Sunday, March 1, 2009

Rainbow Street, part I

Taxi drivers hate it. Foreigners and high-flying, bohemian bourgeoisie Jordanians love it. The recently cobbled street with its new cosmopolitan name “Rainbow Street” stirs up emotions here in Amman. Or at least within me. Situated on top on the old Jebal Amman (mountain of Amman), the street formerly known as “Abu Bakr as-Saddiq” (and still according to some official maps) has gone through substantial changes the past few years, much like Amman itself. Now there are wooden benches neatly placed along the street for the intrepid pedestrian – a rare phenomenon in the Los Angeles-like West Amman.
Oh yes, I forgot to mention: Amman is a divided city. Not in the now classic Middle Eastern way with barbed wire or concrete walls, but more in the American other-side-of-the-tracks sense. The rich West vs. the impoverished East; the West with bars and restaurants lining the roads with Humvees parked outside and the East with shouting shop owners and Arabic coffee off the guy with the funny fez hat; noses covered in bandages vs. heads covered in hijabs. The Rainbow street area is (or at least wants to be) what Södermalm is for Stockholm, what perhaps the 6th and 7th districts are for Vienna, i.e. gentrified working class neighborhoods that have gone through an extreme makeover, whilst at the same time trying to remain their lure as “genuine” outposts of a disappearing culture (for the benefit of us foreigners?).
A difficult juggling act indeed.

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