Amman Through The Eyes of Sandra Hiari
Sandra works along the messy crossroads of urbanism, architecture, and planning. She is founder of tareeq (www.tareeq.me), a space for thinking about the city through media and city design. Sandra holds a graduate degree in urban design from the City College of New York (CCNY/CUNY) and a graduate degree in urban planning from the Jordan University for Science & Technology (JUST) and a bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering from the University of Jordan. Sandra has been engaged in the publication of various architectural books and she writes for JO Magazine on architecture, urban, and art issues.
Sandra focuses in her work on understanding how cities can act as incubators for creative urban solutions. She currently works with the Government of Jordan as the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities' Coordinator for World Bank and USAID portfolios.
Get in touch with Sandra - Twitter handle: @sandra_hiari
- Sandra, what is your fondest memory in the city?
I have two;
One dates to my undergrad years. I was walking with a friend in downtown Amman and spotted an older, handsome looking man walking on the other side of the street. When I walked closer it turned out to be my late grandfather.
The second is more of a recent memory dating two years back. My mentor and pedestrian activist, Michael Sorkin flew in from New York,and stood on a bench in Paris Circle to address a crowd of Ammanis on merits of walking before starting a 60 Minutes in Amman walk. The crowd laughed openly, walked briskly and started acknowledging the hidden beauty of walking in town.
- What is it like being a professional young woman in Amman?
Fun, hectic and boring. It is an oxymoron really. You have to constantly prove to the society that leading a career is a positive and independent choice. You are expected to have your make-up in pristine condition all the time if you want to comply with general societal criteria of beauty!
- When and how did you start to feel you "owned" the city?
When I can walk in the streets anytime, any neighborhood safely.
- Is this a city that embraces or rejects change?
Both, it can be schizophrenic.
- Amman is a very diverse city, but how is this most reflected in your opinion?
I recall seeing a cartoon once on Egyptian society showing a veiled women walking with two non-veiled woman along with a caption that read how contradictive such a reality is. In Amman, such scenes arent perceived as contradictions. Actually it speaks to respecting choices that women have towards the way they present their bodies. Amman has that diversity although sometimes it tries hard to flip peoples diversity into a monotonic unified reality.
- If you needed to clear your head, where would you head in the city?
King Hussein Park
- What's your favorite Ammani food?
Al Qud's Ouzi.
- Amman grows at a remarkable pace, what is compromised/achieved in this process?
As the city grows, it's economic base becomes more diversified and thus marginal industries begin appearing because they can sustain themselves. One example is the appearance of specialty cheesecake stores!
- How is Amman different now than when you were a child?
I used to think of Amman as a desert when I was a child since my neighborhood was mostly vacant land. Now I turn in around in all directions and apartment buildings seem everywhere.
- You work for and on the city, what inspires you to do so?
Cities speak to our urban identity. I was born in a city, and its process of identity formation is largely reflective on me.
- What advice would you give a traveler to the city?
It won't hurt you, dear traveler, to get yourself away from Rainbow street. Amman has more than one street and one neighborhood.
- If you were the Mayor, what would be the very first thing you would do?
Pass legislation on creating active neighborhood parks in the city.