The Faces Of Khirfan Street
Amman, Jordan - Like many cities in the developing world the spectrum of income inequality here is vast. With that in mind, I chose to settle on a flat that I share with a few chihuahua sized cockroaches and an odd odor. The walls have cracks. The stove doesn't work. And when the Internet randomly functions its a savory novelty that leaves me feeling like a child getting to stay up past his bedtime and eat ice cream; It's glorious. Â From the balcony you can peer out across the sweeping hills of Amman. Directly ahead, just before the hillside dramatically drops to the "center circle," stands a tall building with a cloth-covered rooftop dwelling resting to the far right and a giant heart spray painted on the street-level door.
While Rainbow street, a westernized avenue full ofÂ boutiqueÂ shops flaunting a distinct western tinge, is not too far away, taxi drivers seem to have never heard of Khirfan street. This may not be too uncommon for many of the narrow streets that coil up and down the steep hills of Amman considering that street names - according to a few lost and frustrated taxi drivers - are a relatively new thing. That of course doesn't stop some drivers from puffing their chests and pretending to know where they're going. Eventually they have to pull over ask for directions. In one particular case for a friend trying to find my flat, the driver hopped out of the car to take a smoke break and shake his head in disbelief. The people in my neighborhood are not accustomed to seeing pale-faced tourists wandering about the jagged unmarked staircases that swerve between tattered buildings, tents made of cloth and debris, and a few piles of wreckage chard by fire and tagged in both Arabic and English. Nonetheless, they're getting used to me.
The first morning in town I received a vast array of stares. In a few cases cold shoulders were handed out like free samples at Costco. It was a Thursday, which here in Jordan is like Friday night in the states; everyone ventures out to celebrate the end of the long work week. After securing my press pass to Za'atari and a fewÂ groceriesÂ I returned to my flat to get a wink of sleep for the first time in two days. I woke up from my brief Â nap an hour before sunset and pondered whether or not to throw my camera over my shoulder and venture out. At first I was afraid the people who already saw me as an oddity would be opposed to photographs being shot in their neighborhood. And doing so would only further out me as aÂ foreignerÂ While doubling down is neverÂ recommendedÂ unless you're already holding a set of face cards, I figured, what the hell. There's already no mistaking that I'm not a local. A mere minute out on Khirfan Street I found myself surrounded by kids pointing at themselves shouting, "Sookra! Sookra!" (Picture! Picture!) So I obliged and quickly took to snapping their pictures. Each time the camera clicked they would run back to me, climbing and clawing past each other while throwing aÂ frenzyÂ of peace signs, just to get a glimpse of themselves on the screen.
I've now been here five days. It's starting to feel comfortable. I'm recognized and greeted with kindness. Nearly everyday I pass an older woman who sits along side a store front that appears to be ran by her son, as well as a carpenter who makes the most beautiful hand carved chairs, tables and mosaics. They both smile and wave. They try to chat, perhaps just to watch me struggle to understand. They've let me take their pictures. As I take aim they strike poses. Despite this, they convey something sincere. And while I wanted to capture the neighborhood in its most natural state, and I will, I hope to make them feel special for at least a moment. I could have found myself a more posh flat filled with western amenities, but that wouldn't be nearly as enjoyable as Khirfan Street. I may be strange, but to at least a handful of people I'm no longer a stranger in a strange land. Now all I need is to find a print shop so I can give my new friends and neighbors copies of photos so they can see the beauty they've shown me.
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