An edited version of this article appeared online in the Middle East Eye on May 26, 2019.
By Alex Ray
“When people pluck these flowers, it’s like they are plucking my heart,” said an emotional Fareed Notafji as we drank sweet, strong ‘labourer’s tea’ in front of the guard shed at Damascus’s Botanic Gardens.
The sound of the fast-flowing Barada river accentuated the gardens’ dreamy setting beneath the old city walls. The location made it possible to momentarily forget the ongoing war outside the Syrian capital. Continue reading →
“Look, it’s not the traffic, it’s the people’s character,” the Amman taxi driver told me, as the beaten-up Nissan crawled from glitzy Abdoun to the core of the capital at Jebel Amman. The remark caught me off guard; he was the second taxi driver to deliver the same line that day.
Such frank self-criticism was comforting and took us straight past “Where are you from? What is your job? Are you married?” and into the melange of factors contributing to Amman’s often-aggravating public culture. Continue reading →
As I wait alone for my pre-flight dinner of greasy sliced lamb, hoping not to ruin my last clean T-shirt, a tall impeccably groomed young man arrives at the counter, his teeth gleaming in competition with his watch. Continue reading →
From the outside the booth looks respectable. Signposted in English and Arabic it creates a focal point among an expanse of empty concrete. Recent arrivals gather, anticipating onward – or perhaps return – journeys. Continue reading →
Spring has sprung late this year in Amman, with the first noticeably warm day being April 7. The markets are full of strawberries, green almonds and local garlic, below is what Amman’s central fruit markets sound like on a morning stroll, as vendors vigorously announce the prices of their fruits and vegetables.
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. Continue reading →
by Alex Ray
Below a five-star hotel in the West Amman suburb of Shmeisani, three young boys spend their Saturday morning scrounging for pieces of plastic, aluminium and other metals that can be sold for recycling.
A tiny blue and grey Tourist Police kiosk sits at one end of Culture Street, a 350 metre strip of low-rise apartment buildings in Shmeisani, an inner suburb of the Jordanian capital Amman. The area attracts tourists mostly from the wealthy Gulf states: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the U.A.E.
“Let’s see what the policeman says. Maybe he’s in a good mood and he’ll allow us to stay; maybe his wife gave him a hard time this morning and he’ll be in a bad mood,” said my Careem driver when I asked him to take me to the airport and drive me back to Amman. Continue reading →
On Friday mornings – the one time of the week when the daytime clatter of Amman settles momentarily – one spot is already buzzing with activity.
Souk al-Juma’a (The Friday Market) is Amman’s weekly clothes and fleamarket, located in Ras al-Ain, south of Second Circle. Continue reading →