My Amman


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A presentation give on 21 December 2009, at the pilot NewThink event in Amman. It was a call to rediscover Amman and re-engage in its public urban life.

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My Amman

  1. 1. Ahmad Humeid NewThinkDec2009 My Amman
  2. 2. Good Evening Amman
  3. 3. Amman is a city of contrasts. A city of contradictions. A city connected to the world, connected to its region. A city that’s changing. Fast.
  4. 4. A young Arab capital in an ancient setting. I see Amman as young city with the shadows of an ancient heart.
  5. 5. in ancient times as today.. Amman’s hills defined its life.. it is a city of human scale.. of stairs.. of small buildings.. and no overpowering monuments or boulevards
  6. 6. Amman is an accepting city.. a city that, in the early days, invented its own traditions.. A city of relative openness, human initiative and diversity..
  7. 7. Amman’s diversity has roots. It is not like the diversity of Dubai, driven by commerce. The old neighborhoods of Amman and its downtown tell a story of people coming together for refuge and opportunity..
  8. 8. All of this could make Amman a capital of a new Arab culture.. of a humane, progressive, Arab renaissance..
  9. 9. But this is Amman too..
  10. 10. A city of broken pavements, with a lack of respect for public space..
  11. 11. A city who’s people have forgotten their civic duties
  12. 12. A city of dangerous economic and social division
  13. 13. A city where many are focused on private space and show of wealth, at the expense of the public domain
  14. 14. born 1867 The story of today’s Amman is just a little over 100 years old,although the city’s roots go back to ancient times. (& 10,000 years ago) It’s story is one of explosive growth.. It’s population grew a 1,000 X in 100 years thousand times in 100 years from 2500 to 2.5 million people. And despite our occasional NOT Damascus! pretension (in tourism brochures) Amman is not a traditional Arab city of souks and mosques. It is really a product of the 20th century.
  15. 15. It’s Amman, our city
  16. 16. “OUR” city?? Who calls himself Ammani? It’s not an identity that has sunken in with many people yet. Can we name a traditional Ammani dish? Do we, As Amman’s citizens, relate to our city like Beirutis do? And why is it that even in our best commercial districts, we tolerate building leftovers and empty flowerpots on the street just laying on the pavement for months?
  17. 17. JORDAN Half of Jordan’s population lives in Amman, but how much does the capital contribute to Jordan’s national image? Jordan is Petra. Amman is hardly on the map when tourism is concerned. Social and political realities played a role in this, but can Amman stay ignored in our psyche much longer?
  18. 18. Amman “works” as a place of habitation. But is it a place that captures the imagination? Is Amman destined to be a big boring hotel?
  19. 19. My story of Rediscovering Amman
  20. 20. 1970 1976 Germany 1987 Dahiet 1985 Al Rasheed Jabal Al Hussein Shmeisani Al 1976 Balad Marka I was not born in Amman I was born in Karlsruhe, Germany. Came to Amman at age 6 in 1976. I am a product of Dahiet Al Rasheed suburb. Shmeisani was the hangout place of our teenage years.Studying in Al Hussein College took me to Jabal Al Hussein and to wast al balad
  21. 21. But I only started understanding Amman as a student of architecture around 1990 on the steps of this old house in Jabal Luweibdeh. This house, until a few days ago was the office of Bilal Hammad, the well known Jordanian, and I would say Ammani, architect.. (he moved to a new office recently)
  22. 22. Dr Taleb Rifai Bilal Hammad I owe my discovery of Amman to many people. But it was my teacher Dr Taleb rifai who sparked it. He took our first year architecture class at the university of Jordan to discover, draw and document the old houses of Amman in Jabal Amman and Jabal Luweibdeh. Dr Taleb was already doing this in the mid 1980s when most people had absolutely no problem demolishing the old houses of Jabal Amman. Bilal’s office was one of the stations of our trip and it was suddenly clear to me that this city has a story and there are people with a deeper connection to that story..
  23. 23. Fast forward 18 years to 2008..
  24. 24. In 2008 I got my Amman overdose, as my company SYNTAX was chosen in an international bid by the Amman Municipality, to create a city brand for the capital. It was over a year of TOTAL engagement with a client I couldn’t escape! How can you escape your city? Reading about it, writing about it, walking, driving.. There’s no escape..
  25. 25. What’s Amman to you? 1 blog post. 60 comments. So we started researching People’s perception of Amman.. Of course we did survey’s, focus groups and interviews, but we started on the web. I posted a question on my blog asking: what is amman to you. Dozens of people answered..
  26. 26. From love letters to hate mail From the thoughtful to the impulsive From the hopeful to the desperate..
  27. 27. Understanding Amman. One comment at a time.
  28. 28. Hassan Says: 1. A city that is not coherent! 2. A city where the quality of services is not consistent. 3. A city that has not preserved an ancient character or developed a new one, I just cant find one quality to link it to. This city is still trying to find its own soul.
  29. 29. Roba Says: 1. Mountain into valley, valley into mountain. 2. Struggle for identity; old fighting new, liberal wrestling with conservative, hate versus love. 3. Refugee melting pot.
  30. 30. amjad mahfouz Says: I’m a Jordanian, but i hate Amman for the following: -too expensive to live in -sex and social gap -hard to get a decent income -services are bullshit -education sucks like hell -ur a nobody if u don’t know anybody -no fun or decent entertainment -bad transportations -the list goes on and on
