Amman Through The Eyes of Nahla Al-Tabbaa

13 February 2016

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If there could ever be a hybrid city of London and Amman, then I would be living there. A curator of sorts, I aim to change the way we see our urban environments, by commissioning art interventions and bringing people together. An Urban Reflection was a project that I orchestrated in Jabal Al Qalaa which brought my aims and objectives to life.

Amman: Love? Hate? Or Love/Hate?

It's definitely a Love/Hate. However, this is probably a healthy approach as every time I fall back into the 'Love' phase, it's often renewed with a new way to love that is intense and strong and a fresher set of eyes.

How has your relationship to Amman  changed over time?

I believe that your relationship with a city is directly related to your experiences within it. When I went through darkness, the city reflected this- and I would be very adamant about staying, and when I saw colour, Amman became colourful- and I'd find it far harder to leave. The biggest change takes place as you grow older and more mature, when you realise that politics are not so black and white, and when you are able to take a step back and be objective about the city.

What brought about that change?

I've been living between London and Amman for the last 9 years. The difficulty with living abroad is that you often find it hard to return to a place that's not often associated with the elements of 'surprise,' 'freedom,' 'you can be anything.' But I tried to apply a different tactic upon returning. Being liberal and having no boundaries with the world are concepts that should be able to transcend and apply everywhere. I took this attitude which I'd very easily adopted in London and brought it back to Amman. I'm only that liberal, and that open to the world if this concept has no limitations or geographical boundaries, hence, complaining about Amman- as I often witness, is a reflection of your own limitations in adaptation and innovation. I really do believe that my Amman experience has taught me to grow and push these concepts even further. And if this sounds too airy fairy a concept, then allow me to put it in simpler terms: stop complaining, stop judging, and make the most out of any situation.

Do you think you ever lived in a Ammani bubble?

But of course. And again, had it not been for living in a bubble and bursting it, my love for the place would not have been revealed to me with such a strength.

If so, what motivated you to burst it?

Hitting ceilings creates a restlessness inside me and I'm always quick to identify it and make the instant change. This does go back to the idea that ultimately I don't want any boundaries with the world, in the sense that I never wanted my physical or mental being to hold me back from living a full life. Through bursting, moving forward and taking risks, growth is revealed to us, and the act of breaking through becomes second nature.

What did working in Jabal Al-Qalaa reveal to you?

Working in Jabal Al Qalaa revealed to me that Amman is a magical place and that surprise encounters really are possible. The people living there, though they are different manifestations of our culture, in the end, they revealed to me that are all the same. Good values, love, the determination to grow and succeed are within us all. Jabal Al Qalaa relayed to me that acceptance amongst people with different backgrounds is absolutely possible, in fact, I had never felt more accepted by anybody. The dialogues we shared brought nothing but pleasant surprises and constructivism, when two worlds wish to collaborate and drive forwards, the results are unreal. Many individuals there have made me feel tiny, and have inspired me to better myself, if you ask any one of our Urban Reflection artists, we all say the same thing; what Jabal Al Qalaa gave us, compeletely outweighs anything we could have given in return.

What is one thing you find in Amman that you don't elsewhere?

How big, warm and loving families can be. This ripples through my immediate, onto my extended, onto my friend's families and beyond. Now this is a bubble worth basking in for eternity.

I'm in Amman for a day. What should I do/see?

I won't be giving another Downtown Amman itinerary as this probably won't be my most honest recommendation. I would spend some time talking to founders of start up companies- who will blow your mind, followed by a cruise in my car which will probably include an ice-cream pick up or some sort of food, most likely found on Rainbow Street. I'll end the night at a local speak easy bar- Amman has many to choose from, where running into familiar and friendly faces is just one of the things I'll cherish the most. IF the night doesn't end there, then it will end at a friend's house, where we'll probably end up 'Loving/Hating' Amman till the early hours of the morning. Plan B: walk in Jabal Al Qalaa and soak up that amazing energy.

Anything else?

I think I got everything covered.. thank you so much!