Dear Amman

Now that I have left you, I have realized how much I love you. It’s like when they pave paradise to put up a parking lot, which is basically what has happened to you. You used to be a city of “mountains and rivers,” referred to even as Philadelphia (city of brotherly love/friendship) way back in the day. But now, you have grown tremendously in even just the last 10 years. There is no more water. Your population now makes up half the population of the entire country of Jordan. You house the poor and the rich. You house so many people who don’t actually belong to you.

You don’t really have any sidewalks. Or public transportation. But your taxi drivers know your roads, highways, and side streets like the back of their leathery hands.

You are wild. That’s how I described you when people asked, and it is how I will continue to describe you. You are so wild. There’s a night life, but it’s secret and you have to know people to get in and wear modest clothing over your “going out” outfit. There’s a strong visible presence of Islam, with so many small signs declaring God as great, or the only god, or forgiving all along your streets. And in your streets, no one follows any of the traffic laws. Honking, hand-signs, and eye-contact serve in place of stop signs and turn signals. Your people greet each other with kisses. They offer each other respect, blessings for every little interaction and service. People spend days undoing the most well-done plans, and your old men sit outside shops drinking coffee, talking politics, and twirling their prayer beads.

Oh what a life.

My favorite part about you were rides within the downtown area, from Rainbow Street to Jabal Al-Webdieh, when the road would dip into the valley where Wassat Al-Balad (downtown) lived and then climb up into the newly gentrified part of town and arts district (Webdieh). It was in those rides that your old glory could be seen, where I could count your four mountains and take in the tan houses that went on forever into the desert.

You were hard. You were welcoming and excluding all at the same time. You made me tough. You made me cry. You made me feel beautiful. You made me a new kind of brave. You made me wild too.

Coldplay debuted their newest album on a rickety stage on your highest historical site, the Citadel. They played one show at sunrise and one at sunset, but few of your people were able to buy tickets. The plague of “wassta” (connections, in a negative way) that rule your government and businesses struck again, allowing only the rich (most from the Gulf) to access what your laypeople first desired.

But, some good came from it. Although I did not get tickets to the concert, the event encouraged me to listen to Coldplay’s new album, and I found the song that reminds me of you. We can call it our song, if you’d like.

In “Orphans,” I hear the horns of your taxi drivers and a familiar Arabian rhythm in the background. The song asks when can I go back and get drunk with my friends? When can I go back and feel young again? When can I go back and feel home again?

I would listen to this song and feel understood. I often felt so constrained in you, Amman, like most of my daily choices were not in my hands. Like I wasn’t ever completely free. There was a tension I carried upon my shoulders for months with you. And often, I just wanted to go home.

On my second to the last night, you sang me “songs by the light of the moon” as I gazed at your Citadel on the hill and listened to “Orphans” again. I used to listen to our song when I felt trapped in you, now I listen to it when I miss you and everything about our life together.

But now that I have left you, the song has taken on new meaning. I have realized the unique loves and friendships that I had. I long for your people, my people, your mountains, your familiar noise, your nights that never ended, and your days that drug by. I see my time with you as one of the most adventurous, challenging, and wild times of my life.

Thank you, my dear Amman. I will return one day, wallahi (I swear).

Inshallah (God willing)