December 03, 2005

An epitaph: Amman lost its eighties flavor!

Dedicated to a generation of Ammanites who embraced the eighties with pride…

“Flippin heck… what the hell is this doing here?” this is the –mostly- innocent swear that I utter every time I pass by Mecca Mall… since when was it feasible to go for a large scale shopping center in the first place? What’s this Gulf-states-feel of it? I can’t help but be sorry for Ammanites being spoiled with a choice of 20+ food outlets all gathered in one place, along with a multi-screen cinema, a bowling arena and -that’s a new one- a laser-gun shoot’em up recreational facility! Where are we at? California, it becomes surreal with herds of teenage –and more mature- punters lurking over there speaking with an agitating accent…

Back then, there was a different destination for the limited choices one may fancy in terms of food! For Shawerma, there was –and still to some extent- 2nd circle’s Reem, for Falafil, it can be argued that Rainbow’s Al-Quds shack was the place, for hummus and fool there is Hashim El-Balad, fancy some Italian food; perhaps bad-business-conditions-turned-me-into-a-cheeky-nightclub Alferado would have been a delight, Chinese, there was of course Abu-Khalil... and so on and so forth.

Back then, the trendy few had to scroll the streets of Jabal Amman, Shmesani and later Swefieh for scrupulous boutiques to lay their hands on quality import clothing, what all these designer names doing cramped up next to each other at Malls and “brand-names” street?

Fancy bowling instead of watching a 1-year old film on either Philadelphia or Concorde? Then unless you are an elitist Automobile Club member or a friend-of, then Abul-Dahab center was the only destination.

Amman has changed, and it is not mere face-lift indeed, Yes, I declare my contempt for the littering of its streets with liquor stores, swarms of bars, nightclubs –the glamorous and the kinky cheap ones- along with massage-houses and gulf-punters cafés, but…

…This is not what aggregates me to post this lament, for I basically feel that Amman is loosing its touch as a place where its locals pride themselves with its uniqueness instead of its replicated modernity, mind you… but the uncomfortable sense of familiarity across certain aspects of middle eastern cities such as Dubai, Amman, Beirut, Cairo …etc is utterly alarming? Despite the fact that we still have our delightful seven-hill layout, retro landmarks such as Al-Burj and Al-Iskan… no urban development can wipe those out, or would it be the case?

Where are the Viva cola signs, where are the billboards advertising Mr. Chips fake-gifts? Since when did Safeway stopped being the “hip” place that lures crowds into on weekends? Where are the 10-piaster kiosk phones? Where are the poorly branded restaurants –yet serving good food- such as Submarrine Al-Rabyih? What’s up with skating Palace now a days…

Amman’s eighties era has survived up to the early nineties, I’ve lived through its later days, but got sincerely addicted to it as I hear passionate tales from my older cousins and friends who lived this period that can be deemed with semi-cultural isolation or latency and utter genuine 7afrtaliness.


At the end of this elegy, I long for another trip to Amman, in search for any remaining traces and tokens from its not so distant past, in the midst of urban development, and cultural-conservational city renovation, before business owners opt for colorful logos and billboards and drop the cheap straightforward signs, to perhaps eye kids still favoring Ras-il-3abid over Snickers; munching on Jabri’s Taxi & red race-car Askimo instead of Galaxy ice-cream, and taste a back-then satisfyingly delicious Nabil burger without having my taste buds reoriented to enjoy only US franchise gourmets!

9 comments:

Dar said...

Well i know how u feel ,but i bet that our parents at that time were to complain the 80ies style , its a matter of generation changing , u need to keep going , though its hard for us to change things we were used to .

Proudly I have lived the remnants of that era in the eraly 90ies , and still have all those warm memories in my mind about , skating , abu al dahab center , shawerma ................

Bs i said its a matter of generations :)

Roba said...

I beg to disagree.
I only came to Amman late 2003, so everything that I do know/love in Amman is an accumulation of these past 2 and a half years that I've spent in Amman.
There might be many new choices such as Kal7a il Rabyeh with their cool packaging, Noodasia, The Salad House, etc. but, summit of the Amman life is still Reem, Al-Quds, Balat Il Rasheed, Rainbow Street, Abu Il-Dahab, Dowar il 7awooz, etc.
It's not an 80's culture, it's older than that. Amman is Amman... and it's up to us to keep it Amman by appreciating Amman.

Khalidah said...

Hi Basem

I am one of the lucky ones who lived during the 80's
The 80's actually are our time ... it was so much fun back then with what little we had .. it seemed like a great thing to do to be able to go to one of the outlets you mentioned ... ahhhhhh the good old days.

However; I am a person who believes in evolution and change. Amman is a wonderful place .. and I would go as far as to name it the best place to be .. simply because I tried something else and learned to appreciate Amman with everything it has to offer.

How would you feel if Amman still has the 60's or 50's style? I bet you will find that very difficult to accept ..
I agree with Dar .. it is a matter of generations and each one brings its own demands and preferences ... what can I say? We have to cope.

The world is changing rapidly around us .. but when you are in Amman next time .. think of all the positive change we are witnessing ... all these new outlets mean more job openings for our youth and that's a very positive thing.

I am one who lived in Dubai and I came back cause I could not stay away from Amman .. God I love Amman
With any change comes the good and the bad but here I agree with Roba .. it is up to us to preserve the good and change the bad into something good

Even with all the change ... Amman still holds its identity

Anonymous said...

whats wrong with the bars and liquor stores.
It's a great thing
En Vineo Vinetreo
(pardon my awful latin)

Sabri Hakim said...

Lovely post.

Basem said...

Longing for the eighties era does not negate the fact that Amman still offer glimpses of its uniqueness, nor does it discredit the compassionate attachment-to & admiration of Amman by it’s post-millennium residents and visitors!

Again, I find it distressing -but not necessarily bad- witnessing the mimicking changes that will eventually turn Amman into the immanent just-another-modern-city status! The elegy was to discharge a merely romantic midget in the wake of momentous progression.

I beg to contemplate the following: People with genuine attachment and appreciation of Amman cannot help but tangle their passion with sheer escapism when they embark on trips to the places they identify as being genuinely Amman, some go to the extents of living and doing business over there!

Such places do not belong to a specific era that’s for sure; it is the result of decades of cumulating heritage and uncontrolled natural city development driven by immediate needs and current state of affairs.

AlOoSh said...

Thanks a lot Basem for this post.. I enjoyed every word of it & kept saying.. ah walahi ma3ak 7a2... you really said it all.. I'm flying from Amman back home tonight... feeling really bad for losing all the places that I used to love... but you know what !! Falafel Alquds is still as good as it was ages ago...

Thanks again for the great topic... and Plz people don't turn Amman into another Dubai.. a city that changes every month

Anonymous said...

hello
basem
this is me
your brother abdullah
i have to say it is indeed a nice blog or what ever it is called
and very nice wrighting .
but i do disagree with you , i think that amman is doing good but in the wrong way . well i realy dont have a point lol but atleast we dont have to eat "alsaroo5" sandwich that realy needs a wich to turn it to something eatable lol,any how realy i'll recon you to al ra2y or al3'ad

huh said...

ok....ur scaring me!! Last time i was in Amman was in 2000, when i gradguated from highschool....i'm supposed to go there for xmas in a week....the only thing i heard was an increase in the number of Hummers, which alone was a big dissapointment!! I don't want to leave Dubai to vacation in another Dubai... anyways, i guess a couple of days in Wadi RUm and Petra would balance things.......hopefully

my spammyyyy....sorrrry guys
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