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.
A welcome sign. Strangely only in English (!)
A general view of the street. The newly planted streets will surely play a more important role next year.
Street side cafes.. already popular with people.
Thank goodness the designers went with modernist lighting fixtures not some fake old European look.
Benches.. not bad..
Remnants of the blocks used to pave the street
A touch of color.. (and an unfinished patch). Also notice the guy in orange!
Security people. A good idea initially to discourage those who intend to harass people.
The Gateway building (housing Starbucks) will be a big winner.
Young pedestrian life.. The girls are adding color!
Jordanians walking. Can it be possible?