High life, low life

Suburbia has come to the Middle East at last. Rejoice or mourn as you see fit.

The place we're living now (apartment-sitting for a friend) is in an upscale part of Amman called Deir Kbaar, which means, as I understand it, The Big Houses (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong). Even if I am wrong, though, the name certainly fits. The houses in the picture above are actual stand-alone, single-family homes. I've never seen anything like it in the Middle East. We take Miriam on walks in her stroller in the evenings and admire all the beautiful homes that are springing up in the Abdoun area with the newfound wealth some Jordanians are bringing home from working the Gulf. The influx of Iraqi refugees has also enriched the economy, or so I'm told.

These homes have exquisitely landscaped gardens, sometimes even with grass, and beautiful Middle Eastern-style architecture with European or Asian influences. A few of the new homes look like those ostentatious American McMansions, but most are elegantly subdued in their style.

This is a level of individual wealth that Syria has yet to see. There is no such thing as a stand-alone, single-family home in Damascus, not even in Malki. Even the rich live in apartments and share the building with everyone else. The closest things I've seen to traditional (in the American sense) "houses" are the villas outside of Damascus on the road to Seidnayya that serve as country homes for the relatively wealthy. But even those don't approach these Jordanian mansions in architectural and, presumably, interior elegance and finery.

The interesting thing about all this new, expensive construction is that it creates a juxtaposition of extremes. The people actually working on the construction relocate to the construction site itself, and put up small dwellings made out of cinder blocks and covered with a plastic tarp, if at all. So the millionaire building his dream home will often have two dozen poor Egyptian consruction workers as his immediate next-door neighbors. In areas where there is a lot of construction going on, these makeshift shacks are on every other block.

People who have lived in Amman for a long time are always telling us what a different city it is now from the Amman they knew ten years ago. It will be interesting to see what the city becomes ten years from now. Posted by Picasa

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Danger zone