This might sound like the the first line of a joke waiting for a punch line. But this Lebanese man is not the star of a funny joke but the writer Hazem Amin, who one evening found himself as “Amman’s only pedestrian, stumbling over its sidewalks“. That’s the title of his article in Al-Ghad today [Arabic link].
It is a great article about Amman’s contemporary character. Lebanese tend to see Amman as a “highly organized and precise city” as Amin writes. We Ammanis might complain a lot about our city. But compared to Beirut and Cairo, Amman is indeed a city of ease and comfort (which happens to be one of the attributes our team at SYNTAX made into one of the corner stones of Amman’s brand).
But this ease has become the ease of driving, and not walking. Not only have Ammanis stopped walking, but they have forgotten what walking is. When the writer left his meeting in a cafe in Shmeisani, he saw his hotel on the Third Circle on the horizon. He was tempted to walk instead of taking a taxi. He asked a building guard and a grocer about how long it would take him to walk to the Third Circle. Both answered identically: One and a half hours. Having the luxury of time in a city he’s unfamiliar with, Amin decided to walk. He made it in 25 minutes!
Walking, he meet those other dwellers of our sidewalks. Certainly not other pedestrians. But advertising billboards and “illogically placed” concrete benches! I smiled when I read that because this is just so Ammani. Our sidewalks are decorative in nature. Cut and paste jobs never intended for usage.
The Lebanese man in Amman concludes: if Ammanis really wanted to walk, their sidewalks would have been fixed by the simple effect of their shoes treading the ground!
Here is another usage of sidewalks in Amman. This one is courtesy of my neighbors in the office building where I work. Thank you.