So a list of the world’s ugliest cities has been going around, and often-ignored Amman has somehow found a spot on that list.
You know what that means? My Facebook timeline is going nuts with angry Ammanis.
At the beginning, I couldn’t understand why anyone would give a shit about the stupid list. Lists are lists, and people have different opinions, especially about beauty. You know it and you’ve heard it a hundred million times: beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Really, it is. Especially in a place like Amman, which could most certainly be considered ugly. Come on, we don’t have a deep blue sea lining the horizon, expansive parks stretching into eternal greenery, or gorgeous Gothic buildings surrounding the streets. So yes, if someone expects to see that to consider Amman beautiful, it most definitely is not.
Amman is a different kind of beautiful.
While many might disagree, the most beautiful thing about Amman to me is the fact that it’s made of stone and hill. I love the stone and hill visually, and I love them symbolically.
Visually, Amman could easily be the setting of an epic fantasy novel. Come on, it’s a city of over 1.5 million people that is built entirely of white limestone. Get that? MILLIONS OF PEOPLE LIVE IN STONE HOUSES IN A CAPITAL; not concrete, stone. That’s just amazing. To make things better, Amman is built on hills, meaning these stone houses sprout from the hills in strange ways.
Sometimes when I’m driving in Amman, going in circles around stairs and hill and stone, I pretend I’m in Minas Tirith, the city from The Lord of the Rings. The resemblance is uncanny, somehow.
To a hard-core lover of fantasy novels (with a very special place in my heart for “The Lord of the Rings”), nothing is more beautiful than being from a city that could be from “The Sword of Truth”, “The Mists of Avalon”, or “Magician”. It’s really, really awesome.
Symbolically, the white stone is cool as well. Think of it this way: Our history as Ammanis is crappy. The city is a historical melting pot of refugees (starting with the Ciracassians in the 1800s), all who have been drilled by past experience to prize peace and stability above all. We have no money and a very poor economy, so we do best with what we have, even if it’s more convenient than it is genius. We live in a region that’s full of crap, and yet somehow we’re fine. We guard our hearts and our lives, and we hate change. I wrote about our psyche as Ammanis before here.
The white stone houses and buildings sprout from the hills is the visual representation of our psyche and our history. I might not be a fan of our psyche, and I do hope it changes, but this is who we are today. We build in the most awkward of situations, forcing our homes on the most hostile of hills. Sometimes, it’s nonsensical, but so are our lives. We could use a lot of improvements, but I think our main issue is with the people of Amman, and not Amman itself. In a way, We need to fix us, to fix the city.
Is Amman ugly? No, I don’t think Amman is ugly at all. It’s not the most beautiful place in the world, but it has it’s own unique charm that makes it very, very beautiful in its own way.
Plus, it’s home. And it looks like Minas Tirith.