When I first moved to Jordan, there were a lot of things that I was expecting to see, beautiful mosques, markets on busy streets, and a stark landscape that is hauntingly beautiful. There were a few sights I did not expect to see, but after further thought, it made perfect sense such as the important places that are mentioned in the Bible, old Roman ruins, and buildings all different variants of the color light brown, but that still have their own unique style because of the architecture. What came as a total shock was the government’s partnership with the hip hop community in Amman and the street art that has been left behind all over the city.
About a month ago, I went on a walking tour of downtown Amman to check out some of the street art that can be found all over the place in the city. Ever since arriving, I always knew that it existed. It is hard to walk anywhere and not come across some of the pieces that are found on various walls all over the city. But what I learned from the tour is that these pieces are partially subsidized by the Jordanian government and some of the most famous artists in the city are the ones that leave these wonderful pieces of art behind. The most prominent of these artists is a man that calls himself Sardine. I had seen his pieces here and there in Amman, but I had no idea now much he had contributed to the culture of the city. His art always features a paper boat in it somewhere, and now that I know what to look for, I see his art all over the place.
And like all great art, some artists try to push for certain causes that are dear to their hearts. Yara Hindawi is one of these artists. She will paint her subjects with missing eyes and clouds floating in the background. Her characters are depicted this way to bring the issue of mental health to the spotlight, and to demonstrate the missing piece in a lot of people’s lives who suffer from these problems. I had come across her art a couple of times, but it wasn’t until this tour that I was able to understand the message behind it.
The prestige of the city with its embrace of this culture became so widespread that other prominent street artists were asked to come and contribute during festivals that happened before the Covid years. My favorite one was entitled Blue Boy. The haunting look in his eyes was highlighted by the fact that a couple of years after it was painted, the city came in to repair wall and covered up his mouth. I don’t know what it looked like before the city came in and did this, but I think it is one of those happy mistakes. I believe that this makes the piece say more than whatever the original smile might have been. It is the picture I return to more than any other that I saw on the tour.
There are many other hidden gems throughout the city, and now that I have been on the tour, everywhere I look I see another one. It is a part of what gives the city of Amman its charm. I am sure that many people that travel to Amman would not consider this as part of their trip when there are the Roman ruins, and Rainbow Street that attract so many visitors, but it is one of those tours that are really worth the time. They are run by an organization called Underground Amman and the tours are conducted by a man named Alaeddin Pasha. I would call it a must see if you come to Amman, and it is one of the most surprising experiences I have had since I have moved out here.