  31. 31. 3awwad Says: Beautiful Weather, Ugly people Fresh Air and corrupt system Authentic places and fake inhabitants
  32. 32. The Observer Says: 1. Home 2. Beautiful 3. An old woman with a trendy outfit
  33. 33. omar Says: Amman is a wreck that you don’t want to lose, something not fully functional yet you hang on to it like a lunatic and appreciate what it is to you as a whole: a home
  34. 34. Ahmad Tarawneh Says: 1-My friends work there, so I hate it coz it’s what keeps them away from me. 2-a lot of restaurants. 3-Cinema ”I live in irbid”. 4-Hot Chicks, Cool cars. 5-Airport. 6-a place i pass by when i go to Karak. 7-Relatives. 8-Madenah 6biah. 9-civil engineering mistakes everywhere. 10-annoying traffic. 11-i just realized that i hate Amman so i am gonna stop
  35. 35. sam Says: a place to start 
  36. 36. manal y Says: - white, plain and jammed - most people share the same attitude, just like how building have the same facades - and its more like a money melting pot.
  37. 37. Sabine Says: Do you all know, about y’re writing? This town is not built as a town, it was a nice small village, a selection of houses, gardens at the ‘Amman-River’. How can a town (and the inhabitants) be suddenly a capital, without having the chance of a basic development like the towns in Europe. So be patient, wait! After a while, Amman will be something ‘special’, one of the originals in this area!!
  38. 38. MAIS Says: “A rANDOM cOLLAGE wORK … ” !!
  39. 39. ArabianMonkey Says: Amman to me…. a teenager, exploring a new look that might fit, trying out the other while rightfully ignoring wisdom. It will inevitably grow up one day, and yes will look back with some regrets, but hey, scars make for good stories. a fearful place not loved enough by it’s people. ....seems to have misplaced it’s common sense.
  40. 40. Khawaja M. Says: 1- The small city with BIG hearts. 2- The city where I’d love to stay forever. 3- The most politically-stable Arab capital (from my point of view)
  41. 41. Ibrahim Says: old and modern, eastern and western in one city Taxi Drivers, you can never find them anywhere else long stairs … beautiful girls with attitude Abu Al-Abed grocery next to your house … Fayrouz at the balcony of your house early morning ... ...
  42. 42. mousa abdoun Says: Amman is my mother
  43. 43. Dana Says: Amman is my life, my world, my home and my memories. My first day on earth The first time i heard the words “I love You” My family, my friends and my work My graduation day My dreams and disappointments My beginning and my end
  44. 44. lion Says: After 22 years in North America, I decided to go back and settle down in Amman next year, but please show me some smiles and good manners when you drive.
  45. 45. Sarah Says: Amman is a friend taken for granted … At times you feel that you need a break from it but in the end you know you can’t live without it ….
  46. 46. Samar Dudin Says: Amman‘s identity is multi layered and diverse, The old mountains of Amman reflect a humane dimension in how the homes cluster how the diverse social economic backgrounds gather… Amman was a city of walks… a city of spiritual presence …
  47. 47. Omar Says: Jordan = Amman and Amman sucks
  48. 48. UmmuOmar Says: I love Amman very much, and being here reminds me of the good times we had in Bosnia before the war, when I was a child living in a village where all doors of the houses never were locked, where people prayed and ate together.
  49. 49. What does all of this mean?
  50. 50. People are divided about Amman People have strong mixed feeling about it Amman hangs in the balance.. and we, as Ammanis (if we dare to call ourselves that) face a choice..
  51. 51. Things for Amman could go either way.. We can choose to become a vibrant, diverse collage of cultures and experiences? A city of open doors. Of interaction. Of diversity.
  52. 52. Or a fragmented, divided and incoherent collection of dwellings..Separated neighborhood for rich and poor.. High security walls
  53. 53. It’s a choice between broken pavements and disrespect for public space.. Or a soulful, engaging city for its citizens and visitors..
  54. 54. A choice between the boring safety of gated communities in a segregated city.. Or the liveliness of real street life like what we see in San Francisco and Barcelona and yes.. even Beirut Photo by: dada2005 on 3098261821/in/photostream/ Photo by: lokulin on
  55. 55. The seeds and vision of Re-imagine THIS Amman are already there Amman as an The new Amman master inclusive plan at the Amman Municipality is based on progressive such a vision.. sustainable & vibrant community
  56. 56. Amman needs you, its influencers, to embrace this vision
  57. 57. Taking ownership.. ReDiscover Amman.. Know its story.. ReEngage Amman.. Participate in it
  58. 58. Taking ownership.. It’s not just the work of “the Amaneh” or the government. It’s not about what the “others” do It’s what Ammanis choose to do.. how they act on the street.. how they build their houses.. how they run their businesses. Every choice we make affects Amman as a whole..
  59. 59. Ahmad’s 10 tips to join the Amman Renaissance
  60. 60. Try a downtown restaurant.. like Al Quds.. Take your kids. EAT
  61. 61. SHOP Rediscover what remains of Amman’s old stores
  62. 62. VISIT THE ROOTS Like exploring Amman’s old stairs..
  63. 63. BE ALTERNATIVE Support the new Ammani culture in Rainbow street, Al Balad Theater, etc.
  64. 64. COMMUNITY Get involved in community efforts. Check out what Hamzet Wasel are doing on Facebook @hamzetwasel on twitter
  65. 65. Munif READ
  66. 66. TAKE THE BUS At least to see the realities of public transport
  67. 67. WALK You’ll get a different perspective on the city!
  68. 68. GET MAD And complain to the mall owner about his unplatend trees!
  69. 69. CONNECT
  70. 70. Interact with the Municipality @MayorOfAmman on Twitter
  71. 71. ReDiscover ReEngage ReConnect
  72. 72. blog: @humeid on &