I’ve been noticing that as I grow older, I’ve been generally thinking more about the people, places and events that made me who I am today. Maybe its the nostalgia that comes with age, although I do not consider myself nostalgic at all.

I am also aware that looking at these things in retrospect might add a layer of interpretation that exaggerates or otherwise distorts the significance of a place, person or event. But I still find this exploration interesting.

The memory I am sharing here is from the early or 1980s in Amman. It has to do with one of my favorite subjects: books and bookstores.

As a teenager, I lived with my parents in the Dahiet Al Rashid suburb of Amman. We lived there since 1976. Even in the early 1980s, it was still considered one of the “outer suburbs” of Amman. You have to imagine the stretch from the University of Jordan to the Sports City intersection as largely devoid of buildings, with only a few houses and commercial buildings dotting the hills on the left and right of University Road (now Queen Rania Street).

Lower Dahiyet Al Rasheed district, Amman

A view of our neighborhood, shot from University road. Our house was just behind the houses you see here.

Grown up near the University of Jordan must have had an effect on me. My father taught there. My brothers were born in the University Hospital, which was, at the time, a modernist icon of Jordan. The presence of the university and the hospital, as well as the Sports City on the other end of University Road gave the district a modern feeling that was very different from neighborhoods closer to the downtown of Amman.

Around 1984 (I am not 100% sure) a new building popped up on University Road, just 300 meter away from our house. It was the headquarters of the Jordan Book Center, a company specializing in importing foreign books and university text books (maybe that’s why they chose to open near the University).

I was 14 years old. I had started to develop an interest in computers, electronics and programming (why this happened is another story).

So here I was, a Ammani teenager living in suburb that was REALLY far away from any major shopping district, but with access to a bookstore almost at the doorsteps from my house.

The Jordan Book Center, built in the 1980s
The Jordan Book Centre, virtually unchanged today. The huge Abu Al Hajj Center was build much later

If you think shopping for books in Amman isn’t that great today, well, then just imagine how it was in the 1980’s. So a building full books in a neighborhood totally devoid of any public facilities (no parks, no playground, no youth center) must have been some sort of a magnet for a kid like me.

So I became a frequent visitor to the building. On one of the upper floors they had a shelf full of computer books talking about the programming languages of the day Basic, Fortran and Cobol. They also had books about the early home computers like the Commodore 64, Sinclair and Apple.

They also had books about photography. I still have a book called Photographer’s Troubleshooter (1983 edition) that I bought from there. They also had lighthearted books. A joke book in English is one I remember purchasing.

The upper floors almost never had customers coming in. I guess their business was (and still is) the wholesale of text books. So going there was a solitary experience. I also can’t remember going there with any of the neighborhood kids.

These memories came back to me last week as I waited for someone in front of the huge (and ugly) Abu Al Hajj Center. The person was late so I took a stroll around my old neighborhood.

Usually, when I visit my parents these days I come driving. But walking around the block revealed that so many things basically remain unchanged. I even met a guy who’s name I forgot but went and greeted anyway and exchanged a few words with him.

The Jordan Book Center is also still there. So, I went in. Went up the stairs. And bought two books (one of them is about Google!)

Amman, is the kind of city that, at least for my generation, you feel was all built in front of your eyes, and thus has a weak sense of history. It’s hard to really feel the weight of history when most of the streets and building around you are younger than you!

But as I advance in age, moments of nostalgia can come from a rather non-descript building from the 1980’s.




3 responses to “Amman memories: a teenager and a bookstore”

  1. Odai Avatar

    I’ve never lived in Amman, but I enjoyed your post. I just recently started reading your blog, and I like it :)

  2. Amjad Avatar

    I’m interested in knowing the reason why you developed that interest actually…very, intrigued even.

  3. dana Avatar

    i love ur artical and i am really love amman