I see him on Saturdays at a coffee shop in Lweibdeh. We do not know each other, but I have noticed he spends his time smoking his pipe and drawing on his computer.
Curious, I asked the waiter at the café about it, and he told me that he was a Syrian artist. He makes a living off the paintings he makes.
At this coffee shop, packed with many a beautiful painting, mostly by one French artists who happens to be friends with the café owner, you’ll come across a strikingly cosmopolitan community.
Most of the customers there are youth; Jordanian youth, women and men, having a go at the most recent novels, philosophical ideas, alongside some Europeans and Koreans.
Right next to it is another café, traditional, packing with people most of the time, among them are journalists I know.
It seems Lweibdeh has indeed turned into a miniature cosmopolitan community.
Restaurants, cafés and various other outlets are scattered across the neighbourhood, which has managed to bring together modernity and authenticity.
You’ll find juice shops, offering special, exquisite flavours, and other places offering genuine Arabic coffee. You’ll also come across the colourful cafes, alongside the French Institute’s beautiful library, nearby another French place.
The streets there are almost always crowded with people of various nationalities, among them is a one who sells books displayed on the front and end of his car, just by the Paris Square.
Many foreigners and Jordanians prefer Lweibdeh over other areas in West Amman.
The truth is that Lweibdeh today is not what it used to be, ten years ago.
The quite once familiar neighbourhood is now full of life and foreigners. Old houses and markets are now colourful places and shops. It has all become an active market, attracting many Jordanian youths too.
If anything, Lweibdeh provides a unique touristic, economic and cultural model for traditional, authentic neighbourhoods of the sort.
Despite the commercial activity and the demand, the prices remain within reason, compared to West Amman.
Meanwhile, westerners prefer it because it gives them a taste of the Eastern spirit and its resident culture and identity, despite the zest of modernity and multi-culturalism.
The smell of old Amman reeks through the streets of Lweibdeh and its houses.
The Rainbow Street in Jabal Amman tells a very similar story. The houses there maintained, the identity endured and preserved, and the Rainbow Street community is also uniquely diverse.
This is why foreigners prefer staying there, as well as in Lweibdeh, despite the old buildings and the traffic. The collision of worlds embodied in these neighbourhoods fascinates them, not to mention the prices, which —again— are still somewhat affordable.
Farther away from the Amman epicentre, Fuheis offers another interesting example.
The Christian city has now become an intriguing attraction, for Jordanians and westerners, having maintained its authentic Christian identity and its social culture. Still, it remains interestingly open to tourism.
In Fuheis, there are restaurants with western and Arab feels, foods and music. The old buildings too sustained their architect.
Above all, the city takes interest in singing and arts.
Truly, it is fascinating to come face to face with such elegance, cosmopolitanism around Amman.
While these three areas may not resemble Abdoun’s extravagant palaces, or those in Dabouq and other posh parts of the Capital, they do make one feel as though they were on top of the world.
Looking at these places, through them, would make one forget all about the public debt, the commercial and budget deficits, unemployment, poverty, and massive class gap.
In spite of it all, these areas —Lweibdeh, Rainbow Street and Fuheis— outstand Amman’s most luxurious neighbourhoods.
They are immersing in culture, life and community, while the posh folks enjoy the dead silence so far detached from the lively society that we are!
Of course, the point of this is not to compare classes. To each their preference. But the through models above are indeed the expression and embodiment of seamless collision, between our culture and the world’s, bring together everything good about it all.
More so, economically and culturally speaking, it is a value added feature that we need to bring to light, talking about our beautiful city, Amman.
This article is an edited translation of the Arabic version, published by AlGhad.