A very interesting article about Amman after the Iraq invasion in the LA Times. The article is really all over the place in terms of what it’s talking about but still…interesting to read. Here are a few excerpts that I found intriguing, curious and frightening all at the same time (and in no particular order).
It’s the Middle East’s newest boomtown. Property values are up as much as 200% in the last two years, traffic jams are worsening, and hotels are packed with the strangest of war-zone bedfellows: Iraqi politicians and businessmen, international aid workers, foreign contractors and mercenaries.
“To do business in Iraq, you have to go through Jordan,” said Wael Jaabari, a wealthy real estate agent who estimates that as much as half a trillion dollars has poured into the Jordanian economy because of Iraq, starting shortly before the invasion.
The social revival is in full blossom at the restaurants, clubs and bars of a city not renowned for its nightlife. Locals mutter about the appearance of seedy bars and massage parlors packed with suddenly ubiquitous Eastern European women.
The city’s war-related resurgence also coincides with an influx of free-spending vacationers and investors from Persian Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Long since frightened away from New York and London for fear of post-Sept. 11 backlash, the Gulf crowd first turned to Beirut Ã¢?? until the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in February.
“Now whoever was thinking Lebanon is thinking Jordan,” Jaabari said. “It’s hard to get a reservation latelyÃ¢?Â¦. We don’t have enough places to entertain them.”
The good times won’t last if the new rulers of Iraq have their way. Many leaders of the Shiite Muslim coalition controlling the government in Baghdad nurse a grudge against Jordan for helping Hussein and accuse it of ignoring Iraq-bound insurgents they say are crossing its borders.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II, a Sunni Muslim, is regarded as an opponent of the Shiite resurgence, and Jordanians in general are viewed as Hussein sympathizers.
By day, Iraqis rich and poor crowd the gleaming corridors of Amman’s Mecca Mall.
“We call it the Iraqi embassy,” Hamid said. “When you hear a Jordanian accent there, it’s like a shock.”
Across town in the Torro Negro bar, a singer performs Arabic pop songs while a dozen Arab and European women in tight dresses work the tables. Half a dozen more sit on the sidelines.
Diana, a Syrian with a low-cut top and exposed belly button, leans in and places both hands on a new customer’s thigh to ask what he’d like to drink, and would he buy her one too?
A few drinks later she whispers, “Habibi” Ã¢?? darling Ã¢?? “I don’t really care about the beer. I know you’ll take care of me.”