Jordanian girls walking on Wakalat Street

Although Amman’s first contemporary pedestrian street is still littered with building materials and punctuated by 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 western Amman where the car has killed pedestrian life.
As odd as it may sound, a whole generation of Ammanis (especially people in the more well off parts of the city) have forgotten what it means to walk in the city. Many young people (especially girls) have, to my shock, never been to downtown Amman. Talk about the loss of urban life.

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.

Here are a number of observations I made:

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 yesterday made it clear to me that this will not be a male dominated space.

Judging from the fact that people are already using the street despite its unfinished state I predict that the street will be a big success. Amman is ready for this urban experience.

In the past, any suggestion by the municipality to turn a street into a pedestrian zone was faced by the (rather mindless) protests of merchants. I predict that merchants in other parts of town will now start demanding that their streets are turned pedestrian.

Parking will become a challenge. In the absense 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.


The street will be officially opened soon. People have already unofficially opened it! If you go there you will be disappointed by some of the workmanship and the unused blocks strewn here and there. But all in all it is a refreshing experience in Amman.

Welcome to Wakalat Street

A welcome sign. Strangely only in English (!)

Wakalat Street general view

A general view of the street. The newly planted streets will surely play a more important role next year.

Street cafes on Wakalat Street in Amman

Street side cafes.. already popular with people.

Modern lighting on Wakalat Street

Thank goodness the designers went with modernist lighting fixtures not some fake old European look.

Benches on Wakalat Street

Benches.. not bad..

Paving blocks

Remnants of the blocks used to pave the street

A touch of color on Amman's Wakalat Street

A touch of color.. (and an unfinished patch). Also notice the guy in orange!

Security men on Wakalat street

Security people. A good idea initially to discourage those who intend to harass people.

Gateway building on Wakalat Street

The Gateway building (housing Starbucks) will be a big winner.

Young pedestrian life.. The girls are adding color!

Young pedestrian life.. The girls are adding color!

Jordanians walking!

Jordanians walking. Can it be possible? :)

Young guys on Wakalat Street in Amman

Hala shabab!

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26 responses to “Ammanis flock to Wakalat street to rediscover pedestrian life”

  1. Hussein Avatar

    “A welcome sign. Strangely only in English (!)”

    ahmad maybe the people there doesn’t know how to read in arabic, or to speak in it.. so no reason for this amazement ;)


    an alien from east amman!

  2. Mariam Ayyash Avatar
    Mariam Ayyash

    this is great, the greater thing though would be turning the whole of sweifieh into pedetrian area (with the exception of the street connection from safeway to upper sweifieh) the problem isnt making shop owners walk (that could be solved by giving permits for certain cars to enter) the problem is walking up a street (very tidious) mountains i believe is ammans blessing and curse!

  3. Basem Avatar

    What’s so strange about the english only welcome sign if 99% of west-Amman restaurants have only english menus that even thier waiters can’t read!

    I think some authority must mandate the use of Arabic. The flawed perception that “English is trendy while Arabic is dull” is way too eighties/nineties; thanks to a new breed of home-grown designers, especially in Lebanon, they really made Arabic themed designs and fonts as contemporary as any “other language” (at least that’s how i feels)

    Regarding the issue of security, you over emphasized on this, but i don’t see this issue stopping regular folks flocking downtown despite the notoriously of some of its parts!

    The sight of strolling security men and the filtering of male youth at the gates of malls only add up to the tension and only induce a fake sense of security or more like elitism to those who make it inside.

  4. Hamzeh N. Avatar
    Hamzeh N.

    Haha, I didn’t know they were doing this? I remember having to drive through that street last winter a couple of times. This is in Sweifeyyeh, right?

    The one thing I noticed about the street in the winter was how muddy it got when it rained. It was pretty bad. I hope it doesn’t get muddy in this pedestrian area too!

  5. Untitled Avatar

    Nice post. Thanks for posting the pictures.
    “A welcome sign. Strangely only in English (!)”. Yes, this is really odd.

  6. Sid Vicious Avatar
    Sid Vicious

    So it’s like a big mall with no “young men” being kept out. Damn, the ladies are gonna like this.

