By Hind Khalifa and Pawel Krzysiek
The remarkable space of Jordanian edition of the fancy magazines is taken up by the advertisements. Zero-smudge lengthening mascaras, expensive furniture, the latest fashion and luxury lifestyle. For everything there’s “mastercard”. There are many opportunities to live in debt in Amman. If you have only a good job, position and money to pay your debits. But here some people don’t. We unveil these disparities. Welcome to capital of Jordan. The city where one street can make a huge difference.
Abdoun street divide Amman on two parts: East and West. On the way from the Abdoun bridge to Abdoun Mall, in the middle of the Abdoun circle, you find yourself at the crossroads between two different cities and completely diverse worlds. But it’s not only about a topographical division within Amman itself. It is about the society one part of which seems to have failed in keep up with the country’s growth.
Two classes, two realities
Like in the Matrix movie, you need less than ten minutes by the famous yellow cab to switch from one reality to another. In West Amman you may feel like in a glass palace. Fancy cars, villas with green gardens and swimming pools behind the inaccessible walls: everything is clean, calm, perfect and untouchable. Populated mainly by managers, diplomats and private entrepreneurs this part of the city represents the highest class of Jordanian society.
Few kilometres east from this kingdom of splendour, you entry a different world. Contrarily to the Western side, in East Amman you can touch and feel almost everything. Poverty and misery, people on the street, children playing football. Here everything affects you. Especially a smell. You can change a car, you can dress differently. But the smell of stinky water dribbling on the streets in Palestinians camp remains.
In fact, contrarily to its Western neighbourhood, East Amman suffers noticeably from the facilities. Living in the West of Amman is a privilege. You have an infrastructure, good water service, private schools and well equipped (and very expensive) medical centres. You have a safe food from the supermarkets and huge malls with the luxury shops where one suit costs more than two month salary in the East of the city. Eastern Amman has the cheap food markets (El Souk El Sha’by), roads full of potholes, free but insufficient school and medical services.
This division is underlined mainly by the unbalanced income distribution that determine the polarisation of society winding the gap between the poorest and richest. Those who have the assets and investments benefits from the country economic growth. Those living from hand to mouth seek to survive. These two classes dominate in Amman. Both have their own lifestyles, attitudes and behaviours. They both have certain goals and dreams…
Pursuit of happiness
Getting deeper to each of these realities, the notion of happiness is slowly dimming especially in terms of how it can be achieved. The most striking aspect of these two parts of Jordan’s capital is the gap between the way of living. Beyond the material aspects of this division, it is the perception of the reality that differs the most. From the one side, Western Amman with its poshy lifestyle, shopping tours in Dubai, Istanbul and Beirut, and hundreds of dinars spent for leisure every lives its own logic and some sort of hermetic identity. On the other, there is the Eastern part seeking to provide no more than eight dinars for daily needs.
In Western Amman, restaurants and coffee shops are full of clients even in the early afternoon. The West has the gyms, beauty salons, cinemas and clubs. Easterners work more than twelve hours per day and, despite the television, their unique entertainment is an occasional Friday’s picnic. Eastern children play football on the street. Western ones play a playstation in their safe houses with private gyms.
Clash of paradoxes
Despite a wide gap between two Amman classes, this division is built across many paradoxes too. Many habitants of the refugee camps from East Amman chose to live there from strictly pragmatic reasons. They do not pay for electricity, they have an access to the free school and health services, they do not pay taxes. Many of them work in Western Amman. Sometimes they do not want to move. Sometimes they can’t because of social, economic and political reasons. For many of them moving out from the camp would mean that they relinquish their identity. Those who have already moved out, don’t want to come back.
In Western Amman contrarily, the huge houses are often deserted because they owners work abroad mainly in the Gulf states. Many of them are the “nouveau riche” category of high class. Many lives simply in debt, from the money borrowed from banks. Finally, similarly to people from the East but from the very different reasons, many of them simply doesn’t feel happy. Why…? This is the gap. The Amman Gap.
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