Thursday, May 1, 2014

Springtime at the Boulevard

Today is Labour Day in Amman and I mostly took the day off. It was awesome because Wednesday is my traditional day off, which I mostly cannot take. It feels like I’ve finally had a weekend.

After attending art classes, I spent a leisurely day building a puzzle that contains Al Aqsa Mosque and the Western Wall of the fallen Temple.  As it was a gorgeous day and a splendid evening, I had to choose how I would spend the evening. The choices were: go for a walk through Abdali Souk, work on a watercolor, or begin preparations for tomorrow’s lunch for twenty. After baking a cake, I decided to go for a walk.

My journey took my to the Abdali Gateway project where the city is celebrating “Springtime at the Boulevard.” It is quite an impressive undertaking. I stumbled upon it this Christmas when they had their inaugural Christmas at the Boulevard. The management was trying something for springtime as well because the winter festival was very well received.

When I attended on Sunday night, it was quite pleasant with good crowds of people taking in the first day of the week. Tonight was something else: it was a holiday, the beginning of the weekend, and the site of a car and bike rally. Throngs of people jammed into the space. The management must be very happy for such a profitable undertaking because lots of money was being spent.

I was just happy to see so many Ammani with smiles on their faces as they enjoyed their leisure time of gathering. Many were well dressed. Lots of families attended. People were dancing to the live music as they laced their hair with bows of flowers. It is wonderful to see so many smiles and to hear much laughter. People from all walks of life and nationalities visited.

Some Ammani feel that it is attracting only the privileged. In many ways it is because the owners want to negotiate sales of condos and rentals of high-end apartments. They want to attract people who will make it their home, but on the other hand, for an entrance fee of 2 JD, just about anyone can visit and enjoy loads of fun. People watching is free.

The setting is a boulevard between the most northern-two buildings. It is a fairly wide boulevard that is meant to be a gathering spot. High end apartments can be rented on the upper levels, while the lower levels will be commercial space with luxury stories, gourmet restaurants, and cafes. People will be able to sit outside and enjoy a cup of coffee while gazing at other people.

Abdali is pitched as the future new downtown and I think it is going to be a huge success. There are five new streets of commercial buildings, residential units, an indoor mall, and six new hotels in Phase I. Phase II will be equally impressive and the complex will be the signature statement that Amman was arrived as an international, cosmopolitan city.
Judging by the increased attendance at this springtime festival, the place is already known. Most western Ammani might not think about heading into the old city, but this gives them abundant reasons. It is not far from Abdoun or Swiefieh, and many people will have to venture into these new spaces very soon. I think of some of my former parishioners who do not want to travel to Weibdeh because it is an eight-minute commute when they typically make it to their other church in seven to ten minutes. There is a psychological hurdle of traveling to Abdali. I think it is a judgment on class and wealth.

I’m impressed and excited for what the city will have and for what it has right now. I hadn’t intended to walk to the festival, but when I arrived, I immediately ran into parishioners and friends. It felt like a homecoming because I knew many people. It brought great joy to my heart to see such a gentle-souled, but heavy-burdended people have a great laugh. They will remember this for months to come – as they look forward to the summer, fall, and Christmas festivals. Good on ya, Jordan.  

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