  7. Dave Avatar

    Love the post, the critique and the occasional sarcasm.

  8. Ayman Avatar

    Nice pictures and smart observations.

    This is an idea that has been long overview. Hopefully there will be more soon. The area looks promising, but a few trees (or even potted plants) won’t hurt.

    Oh and yes, I didn’t see anything in Arabic in all the photos :-(

  9. Humeid Avatar

    Thanks everyone for the great comments. I think the sign is temporary and looks like it has been provided by the designer of the street (who is a foreigner). I do hope it is turned into something bilingual.

    Bilingualism is very important. Personally I believe that jordan’s bilingual culture should be encouraged. That means no English only and no Arabic only signs or menus.

    The more inclusive the better..

  10. Ryan Nadel Avatar
    Ryan Nadel

    I came across your blog while reading Global Voices and was fascinated by it. Your observations and commentary are astute and insightful and the photos are great too. I’m an editor at a ‘crowd powered’ news service. I’d love for you to contribute this post and any others you see fit to the site.

    We have some great tools for bloggers which could increase traffic to your blog. Email me directly and we can discuss this further. Great work.

  11. Amjad Mahfouz Avatar
    Amjad Mahfouz

    looks amazing
    thx for the share

  12. Hala Avatar

    Really really loved this post – wonderful how your post can be so informative and yet so fun to read.

  13. Ali Avatar

    Jordanians finally walking, that’s a change. We are really obese lazy people. I’m glad we finally have a pedestrian street in Amman. Today I also tried Rainbow street. Thanks to the Municipality of Amman.

  14. Atallah Avatar

    I’ll keep my critique to myself to avoid being the most pessimistic here. This is a good first step, but there is still margin for much improvement.

  15. Roland Avatar

    As a tourist that just departed Amman three days ago, I was very impressed with the new walking area in Suwifieh. I stayed at the Al Waleed hotel adjacent to the walking area. A few suggestions: more restaurants with outdoor seating and umbrellas for shade; both English and Arabic signs would be appreciated for us visiting “foreigners”; more trees and plants – a must! I had a nice vacation in Jordan – Thanx!

  16. The Observer Avatar
    The Observer

    I love the street! Finally we have somewhere decent to walk in and enjoy summer nights while shopping!

  17. life Avatar

    I have been working in Wakalat for more than a year and a half now.. but you just gave me a new prespective… good Job!

  18. Anas Rababah Avatar
    Anas Rababah

    i was there 2 days ago, i was really happy to see such thing in jordan

    maybe at the begining alot of people will be going there, many will be there just to walk and watch. but after all useless visitors will get tired someday and will be distributed to another future streets in um-uthena, abdali. and another one will be in zarka new project.

    its easy to tell its a successful try

  19. Hamzah Avatar

    I think this was a great idea. Driving through that street was a disaster and I always thought it should become a pedestrian area. Hopefully we will see more of this in the future in Amman. By the way the person who designed the area is not a foreigner as suggested above but a Jordanian.

  20. Rami Daher Avatar
    Rami Daher

    I really admire this blog and the different issues provocked and discussed. Just two points on the wakalat Street: First, there is now a bilingual sign (one on each side). Second: The designer is not foreign but it is TURATH offices head by Dr. Rami Daher. The foreign expert (Jan Ghel) had put general guidelines for Sweifieh in general, and TURATH of Rami Daher had done the detailed urban design for Wakalat.
    Rami Daher

  21. mahmoud Avatar

    good idea in a suitable location

  22. m dowy Avatar
    m dowy

    nice lebanon

  23. Zeidan Avatar

    Hi everyone, I would like to tell you about the huge volume of business and trade activities that occur in this beautiful street. That’s why I decided to reserve the domain name and I would like you all to share with my ideas on how to convert this domain name into a real dynamic website.

  24. Zaid Avatar

    Hi all,

    i know this a too late reply, but regarding the quote
    “A welcome sign. Strangely only in English (!)”i designed it, and the other side of this welcome sign is in Arabic!!


  25. Ahmed Avatar

    Nice, will see it this summer insha allah.

  26. majd Avatar

    hehehe its really right btw iam doing a prentation about this street and this information was so god thank u