Reflections Of Barcelona

Truly a spectacular city. Historical. Cultural. Alive and breathing.

Walking through La Rambla I thought to myself, here is a street that has defined this city. It’s filled with cafe seats, florists, artists, human statues and festive lights. But it’s just a street. Yet, it’s a street that helps drive the tourism wheels of the city. And I thought of the different ways ‘we’ see development. I thought, what if the Abdali souk was expanded and the bus station completely moved elsewhere? What if it stretched all the way down to the balad as single large pedestrian souk? How difficult would it be able to expand something that’s already there and central to a city like Amman? Any more difficult than building skyscrapers on fertile lands? It’s strange how our development is based on shaping ourselves in the image of cities that have little or no history, discarding ourselves in the process of so-called modernization. It’s a shame.

Then again, Barcelona is also the city that turned down the Eiffel Tower, so what do I know.

Nevertheless, I loved the way that natural gas street cars and subways drive the public transportation within the bustle of the city. Very environmentally-friendly. There are more scooters than cars. Police drive tiny cars that can maneuver through the narrow streets, which contrast our own police who drive large, gas-guzzling cars and scream at you from a megaphone to get out of the way. I also loved the idea of having free WiFi spots signified by a lamp post, something I’ve wished I could see here in Amman.

Here are a few pictures I snapped along the way.


  • I went to barcelona last summer! It was amazing!

    The only annoying thing there are the Arabs who try and sell you those damned red cans (which I doubt are actually filled with beer) night and day!

  • When I was in Spain, earlier this year, I was so thankful that the Arab rule was defeated and they were kicked out. For if they were still dominating, Bar”th”elona, Valencia, and Madrid would be yet another Cairo, Riyadh, Rabat, Baghdad, Amman,…

  • ” When I was in Spain, earlier this year, I was so thankful that the Arab rule was defeated and they were kicked out. For if they were still dominating, Bar”th”elona, Valencia, and Madrid would be yet another Cairo, Riyadh, Rabat, Baghdad, Amman,…”

    Ya mab3oos, I advise to go and read your own history ,walak,without the Arabs and Muslims your white masters would be living in the dark ages.
    يا خساره على هيك شباب ،بلفعل أنك مبعوص

  • Nas: i think your comments were right on target. Why do we strive to make our Arab capitals look like cities with no history and deliberately erase their distinguishing features ? You are absolutely right, instead we should embrace the uniqueness of each city and make it its general theme rather than just wide streets and skyscrapers.

    Mab3oos: we Arabs have our problems there is no denying that .. but i still do not understand the value in self-hate

  • Alhamdulillah as-salaameh!
    I love Spain. With all its flaws, I love it so. Great shot of the Majestic–great pics, period.

    Is it just me or do the pigeons look super clean?

  • When I was in Spain, earlier this year, I was so thankful that the Arab rule was defeated and they were kicked out. For if they were still dominating, Bar”th”elona, Valencia, and Madrid would be yet another Cairo, Riyadh, Rabat, Baghdad, Amman,…

    unbelievable ..

  • Poor Arab News Service: yes, they call it the “precariado” – people working, but at wages that won’t take you anywhere; or they are unemployed … especially Andalucia used to have some really unbelievable unemployment rates.

    And it’s not like there’s a lot done for poor people – Spain is a rather harsh country in this respect, by European standard. It’s one of the few places in Western Europe where rich or middle class tourists can provoke real resentment.

    I don’t think its poverty rate would look bad compared to Jordan’s though.

  • Oooh, nice place. I had the same thoughts in Rome. Why is it that a city like that, that knows itslef and is what it is can’t be the model for Amman? Low buildings, history and beauty… Rather than try and become a new Dubai full of articificiality (I’m sitting in Dubai right now looking out the window at things only humans could put in the middle of a desert), why can’t Amman become more true to itself. Find yourself in who you are, not in who Dubai is pretending to be… That’s my wish anyway.

  • One of the challenges Amman faces in city planning and development is the fragmented efforts working for the city. There are way too many orgs and way too much friction between them, when there really should be a consortium of experts and orgs working within the domain of built enviro for the good of the city and city life/people.

    Another challenge that plagues us is that these workers skip the people dimension, generally. They do not get engaged deeply and wholeheartedly with what people need, want and how they use the city and need to use the city and their evolving lifestyles. They overlook all this coz it’s the most difficult, complicated part actually. So it’s easier to create perfect plans on paper, buy consultants to put together fancy pitches and run the press release and lock in some donor money. Anyone can do that. Anyone can also win awards for that. A sales pitch is a sales pitch.. anyone can do that/be trained for that. But does the product work for people? That’s a whole other reality!

