The Disorient

A view of a small part of Amman...

...and a large part of Damascus.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out how Amman’s population is only 2 million while that of Damascus is 5 million. Amman seems so much bigger than Damascus.

Some of this feeling, I know, can be chalked up to Amman still being so unfamiliar to me. A city you know always seems a little cozier than a city you don’t. But there’s still the objective evidence of a taxi ride – a taxi ride across town in Damascus never seemed to take very long, but to get anywhere here in Amman takes forever (and costs more, too).

Of course, this is assuming those population figures are accurate. If they are, then I can only guess at a couple of reasons why Amman seems to be the larger city. For one thing, there are far more open spaces here than in Damascus. I don’t mean planned parks or anything, just empty lots in between apartment buildings – which are a lot smaller and shorter, by the way, which could be another reason for the lower population count. Damascus really packs them in as far as apartment buildings go.

The layout of Amman is also different, very hilly and centered around seven traffic circles strung out east to west across the city. This makes navigating a very twisty-turny affair. Flatter Damascus has its fair share of traffic circle mayhem (the Omawayeen Traffic Circle of Hell springs readily to mind), but the streets are still very negotiable. And I gather that cars aren’t so insanely expensive here as they are in Syria, given that there are a lot more of them out on the road (and there are more Beemers among them than Ladas).

Finally, I suppose that the dazzling veneer of Amman’s swankier areas lends a certain air of big-city-ness that Damascus doesn’t have. At least, it didn’t have it when I was there. But I hear they just got a KFC in Abou Romaneh, so maybe Sham is taking on a dazzling veneer of its own.
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Fertile produce

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