Written by Ahmad Humeid
After the recent opening of Wakalat Street in Al Sweifieh in Amman, many Ammanis have expressed their delight to the pedestrian mall and activities happening around Amman’s newest attraction.
According 360east’s Ahmad Humeid he was impressed by the number of people walking on Wakalat Street after 10pm.
Thousands of people. Jordanians, Iraqis, Gulf nationals. Teenage boys and girls. Totally westernized clothes to pitch black niqabs. Families. Very light security presence. A policeman and a smiling policewoman, both riding horses. Packed cafes. From Starbucks to Wakeem to Aroma to Libnani Snacks.
Cool Ammani night after a very hot day. And yes: Arabic and English signs.
Although Amman’s first contemporary pedestrian street is still littered with construction materials and unfinished patches, Ammanis are already flocking there to shop, sit on a table of a street-side cafe and rediscover the meaning of street life.
Of course, street life always existed in Amman. Go to Jabal Al Hussein. Even better, go to the central market of Al-Wehdat camp and you’ll understand that street life has never been absent.
It is in West Amman where the car has killed pedestrian life. As odd as it may sound, a whole generation of Ammanis, (especially those in richer parts of the city) have forgotten what it means to walk. Many young people (especially girls) have, to my shock, never been to the Balad in downtown Amman.
In a city like Amman, which over the past few decades has become car dominated, and where people insist to park their cars exactly 5 centimeters away from the shop or restaurant they are visiting (or insist on valet parking), enclosed shopping malls have reintroduced many, especially younger people, to the experience of being with a lot of fellow citizens in a public space.
To create an environment that is safe for families and young women, shopping malls had to resort to measures like shutting young men out during times of high traffic. Harassment of young women is a problem that we face on all our streets and few public places. Malls, being private spaces (that nonetheless provide a public function) simply solved the problem by keeping the male teenagers out.
Wakalat (Brand) Street will present new opportunities for contemporary street life to come back to Amman.
The street is a shopping street. The dominant category of retail on the street is apparel, which means it will draw a lot of women to it. What I saw on my visit there recently made it clear to me that this will not be a male dominated space.
Parking will become a challenge. In the absence of proper public transportation, people will go to the Wakalat Street by car (like an outdoor mall). The municipality plans to solve this by creating parking lots in Suweifieh that are a bit far from the street but services by shuttle busses. Not a bad idea, but still not a replacement for proper public transport. I guess that taxis will play an important role here.
According to blogger Sugacubes, her favorite part of Wakalat Street is the live performances and jam sessions by some of Amman’s local bands.
“Musical nights is the one thing I love about summer, and the municipality of Amman did something really great by arranging daily performances by local bands on Wakalat Street. Two days ago, Salam and JAZZEZA jammed together for the crowds for nearly two hours. It was really cool to see families applauding for the young musicians and children dancing to their Jazzy-Rockish music,” said Sugarcube on her blog.
“So who else will perform at Al-Wakalat Street? None other than the popular Sho Hal Ayam. They’ll be playing on the 6th of August, and again in 11,14,18,22,27 of August from 8:30 – 10:00 PM.”
Photos by Humeid and SugarCubes.