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Snapshot: Amman

[One of few facades at the Intercontinental Hotel preserved with its original form. Located in Jabal Amman it was built in 1963. The architect was John Elliott. Photo by Hamza AbuHamdia.]] [One of few facades at the Intercontinental Hotel preserved with its original form. Located in Jabal Amman it was built in 1963. The architect was John Elliott. Photo by Hamza AbuHamdia.]]

I feel compelled to snap a picture of every angle, corner, and inch of whatever I lay my eyes on, especially within the urban environment. Much has changed in Amman over the years with the construction of new buildings and the introduction of new styles, structures, and patterns. I capture these, but when I take photos in the older parts of the city it’s about more than the architecture, it’s about claiming and creating my identity as an Ammani and connecting with my childhood.

Amman’s stone buildings, gardens, and streets frame even my most distant memories in a graphic way. Wherever I go I see little gems hidden between bulky apartment buildings, or veiled behind Mediterranean alignments of cypress trees. Between the hill and the valley, I always discover a new spot.

I have intimate memories of driving with my late father to downtown through the suburb where we live, to the heart of Amman. We’d visit his friends and walk through the town, meet with someone at that shop, and have a chat with people at that office, cut through those stairs, shop at this market, and so on.

Not only architecture but also people, fashion, and transportation nurtured my visual memory and shaped my identity in a spontaneous way. My mom held my hand through the same streets and markets, took me to her friends’ places, and together we ran errands all around the jabals. We were a simple, modern, middle class family.

As I explore the city now the distinguished geometry, topography, textures, and colors of the city deconstruct themselves, taking me on trips to familiar places I have never been.  Memories and the feeling of this space mix unexpectedly with a soundtrack, a hairdo, or a dress with a geometric pattern under that dry, sharp Ammani sun to create new images to resonate with others in my mind.  

Amman is not easy to comprehend as a city. Unlike Cairo or perhaps Beirut, it hasn’t had a steady process of growth, or a certain flow of people to define a particular identity. For decades the region has been in turmoil. Amman, nevertheless, has been doing things on its own, in its own bubble, away from sight. I want to capture and somehow document these unique aspects of the city before they’re replaced with yet another glass façade.

As this city struggled to define itself and gain acceptance among its peers, so was I, unconsciously, through these memories and these buildings. Amman is a place that has no single accent, no single lifestyle, and no single face. There’s something here that draws people back. It’s hard to pinpoint, maybe the city is mundane to some, but it is also peaceful and neutral. In my own bubble, Amman is a place where stereotypes are easily broken, normativity is challenged, and social standards and traditions are rendered trivial or even reconstructed and redefined.

These pictures try to highlight the most tangible and physical aspect of Ammani identity, the architecture. Behind this architecture is the human - communities, culture, politics, and society. I hope to delve into these aspects and investigate them more thoroughly in the future.

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