    What about implementation? What about making the fancy aesthetic plans, practical for lifestyle? And when the plan is implemented, does it work for the people whose space is impacted? Huge questions that require soulful work, constantly, and by locals who reach out to borrowed experts upon need. Foreign passersby cannot do this for us. But we don’t get that, at all it seems.

    City planning and development is all about people. First and foremost and all the way thru. Not much of what we do is delivering on that yet. We’re able to gut the roads and build the structures, but people use and lifestyle needs are not observed and assessed so that structure delivers on the promise to people and the next phase of the plan delivers on further improvement for the people.

    When those entrusted with our city planning drive by dangerous public spaces (newly erected) every single day and don’t even flinch towards fixing them up….that’s messed up. When these planners claim that they are keepers of the city and while driving around allegedly checking up on the city, roll down their window and casually throw their gum out into the street…. that’s messed up. When they claim to share stories which don’t include people or lifestyle you soon realize it’s just camouflaged PR….. that’s messed up. When they don’t listen, don’t use the city, don’t know the city, yet sit in their gated communities and claim planning the city… that’s messed up.

    Sad. Soul-less. Selfish.

  • I think Jordan has a lot of potential too. I had a few friends who went there for tourism and loved it. They went there with a tourist group though. I think otherwise it would be so hard to get around, especially when you don’t speak the language. But, if Jordan works on enhancing tourism services like tourist centers, public transit…etc, it will be great destination.

  • What? You have not been in Nou Camp? No photos of the stadium? you did not see Henry, Messi and Eto’o? You have not been in Barcelona!
    However, great photos and a fantastic cultural/social portrait. Still it is a crime against humanity if you did not go to the stadium!

  • to responders above.

    please don’t make the Egyptian argument again (Ancient Egyptians made great additions to human civilizations), for todays Egyptians added almost nothing. And the same argument could be made about all Arabs. It is not self hating. It is reality. According to all measures: economic, social, cultural, health, sports,.., Arabs are at the end of the list. There is no indication Spain would have been any different had Arabs stayed and ruled.

  • I think the history of a place is really important, but we also create history in our decisions about urban planning. The best modern changes to a city are the ones that acknowledge the needs of the current residents.

    That said, is Dubai better or worse for the changes to its cultural/social profile over the last 5-10 years?

    As a recent tourist to Jordan, my favourite places were things like Hashem restaurant, because it’s amazingly delicious and has history; Petra because it’s beautiful and has a history you can definitely see and feel; but I also loved checking out Barack Mall in Amman that seems really new, not even all the shop spaces are rented. And going to RED.

    Jordan is an amazing country, and even though I don’t speak Arabic, I only did 1 short tour (3 days) because I wanted to start the trip with some idea of the history, sights and what it would be like trying to get around on my own. Jordanians are incredibly welcoming and I can’t wait to come back. I now want to learn Arabic and understand more about the politics and religion and daily life. That desire came from meeting great people, seeing history in a way that we don’t get in Canada, and elaborate games of charades and single word questions and answers in Arabic, or French or Spanish if English wasn’t working.

    It’s fantastic to travel the world and gain an appreciation for the things others have and the things you have. I really love many of the Barcelona photos. Thanks for sharing.

  • What intrigues us about a city is the way it portraits itself as a livable place, that respects the pedestrian, welcomes the visitor and amuses the child. What you see in these pictures is not just a European city’s success story; its years and years of dedication; conservation policies, teams working, advocates screaming. It surely didn’t happen one night! And Whoever lived in this city has contributed its part to its grace and history.

    Amman’s confusion is attributed to a missing link between a city’s aspiration and a city’s reality. Foreign investors and developers plan a city in which they never lived! Even the new Amman Plan is a product with a foreign tag (no it wasn’t made in Jordan). The new laws and regulations that scraped the smooth 4-story Ammani traditional height and demolished residential and historical neighbourhoods in Um-Uthania, Shmeisani and others, resulted in the fact that around every quite residential neighbourhood, a commercial building is erected, and thus a traffic dilemma is created.
    Our sudden obsession with heights, towers, and all the other borrowed non-fitting symbols of civilization clash with the topographic feel of hilly-natured Amman.

