25 January 2007

Downtown Amman

In an effort to lift myself out of a little funk, I’ve been making myself go downtown and walk around every day this week. It’s been really wonderful to learn about the micro-neighborhoods, new places to buy sweets, and odd little shops hidden from those who only pass through in taxis.

Yesterday I started walking from Abdali toward downtown. There are dozens and dozens of garages. In between those are places that sell new and used car parts, and (coincidently?) between those are a few shops that sell new and antique medical teaching supplies. So, next to a place that sells radios and side-view mirrors is a place that sells plastic brains, kidneys and livers. I looked in one shop yesterday, but today I made a purchase. Two friends went downtown with me, and they were both also interested in these shops. We went in and looked around at plastic skeletons, old and new microscopes, and foam models of volcanoes(!). I was kicking around the idea of getting K a part of some sort, but when I saw the eye, I knew that’s what I needed to get for him. The eye is really neat. It sits on a stand and you can take it apart and look inside the eyeball at the pupil.

I encouraged S to buy the large plastic cross section of a Liver Fluke, but he declined. After I made my big purchase, we walked down to Hasham Restaurant and we ate foul and hummus while the eye sat on the table and watched us. It was really busy there today, and we had to share a table with an old man who seemed really unnerved with the eye (he shouldn’t, it’s not an evil eye). However, the waiters gathered around and we all learned about the anatomy of the eye.

Walking back to Abdali from down town is not as forgiving as walking down from Abdali, but it’s worthwhile. There are several flights of stairs that are slapped onto the steep hills that rise out of downtown and head into Jebel Hussein. Some of them seem endless as if they go directly to Heaven. Others look treacherous. Most pass by old buildings with ornately painted doors and windows. In downtown there are a few really old buildings that have not faired well as offices, but those which exist as apartments have done much better.

Heading into downtown past the auto and people parts stores is a bakery where people lured me in with sweets. I could smell the sugar before I saw the building, and when I stopped and looked in the window they came out and began feeding me. This place is really big, and they have breads and kanafa and all kinds of bad things with date filling. A wonderful young woman there helped me pick out all kinds of sweets I don’t need to eat, and then made me take several other things on the house. Past this is a government building where old men sit at desks right on the sidewalk with typewriters. I’ve never seen them type anything. They sit and smoke. Then, once I see all the travel agencies I feel like I’ve officially reached downtown.

Yesterday when I went downtown alone I was so engrossed in what a beautiful day it was that I didn’t realize until I was right in the midst of it that I’d walked through a prisoner transfer of some kind. The military guys shut down the street, and taxis were honking while guards smoked and handcuffed men lined up to get onto busses. As I passed through and disrupted the flow of handcuffed men, I came out of my beautiful day trance, and the guards started laughing and profusely welcoming me to Jordan. Perhaps they should have welcomed me back to consciousness.

I think next week I will explore the numerous flights of stairs and see where I end up in Jebel Hussein.


Blogger kathrynzano said...

J, you make me smile. I love the eyeball unnerving your lunch partner. I love the men sitting at typewriters on the sidewalk and not typing. It all sounds like some kind of Jordanian "Brazil." I hope your funk lifts soon. I miss you. Send me your skype name dammit!

7:28 PM  
Blogger K said...

The guys on the sidewalk with typewriters are public notaries. I'll have to figure out how to mount the eye in some high menacing spot like a security camera.

8:19 PM  
Anonymous Rebecca said...

I can only picture your lunch at Hashem with the eyeball! If all the guys there are going to stare at you, you might as well give them a reason to do it!

8:42 PM  
Blogger Weeping Sore said...

Imagine! A body fragment store! I want an appendage - maybe a finger or thumb. I would plant it in a flower pot among sunflowers so it looks like a buried person beginning to emerge.
I like the sound of the stairs going up to heaven. Too bad you don't have your spouse's eye for photographs. Your verbal descriptions leave me wanting to see illustrations.

11:00 PM  
Blogger Frances Goodman فرانسيس said...

Rebecca, you are right on! Now I can stare back.

10:35 AM  

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