The Vintage Experience: Downtown Amman
Contributed by: Review Amman - Volume 2 (February / March 2011)
Words: Serene Al Ahmad / images: Courtesy of Aramram.com
An Arabic saying claims that men can go into Souq El Yemenieh in downtown Amman as a gentleman and leave an hour later as a groom – or maybe just walk out with a cheap winter coat. If you’re tired of paying for over-priced items at big name stores, or sick of dressing in the generic mass-produced outerwear that everyone seems to be wearing and want to add a unique flair to your wardrobe, then get yourself down to Souq El Yemenieh and train your eye in finding awesome vintage steals. It’s no secret among vintage-junkies that Amman is chock full of unbelievable and valuable pieces that go for sinfully cheap prices simply because no one realizes their value. Let’s face it, not a lot of people who can afford to go elsewhere are interested in ‘used’ clothing. More for us!
Built in the 1940s, Souq El Yemenieh is effectively the oldest flea market in Jordan and one of the oldest Souqs in downtown Amman. It’s where the British army used to sell their belongings in bundles of 100kg at a time. Once a meeting point for the Yemeni community – who came to Jordan to join in the Great Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Turks – the sign, which officially gave the Souq its name, has sadly been removed and most of the Souq’s Yemeni merchants have long left their shops.
In 1956, the Souq perished in a fire, leaving only ashes behind. HM the late King Hussein is said to have come personally while firemen were trying to douse the fire. HM King Hussein took it upon himself to personally assure that the Souq was reconstructed.
Today, Souq El Yemenieh is more of a place where you can find both old and new clothes – mainly for men – and if you are an Ammani hipster, it’s the place to go in search for a trendy tie or a smart vintage vest. Here you can find anything a gentleman would need: barbers, tailors, ironers. Wait in the tiny resident café for a cup of tea or coffee while your slacks are mended, or while you wait for your turn in the barber’s chair – a place that’s so unintentionally old school that it has no choice but to be cool.
It may not hold the same social clout that it once did 70 years ago, but it’s still a place that is so classically Amman, and like a lot of other things in Amman, it’s underappreciated. Even if you don’t want to buy clothes, going for a visit is worth it in historical value alone. Ask the locals for tales of Souq El Yemenieh’s golden days – whether they’re true or not is up for debate, but they’re entertaining all the same.
Explore the outlying areas and who knows? You might just find yourself discovering a whole new side of the city that might appeal to you just as much – if not more – than the comfort zone of the neighborhoods you frequent. Go ahead and give something new a try. Maybe you’ll get yourself (or your man) a hip old garment out of it too.
Review:Amman is a visual platform of quarterly magazine issues that bring together all of the things you need, want and should know about Amman. Giving you a vivid inside look at Amman’s urban cultural scene: artists, community activists, filmmakers, designers, photographers and entrepreneurs that make Amman the city it is today. It is an animated exhibition space for everything Amman; our heritage, the burgeoning youth demographic, an ever-expanding local art scene and plans for the future of our city. Yours-in print- at a vendor's near you.
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