Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Good Bookshop

No, it’s not a religious bookshop, although they sport a selection of Bibles and Korans in all types and colors, children's version as well. If it, in fact, adheres to any religion, it would have to be the modern Western lifestyle cliché; bookshelves stuffed with titles such as “How To Make Your First Million”, “Your Boyfriend Left You? Get back at him! 10 best tips” and you get the point. Naturally, they offer you a Colgate smile and a quite tasty café latte as soon as you arrive to make use of their wireless internet connection, just like (it seems) the rest of Amman’s expat community.
According to the two guys working behind the counter, the Rainbow Street Project cost 3 million JD (4 million Euros) and one of the major points was to make it traffic-free. I guess someone (or everyone) protested and what I walk up and down every day now has more cars than ever. That they made it into a one-way street doesn’t seem to have changed that fact. “They should have given the money to every Jordanian instead”, one of the guys says, “45 piasters to each citizen. Then he could have bought a decent shawarma and all would have been well.”
A thwarted version of socialism where everyone gets his or her share of public funding? This coming from a guy with designer jeans working in this bookshop, I don’t think so.
Now, why is this interesting? Well, I have started to nurture a hypothesis that goes something like this: Rainbow Street is (wants to be) the future of Amman, and perhaps Jordan. It offers the mix of Western culture and a few sprinkled remains of Arab culture. Most people who live in the area are educated middle-class, and perhaps because of this, it exudes an air of cosmopolitanism, indeed very different from the rest of West Amman with its Starbucks, mega malls, and diamond clad women (and men). Here on Rainbow Street– if you were to get a whim of a diamond – it is much more likely to be pierced in some Jordanian hipsters’ nose as opposed to around the neck in Abdoun (the most affluent neighborhood in West Amman).
The street really breaths a casual, bohemian feel, like a place that at least outwardly welcomes diversity, be it in nationalities, level of education, or denomination. And if Jordan ever adopts a more leisured attitude towards homosexuality, it’s a no-brainer where the first open gay club would be located.

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