Yousef Jamal Ahmed Mahatta
1966 – 2008
Yousef Mahatta was a coral research technician at the Marine Science Station (MSS) in Aqaba, Jordan for over a decade. He died suddenly in August 2008. His loss is a very sad occasion for everyone at the MSS and especially for members of the coral lab. Yousef was a central person in the Auburn-Jordan program at the MSS, and was an exceptional individual who gave of himself to the students. He exemplified the personal bond that has developed between Americans and Jordanians in this international program. Yousef died as a result of a serious viral infection to the lungs. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him.
Message from the American Director of the Auburn-Jordan program to the MSS:
The American participants of the 2008 Auburn-Jordan program send our sincere condolences on the sad occasion of the death of Yousef, member of the staff at the Marine Science Station in Aqaba, Jordan. To Yousef's family, friends, and coworkers, our thoughts are with you all as you pass through this difficult time.
Yousef was a unique individual, and will be sadly missed by all who knew him. On a professional level, he was one of the most capable and gifted marine science technicians I have ever met. He effectively managed a rotating group of research volunteers, collected scientific data underwater on a variety of projects, and maintained a well-organized laboratory for many years at the MSS. He was an independent thinker, and on his own initiative set up a monitoring study on sea anemones and anemonefishes on the MSS coral reefs, which he carefully followed for many years. Yousef interacted exceptionally well with international researchers from a variety of countries, and provided important support that contributed substantially to the success of many marine research projects in Aqaba.
On a personal side, Yousef had a keen understanding of people. He served as a bridge between cultures and gave important insights to me on the history, culture, and social life of Jordan and of Aqaba in particular. He had a generous heart and a warm sense of hospitality. More than anyone, Yousef spent time with our American students on weekends, evenings, at meals and at all hours, in an effort to make our visit a happy one. He was well loved by the students, and his presence will be sorely missed as we continue our program. I considered Yousef a friend and benefited greatly from his sound judgement on a wide range of sometimes delicate issues concerning the cross-cultural experience of American students in Jordan. Yousef's influence and his good will shall
continue to be felt far beyond Aqaba, as he touched the lives of many young people. He was a true ambassador of Jordan, in the best sense of the word.
Dr. Nanette E. Chadwick
Director, Auburn – Jordan Program
Messages from American student participants in the 2008 Auburn – Jordan program:
Yousef was the first person I met as I crossed the border from Israel into Jordan and he was the last person I said goodbye to on my way home. I can truly say that Yousef defined my experience in Jordan, because he met me every day with a smile and consistently went above and beyond what was required of him as a technician for the Marine Science Station. It was clear that his scientific work at the MSS was taken very personally. Yousef spent untold hours managing the coral and invertebrate culture program because conserving the reefs of Aqaba was personally important to him. I spent many silent dives at Yousef’s side as he guided me from one reef ledge to another, showing me the intricate behaviors of the reef organisms he knew so well. We spoke about his future research interests and possible collaborations in summers to come. He was so full of good-natured optimism it was contagious; nothing was ever out of the question. Even as the Auburn group traveled from the streets of Aqaba to the star swept sands of Wadi Rum, Yousef was by our side, waving hello to his friends in every corner of Jordan. When I heard that Yousef had passed, I was on a ship in the middle of the ocean, no land for miles around me. The only animals I saw were white-capped terns, gracefully floating on wind currents coming off the sea, and I hoped that Yousef was now content and would never again be far from the ocean that he loved so much. The final consoling thought that came to my mind as I sat, facing the sun on the bow of the ship, was that Yousef lived each day as if it was his last and he would never look back and mourn a life not lived. He was an inspiration to me and when I think of Jordan, I will think of him.
Kathleen M. Morrow
Dear Marine Science Station,
I send my love and thoughts to Yousef's family, friends, and co-workers during this difficult time of the loss such a great person. Yousef was an instrumental part in how the country and people of Jordan are shaped in my memory. Any place we visited in Jordan, land or sea, Yousef was around to make me feel welcome and to tell a joke.
My favorite memory of Jordan was our trip to Wadi Rum. One memory in particular of this trip was when the majority of the group went to climb a mountain. Ashley and I were not up for such heights, so Yousef took us to his favorite spot to see the landscape. The whole time Ashley and I were still a little weary, but Yousef guided us through every step safely and told us funny stories about him and his friends on the way.
I also remember several times I would be swimming back from one of my second or third dives, tired and irritated from trying to catch fish, when Yousef would swim up from nowhere just to try and make me laugh before heading out to do one of his own projects.
Yousef's hospitality, kindness, and great sense of humor truly personified the Jordanian people. I will always remember my time in Jordan with fondness. I thank everyone at the MSS for such great memories, but most of all I will remember Yousef for all of his kindness.
With all of my love,
University of Alabama at Birmingham
Jordan-Auburn Program 2008
Dear MSS Personnel,
I am so sorry for the untimely loss of Yousef. From meeting him I know that he was a great man with many talents and a love of the sea. He was very friendly and made the entire American student group feel as if we were at home. Yousef was very helpful with our experiments and I’m sure that without his help we would not have been able to meet our goals. I will never forget all of us teaching him American phrases and the smile that he got on his face when we talked, made jokes, and laughed together. Yousef was the best guide to the MSS and Jordan that anyone could ever want. When we went to the desert of Wadi Rum we asked Yousef to take us outside the camp so we could see the stars in the night sky. He guided us through the dark desert for what seemed like 2km. He took us to his favorite spot in the park to look at stars. I will never forget that night lying on the sand looking up at stars while we laughed with, and learned from Yousef. It is sad that such a great man died so early, but I will always remember him and what he taught me about his amazing culture. It was an Honor having known Yousef, God rest his soul.