Amman’s Urban Poetry

by Alex Ray

Jutting out from the eastern  side of Amman’s Jebel Weibdeh is a partially used car park with a twist. Each level of the exterior displays a line of an uncredited poem written in Arabic.

Amman’s poetic concrete

“Let’s imagine

the rivers burning far away

we hear the silence

and suddenly the music comes toward us

to kill us

so the dancing can return stronger

under the white sun”


Local cultural legend and master calligrapher Muhammad Abu Aziz teaches calligraphy and poetry in Jebel Weibdeh. He said that the poem was the project of a local artist linked with Darat al-Funoon, one of Amman’s most famous and prolific public art institutions, located a few hundred metres from the site.

Abu Aziz says that the poem is translated from French into Arabic, but he could not recall name of the original author. A Facebook call-out for information revealed the poem is by Moroccan artist Mohamad El-Baz, who emigrated from Morocco to France.

Amman resident Laith Allawama says he used to read the poem every time he visited downtown Amman. “I started asking my dad and older people in downtown about it until I found the story from a friend who worked in Darat al-Funoon four years ago.” They supplied the following blurb on the poem’s background:

Unusual words in a normal place invites the viewer to imagine what can not be imagined, because he does not expect to see rivers in which a fire broke out. The limited words reveal the narrowness of the place, provoking a life that is held by fixed habits, as if it were behind the familiar reality of another reality, more beautiful, and what sweeps the eyes is replaceable….

[El-Baz] returned home after a long absence to write “immigrant words” that traveled from Sicily and Pomaco to Amman before moving together to a new place. It is a sense of the weight of existence, just as it is dependent on the artistic imagination, which expands the world and sends the dreamy words to a simple place in Amman: the car park in Jabal al-Waibdeh.

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