Queen Alia International Airport

Feast your eyes one more time upon this photo of the Queen Alia International Airport, before the French demolish it!!

OK. OK. Don’t get too alarmed. You still have 2-3 years to feast your eyes. But then, seriously, this airport, which, for better or for worse, defined the Jordanian arrival (and departure) experience for over two decades, is going to be leveled.

This will happen in 2010, which isn’t very far from today if you think about it. its place will be taken up by the new airplane parking lot (or whatever you call where planes park) of the new QAIA terminals.

On the 15th of November 2007, the French Aeroports De Paris Consortium will be taking over the management of the airport. So they will have to, ironically, fix it before they demolish it!

This blog has written numerous times about everything that’s wrong with this airport.

But her is an additional piece of advice to the new managers: Change the introductory note on the airport’s web site which, unbelievably, is pretending to still live in 1984:

Replacing the overstretched Amman-Marka International Airport (AMIA) on 25 May 1983, Jordan’s new aerial gateway at Queen Alia International Airport (QAIA) provides the air transport capacity the country needs for its continued growth and development.


The “NEW” aerial gateway??!!

I also hope they fix the famous virus scan error message that appears on the flight schedule screen.

It would be great if they put some architectural renderings of the new airport (as in: the 2010 thing) on the web. I’ve seen many images in magazines and also yesterday’s Al-Rai article about the management hand-over. But just could not find any on the web!

Norman Foster's design for Queen Alia International

Norman Foster is the architect of the new airport. The guy is a modernist. But he seems to have reinterpreted some arabo-islamic motives (domes maybe?) for the design of the terminals. This “nod” to the local culture, gives our officials/journalist/propagandists the chance to proudly say that the new airport “will be built in an Arab-Islamic style” (to satisfy the prevalent inflated sense of cultural identity I presume).

It’s all pretty exciting stuff. If anyone has a link to proper renderings, share them here.

On a final note, before its disappearance, the old airport will have played a starring role in Jordan’s first feature film in 50 years: Captain Abu Raed.

Here are some shots..

Captain Abu Raed
Captain Abu Raed

Captain Abu Raed

Perhaps the film will serve as a dignified farewell to an airport that served us for quarter of a century.

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16 responses to “The French will demolish the airport (let’s hope they fix it before that!)”

  1. Bilal - Black Jack Avatar
    Bilal – Black Jack

    this news made my day!

    Our old and outdated airport has to go/change.

    I wonder if the new construction plan will include runways for the new super jumbo or the capability of hosting one! that would be nice.

  2. Mustafa Anabtawi Avatar
    Mustafa Anabtawi

    Damn i hate this airport!

  3. manal y Avatar
    manal y

    i hope they keep the name “Queen alia airport” just for the sake of keeping a name on something. and not changing in every other decade. i hate how much they love to changes brand names.

  4. ArabianMonkey Avatar

    QAIA played a huge role in Amin Matalqa’s inspiration/making of Captain Abu Raed, and in the movie itself! What a fantastic way for us to keep its memory alive. Check out some cool pix that Sabri Hakim & Laith Majali took while we were on set there for a whole week – it was a great experience actually – the staff at the airport were amazing. http://www.flickr.com/photos/captainaburaed

    But other than the movie, I have a dislike/dont like relationship with this airport. It always feels unfinished, after all these years. And only recently I realized that’s why I always forgive them so easily. The QAIA experiences I’ve had coming and going are too painful and many a time infuriating, but I always would look up at the ceiling and say to myself, “they’re still putting it together, they’ll get there!” LOL

    But the French?!! Yikes…

  5. Humeid Avatar

    Dear Monkey,

    The ceiling is not unfinished. That is the way it was designed. It’s actually one of my favorite things about the airport. It’s a huge arabesque pattern made out of steel elements, with semi exposed ducting, etc.

  6. omar Avatar

    Noo, but i LOVE the current airport. No matter how shitty people say it is, I never faced any problems in it personally and I enjoy every spunk of it – especially the occasional stray cats around the luggage belts! hehe.

    I love the current airport, carries SO much memories
    and I don’t know if you guys ever noticed, but there’s this photograph of Queen Alia hanging up high in a little frame, it’s faded and almost in Sepia. I WISH I could have that photo for myself before they knock it down. Shall I go beg? hehe

  7. Majd Avatar

    is this a blueprint for an airport, or a Star Trek spaceship, the Enterprise.

  8. Toujan Avatar

    I’m not sure how I feel about this. Frankly, I never had as bad an experience with our airport as you’ve had, or so it seems.

    While I agree that it needs to be modernized, I have to confess that I am disappointed that we are giving this job to a non-Jordanian. I don’t know whether we have any airport design experts, and perhaps we don’t.

    Why settle for ‘nods’? I am all for modern architecture, but this airport is a gateway to our country, and I’d like to see more than just a nod to our culture. I’ve passed through beautiful , but more importantly, functional airports. But I have to say, they all look the same! We have an opportunity to differentiate here! Perhaps have a Jordanian architect be a consultant? Anyway, it sounds to me like it’s a done deal.

