapped” kid is worth more on the market; you know: since you’re more likely to donate money to the “mother” of a “handicapped” child.

Whom to blame? There is a fine balance here: on one hand we have a society that does nothing about families so poor that they have to offer their children for hire, on the other, we have parents that are so heartless that they could hand their children to strangers for money . . . I can tell you one thing for sure: the children are on the negative side of the balance here!

I really, REALLY hope that the only “work” these poor little creatures do is sell gum at intersections or beg for money . . .

Need I say more?

 Dear world,Please answer me: If you know this, would you continue to give money to children beggars? If you do, are you “relieving” some human suffering or are you supporting an ugly form of human trafficking?How poor do families have to get to do this to their children? How unfair is a society that allows its members to be this poor?

Could there be some “syndicates” out there? With bosses, middlemen and everything? A market with revenue?

Thank you!


Edit (18th of July, 2011) : Parts of this mini series:

Part 1:
Part 2:

The drawing is with colored pencils, charcoal and acrylic on A4 paper find it on:


Stolen Smiles – The mechanic and the boy

June 7, 2011

 Dear world,My name is Mohammad and this is me taking a stand against child labor.This is the second of 4 posts; over the next few days I will share few stories that I heard/saw; in the last post we will discuss what can be done; I will edit the last post based on your comments on the first 3 posts!
First post: here

I didn’t pay much attention to him . . .

Who does? If you have a car, you have to take it to the mechanic someday (unless someone takes care of the dirty deed for you!) and if you visit a mechanic in Amman you are very likely to see a kid working around the shop that it has become a “normal” sight; after all I was too busy cursing my terrible luck that has rendered my car useless when I needed it the most, how unfortunate was that?

I walked into the shop, the usual stuff: a big door, a big rectangular hole in the ground, shelves filled with tools and like any other workshop the floor was covered by dirt and a variety of oils that has been molded into a tar-like layer by hundreds and hundreds of cars and shoes over the years.

I asked who’s in charge, the chief “il ma3alim”, came out, we discussed my car problem and agreed on a price range and the time to get my car back . . . in the corner of my visual field was another one of those boys; I’m not sure if I noticed what he was doing . . . I was too occupied, after all, I had a broken car; I was the “misfortunate” one!

Time to bring my car in; as I parked in front of the door ready to get in I noticed the boy again, he was 12 to 14 years old … not that young by the standards of such shops. I noticed what he was doing too: armed with primitive tools,  his job was to combat the thick tarry layer that has creeped all over the place.

He was blocking my way into the shop; I wasn’t sure if he was too busy beating the tarry layer with whatever metallic tools he had at hand like it was all his despair mottled in thick blackness or if he simply decided to ignore me . . . I just didn’t want to honk the horn or ask him to move, actually, I couldn’t, I just stayed there . . . In a couple of minutes another mechanic noticed and yelled at him “You, stupid, get out of the car’s way, do you want to die?”

The boy grabbed his bucket and tools . . . moved to one of many other spots taken over by the “dark matter”, he placed his tools on the ground as he muttered “I wish I could die; it would be such a relief” . . .

 Dear world,If a community labels a child as “unfit for education”, or even worse, if the family cannot afford education and that child becomes an apprentice to learn a craft, what age should be considered the “legal age”?Who decides if its better for a child to drop out of school? And at what age is it OK to do so?

Looking forward to your replies.


Edit (18th of July, 2011) : Parts of this mini series:

Part 1:
Part 2:


Some one actually took the time to type my last post into Arabic (I would have done it myself, except that I’m very slow with the Arabic keyboard). I think I will post the translations together at the end, we’ll see how that goes. Thanks Marcel!

For this drawing I tried mixing different media, mainly charcoal and acrylic, but I also used some colored pencils, aquarelle and pens. Find it on:
Facebook: here
DeviantArt: here

Stolen Smiles – The little Girl Selling Rosaries at Starbucks

June 4, 2011

Stolen smiles - rosary girl

 Dear world,My name is Mohammad and this is me taking a stand against child labor.This is the first of 4 posts; over the next few days I will share few stories that I heard/saw; in the last post we will discuss what can be done; I will edit the last post based on your comments on the first 3 posts!

She broke my heart . . .

And that wasn’t the first time a little kid breaks my heart in our beloved Amman, this is not the first story . . . nor is it the worst story; but this story is different. This story made me decide to take some time out of my hectic life and write about it . . . what and easy way out  to unburden my conscience !

Sir . . . do you want a rosary? عمو . . . بـدك مسبحـة؟

Time? After 11 pm on a weekday, Place Starbucks Abdoun, Amman, Jordan . . . I was studying there when I heard a little voice say “Sir . . . do want a rosary?” it took her so long to say that; like she was still learning how to create words with that little mouth of hers. She was looking up to me with her wishful big eyes . . . as touched as I was by the amount of genuine cuteness that has taken a human form before me; I couldn’t help but  feel angry deep down inside . . .

No sweetie, I want you to go home and sleep! Don’t you have school tomorrow??? لأ عمو . . . بـدي تروحي تنامي! ما عندك مدرسة بكره؟؟؟

I thought to myself: “What can I do?” I don’t buy stuff from kids like her for a simple reason: I don’t want to support this whole “child labor industry” . . . but is that the right thing to do? Doing “what’s right” and letting a child suffer? She probably has to bring a certain amount of money back every day (or else . . .).

“Should I call social services? But what will they do to her?” with all due respect social services could very well be another shiny media shell with a heaping pile of dirt inside! Our community is not “adoption-friendly” . . . with that option off the table can social services really do anything?
“Should I go after her and yell my guts out at her parents? IF the ones who brought her here were actually her parents?” “Yeah, sure . . . go ahead . . . satisfy your self-righteousness even if that leads to a “higher dosage” of that little creature’s not-very-unexpected semi-nightly whooping . . .”

Time to decide: I looked her in the eyes . . . her innocent big beautiful shiny round eyes . . . “No sweetie, I want you to go home and get some sleep! Don’t you have school tomorrow?”

She left . . . it was obvious that I can no longer study with all the anger broiling inside me . . . I just packed and left too!

The next day I woke up with the heaviest feeling in my chest . . . “I have to do something . . . I will do something . . .”

 Dear world,Please answer me: Have I done the right thing that night? What should I have done? How can I How can we take action?I will post my answers along with yours in the last post, thank you for reading. Looking forward to your replies.


Edit (18th of July, 2011) : Parts of this mini series:

Part 1:
Part 2:


P.S. If you feel like translating this to Arabic, then by all means go ahead (my Arabic typing is really slow!) I will link to your translation or post here if you want!

The drawing, acrylic washes on A4 paper, find it on:

To blog or not to blog?

May 31, 2011

To blog or not to blog? A question that I have been asking myself for a while now; since you’re seeing this then my decision is quite obvious!

Why? Well, every now and then I get an idea and say to myself “that’s a good one!” . .  . one of the best ways to test an idea (besides applying it of course) is throwing it to a community of thinkers –in this case bloggers– let them rip it apart and see the outcome!

Another reason: I have learned a lot from people who post different things online; I learned from their tutorials, got inspired by their art and affected by their ideas . . . its about time for me to participate in mankind’s expanding collective awareness! We are all connected 🙂

I have my interests ofcourse; this blog will be mainly be about Medicine, Art and some random thoughts/ new interests every now and then. I have undertaken photography lately and if I get good enough I might blog about that too!

Ladies and gentlemen . . . that was my first blog post 🙂

%d bloggers like this: