It’s all happening in Amman: The impact of modernity on a Muslim community

Author: Gregory Johansson, writing under a pseudonym, has lived and worked in Amman, Jordon, for nearly fifteen years.


We have lived for nearly 15 years in a lower middle-class area of east Amman called Hai al-Arman (the Armenian Quarter). Just before the turn of the 20th century, the population of Amman was around 200. These were mostly Circassian farmers who had fled the Czarist massacres in the Caucasus and Crimea. The Armenian community dates back to the Turkish massacres of 1915. Refugees drifted south over the following years as the Ottoman Empire shrank away northwards.
Today, at the turn of the 21st century, the population of Amman is well over 2 million – an average growth rate of 15% per year! The Armenians of Hai al-Arman are long gone. Most have emigrated or now live in the richer western suburbs. Taking their place are the Jordanian Arab families moving in from the villages; the Iraqis waiting for their wars to end or their immigration papers to be processed; and the Palestinians overflowing from the enormous U.N. refugee camp hidden from view on the back-side of the hill. Has there ever been a time where the globalising forces of some form of colonialism haven’t affected Amman? King David, Nebuchadnezzar, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Umayyads, the Ottomans, and the British, have all at some stage added this city to their empires.

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