    I personally would have liked to see our current airport modernized and expanded, rather than demolished! but I am no design expert, and have no idea if that’s doable…

    Anyhow, design, functionality and esthetics aside, I hope:
    1. the French manage to change behaviors and attitudes of airport employees (although I think the French are not doing a particularly good job at their airport! my experience was actually very bad at Charles de Gaulle airport – smoking, extremely old and worn-out interiors, claustrophobic, and of course, they only speak French!).

    2. there would be a training and succession plan – ensuring that we assume full control over our airport once again! We should aim to build our talent in airport management, not just paying someone to do it for us (like we are used to in our homes!). I also hope we have a similar plan in place for our freeshops!!

    Bas! that’s what I think :)

  9. Dave Avatar

    And good riddance, I say. I look forward to the newer version.

  10. Al Avatar

    I got to say that I never enjoyed reading anyone’s article as I do when I read the ones published in this site.. very impressive.. Well done.

  11. Firas Avatar

    The main concern is the staff.

    The washrooms are all messy,of poor quality and smelly just like every public toilet in this country. The guys at the baggage belts area make look like a khudra sooq. Besides that it’s really small, and when it’s busy no trolleys could be found (which always brings an authentic Jordanian Huwaash of yelling at officials, complaining,and run fight over a trolley)

    The current layout of the airport is actually not bad considering Jordan, and the fact that Jordanians don’t spend any considerable time at the airport and this is not a hub airport.

    I wish they would solve the confusion over at what building the airplane is departing/arriving. Each terminal is assigned certain airliners, but most of the time the airplane ends up being on the other terminal.

    Arabic-Islamic what now? Here is the problem, most of what they label as Arabic-Islamic “look” is actually Persian (Iraqi),Moroccan or even Indian. Just like Aladeen,Ali Baba, and Sindbad live, wear,eat, and look nothing of Arabs.

    Why not get inspired by the Jordanian arch.? How about lots of mosaics (yes this Art is Jordanian)? Monuments found in Petra?

    The last thing we want is having an airport looking like the Aladdin hotel in Las Vegas or Taj Mahal!

  12. Trapped Avatar

    Foster’s plan looks like The USS Enterprise from my favorite Sci-Fi show ..(you all know the one I’m talking about).. I hope by then people can be beamed-up straight into the airplane without having to deal with the inept Jordanian personnel!

    Which brings me to the main point of my post (sarcasm aside of course): peoples’ identification with a place or a sense of place is associative. It has to do as much with practice and a sense of ‘sense-making’. It comes from a memorable situation, a kind person encountered or a great service rendered.

    The problem with QAIA is not its architectural statement (generic as it is IMHO) it’s the experience; travelers are left to ‘guess’ what and where they should direct their attention, the hassles of traveling itself notwithstanding, can leave them overwhelmed., having to deal with dry treatment from staffers and fending off taunting porters ‘begging’ for a tip. It’s human-to-human interfacing that needs an uplift not the buildings.

  13. Ahlam Avatar

    It is definatley a bitter/sweet ending for me to see this airport being demolished. I have a lot of memories in that airport.
    It is were I first layed eyes on my husband and were I first saw my grandparents and aunts and uncles in person. I kind of like the way the airport is designed but I do agree that some things need to be changed. Like the bathroom….. when you land to QAIA and you want to change and look nice for the family you haven’t seen in 10 years there is a line….and for the record you can’t even change because the floor is wet(with god knows what) and it smells like hell in there. I understand that most jordanian bathrooms are holes in the floor but there are people(like me) who have never squated to use the bathroom. They need to make the bathrooms more practical for those who aren’t jordanain Hense Queen Alia INTERNATIONAL airport. I do think that it needs to be a little bit bigger especially were you pick up your luggage. And oh ya the staff needs to go there so rude and corupted they will do anything for a few dinars. Like sometimes when I enter I have to pay an entrence fee and sometimes I don’t it’s weird. I also think that they should keep the airport very jordanian not to westernizd and technical. I love the jordanian culture and artwork they should def incorporate that into the construction. And of course we can’t forgot the mural of our heshimate rulers……when you come down the esculators it should say “Welcome to the Hashimite kingdom of Jordan” :) cute

  14. Karam Avatar

    For two decades. queen alia airport tarnished jordan’s reputation. The first thing tourists and guests saw and the last thing was a decrepit and poorly maintained building with rude employees and scary looking security officials. Sure change came late but after damage was done. Not to mention the taxi scams and the aggressive bag handlers and the stained glass surfaces and the half-ass repairs that scream half-assed management and quarter-assed workers. GOOD RIDDANCE! But I bet the new airport will quickly degenerate rapidly under the old leadership of the same retards. Take any great project and appoint people who have no pride in their work or care less for the image of their country, except to silence criticism of their own incompetence, and what do you end up with? government-managed facilities. Don’t get your hopes too high. Things have a way of moving backwards rapidly around here.

  15. The Knight Avatar
    The Knight

    The airport, miserable memeories of the police officers who look at you and ready to arrest you if you sneaze or make the wrong move or twist, when they check your passport they look in your eyes and about to tell you ” GUILTY” then they stamp your passport and let you go.