    It seems that our guardian policy makers who say yes to foreign investors with their little big money pumped into the city, find it hard to bother them with the least of constraints, recommendations or even advice about what fits our Amman best… If only they weren’t that shy!

    When I read about a developemnt like Limitless Towers in ras-al-ain area ” that natural spring that made Amman” and I hear about a suspended swimming pool between two inferiorly-erected towers, I wonder about the historical value that links this project to the birth place of Amman!

  • Regarding the debate about the historical contribution of Arabs and Muslims to the civilization of Europe we have to look at the bic pictures. In the dark ages of Europe cities like London, Paris and Madrid were much inferior to Baghdad, Seville and Cairo. What happened was not the defeat of Muslims in Spain but the awakening of Europe due to renaissance and enlightement and the use of mind and science while Arabs and Muslims declined to a state of irrational thinking that continued until now. What is really frustrating is that Arabs and Muslims are still in denial and still attached to irrationality without daring to compare their miserable state to what was achieved in Europe and even in Latin America and South east Asia.
    Again, Nas you should apologize to all Barcelona fans for being pysically in the city and not visiting Nou Camp. How dare you!!

  • Oh batir ,it has been long time before we heard from you, what happened to you ,so I see , you became historian on Arab history and psycoanalist during hypernation .
    So after hypernation, you came up with new and improved theory about Arab “irrationality” and their attachment to it, I never new that i was irrational till i read you pearl of wisdom and your new and improved theory of Arab “irrationality” and our “attachment” to it
    \ OK batir or perhaps I should call you Dr Batir wardan, the father of Arab “irrationality” theory( by the way if you decide to write a book on Arab “irrationality” ,your book will be on number 1 book seller in new york times ,because all you have to do to sell a book is bash and attack Arabs and Muslim,you know , just like Hirsi Ali)
    you are forcing me to dissect your irrational comment by just asking very simple irrational questions to you and your likes.
    First question Dr Batir How did we, including you batir, became so irrational ? could be the water we drink ,the food we eat or the air we breath that made us so irrational ?
    second: could it be a virus or maybe germ ?
    Third: Could it be genetic trait that made us so ‘irrational” ?
    Inquiring minds want to know Professor Batir?

  • you didnt go to gayexemple/?? you’d love it, since you are vey fond ofgay villages ;). Rambla is like balad in Amman although you cant compare amman to barcelona, its dirty and sha3bi…there are much better places in barca, 2 days are not enough to see anything properly…ps the above commenters are idiots, real idiots.

  • Vibrant city, full of art galleries and excellent food among the other things! check out Woody Allen’s latest movie ‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’ to get back some of the atmosphere of the place.

    Talking about Amman…there r some people trying to ‘save’ its past and characteristics, I remember Mamdouh Bisharat’s DIwan down King Faisal’s street in the Balad. U should launch a campaign involving also, among others, the Darat AlFunun art centre in Jebel AlWeibdeh [magic place, great views on Amman]. I have to say though that the crazy traffic is part of the charm of the Balad just like that in Damascus suq…kidding!
    By the way I remember also a nice book on historical residences in Amman.


  • To Al Urduni Al Hurr:
    How we became irrational? well, I will not answer that but I would love to hear of any Arab-Muslim philosopher, after Ibn Rushd who managed to provide rational and reasonal thought without being called a kafir. This is my dear, the germ of fundmanetalism and tradition that has kept the Arab World out of modernity, except for Mercedes cars of course.
    It is clear that who have not lost your pathetic sense of humour!

  • To batir Wardan,,, Is that what you just discovered ; “a germ of fundamentalism and tradition” and this “germ” is it contigous ? how did we became infected by it? and is there a vaccine for that or anti biotic

    Oh Batir ,,what it takes from you to find out ,since you know how to use computer is a simple google search of Arab and Muslim scholar and you will be shocked of your own discovery. I think i have enough of those “irrational germ” I AM going to see my doctor tomorrow and see what i can do about it.

  • While I’m enjoying the debate as it is, or at least the direction this post has unintentionally gone in, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind people that there is no need to get personal and/or insulting. History and science have shown that human beings are indeed capable of making a point without insulting one another or getting personal. In fact, avoiding those tendencies makes one’s point all the more stronger.

    Just a thought.

    As for the debate itself, Lass and Nadine were closer to the line of thinking I had in mind.

    Thanks all.

Your Two Piasters: