Hello from Amman, Jordan! Raillan and I arrived in the midday heat a few days ago and have been settling into our apartment near the Fifth Circle, one of a series of eight traffic roundabouts which demarcate not only geographic but also social space and place in Amman.
Our home is in a sleepy neighborhood in West Amman, where most of the residents are Christian and speak some English. Our choice in neighborhood is not as much an active self-segregation, but rather a consequence of the social mores of the city: Raillan and I are an unmarried pair, which means we are unfit renters to most landlords in the rest of the city. We would certainly not be able to find housing in East Amman, the poorer and more conservative sector of the city.
We are writing this post from a cafe on Rainbow Street, a strip of shops and cafés near the First Circle at the base of Jabal Amman where the Friday Souk Jara is run by the Jabal Amman Resident’s Association and has its own Facebook page. Jabal Amman is the historic center of West Amman and has been undergoing a gentrification process since 2005 when it gained recognition as a 'historical attraction point' of Amman.
The economic privilege of West Amman crescendos here at the First Circle and Jabal Amman before tapering off into the struggling downtown of East Amman. It is a less than charming coincidence that the western area of the city feels more “Western” than the bustling eastern quarter and is developing in such a way that allows for a discussion of identity and social change in the face of modernization, one that is growing louder every day. A large part of this transformation is facilitated by
One well known social center for Jordanians and expatriates alike is Books@ Café, a bookstore that doubles as an elegant lounge with free and fast Internet access and is an apt symbol for the connectivity of Rainbow Street.
The scene at Books@ brings in questions about access and social mobility in a stratified Amman, questions that will play an important role in our investigations of the various communities of Amman that use the Internet as a tool for organizing.
While it would be easier to stick to engaging Internet communities based in West Amman, Raillan and I are extremely interested in how East Amman is conspicuously absent from such conversations, the tension this creates, and the opportunities through which this disjunction could be mitigated.
Thanks for reading and check back soon for more updates!