Downtown Amman never ceases to surprise me. I was there last weekend button shopping at my favorite button store. Abu Illyas is a wonderful man who actually remembers me each time and we have nice conversations about nothing. He gives his time, experience and smiles as I fussily try to match buttons to fabric. I love the store with its colors, shapes, sizes and textures.
When we were done we crossed over so my friend could get some old pictures and postcards of Amman from a Kiosk on the corner. Oh what a learning experience that was. Hisham the owner of the Khaznet Al Gaheth bookstore/ kiosk opened up a whole other world to us. He took us to a tiny store under a staircase where he showed us pieces of history that have been in his family for years. Literary and religious texts so old, in ancient scripts, on yellowed paper, bound in faded leather were brought out and displayed in front of us. Old ink bottles from the time his family, a family of copiers and printers used to reproduce texts were also exhibited as he spoke about the profession of Al warakeen (الوراقين). He spoke of his family and their history in the region and in Amman. He spoke of the trials and tribulations of his old, little bookstore. I asked him if his children will continue his and fis forefathers’ tradition. To that he answered with a shrug only if they want to.
I was reeling with joy at what I had seen and what a privilege it was to glimpse into the past like that. But I was left wondering if this piece of Ammani history will stand the test of modernization, change, globalization and I think its biggest threat the new generation?
Thinking of these things I pass a window full of wigs and I leave the unanswered questions in my head to mess with the hair on top of my head. Wigs of all colors, and cuts were on display. I got to experience long hair, blond hair, short hair, black hair… and it was so much fun. What a great way to change you r look without any commitment. I am defiantly a wig fan and will be back to buy some up. But on a more serious note when speaking with this shop keeper about his clientele he was very discreet and respectful when he mentioned cancer patients and I found that empathy so touching. The industry of beauty is rarely a humane one and to find this spirit here in its purest form was refreshing.
I love downtown, and not just for its bootleg DVDs, which was my last stop before getting a refreshing drink at Jafra. I love if for its diversity, for its color, for its life, for its dirtiness, for its beautiful ugliness, for its history, for its chaos. For all that it is. It’s a touch of pure humanity struggling to survive in a modern world. It is where you can meet the reality of today, undressed, simple, and in your face.