Aya & Manal

Jabel Al Webdeh, Amman, Jordan

I met Aya and Manal the first day that I was in Amman, which was the first day that I was in the Middle East. Staggering around jetlagged, hungry, and not sure who spoke English or what kind of food was denoted by the Arabic words that I couldn't read, I happened upon the cafe that they were building. It is on Paris Circle in the old Jabel Al Webdeh area of Amman, my favorite part of the city. It has the vibe of a small Parisian neighborhood, with its small winding streets, old stone buildings, and singing birds. It is a quiet, peaceful area of the city and is also where the art scene and youth tend to be.

So I saw them hand gluing each wood bit that was on the beautful cafe sign that they were making, and my curiosity was raised enough to knock on the door and ask them what they were doing. I was greeted with impeccable english and humor, and immediate ease. These two women are amazing. I was so lucky to have met them the first day because they quickly became the local friends that I would pop in on and always made me feel at home with their laughter and kind smiles. They took me around that first day and showed me some of the art spaces that they and their friends work in. They showed me a collective roof garden, the neighborhood, and gave me a general sense of what was going on in Amman with the young peoples.

They just graduated University as architects, and their offices are downstairs below this cafe that they are opening. They have hand picked every single part of this cafe, have commisioned workmen to do their bidding. They have had bit of a hard time from some of the men, being asked if they could speak to their brothers about what needed to be done. They fired those guys. They know what they want, and they are asking for it, and they are getting it. They have a brilliant sense of space and design, and have such a vision for what they want to do with the space, and with Amman. They are into local agriculture and they are avid jam makers and fruit canners. They are really incredible examples of the independent spirit that is growing in the young women in Amman. They are an inspiration to me.