Saturday, June 03, 2006

Fridays in Private Dreams


In Amman, Fridays in my neighborhood start with the sound of unlocking the door to pick up the newspapers which are distributed for free at our doorstep, by descreet and quiet part-timers. Two major ones: Al Waseet (The Middleman), Al Momtaz (Wonderful), and a new but ambitious one under the title Amlak (Properties). Later, on Saturday a minor one is added, called Al Madinah (The City). All of them elaborate on the same inner tune of dreaming about property. So, our Fridays (the exact equivalent of a Sunday in the West) set up with many private dreams and photos, and -thanks to the progress in designing technology- the details get more and more realistic. I leave aside the clothes, the discounts of the big chains of supermarkets, the trips to Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Cyprus and I go directly to the pages with ads concerning houses and emerging suburbs.
One imagines a life there, and dreaming adds value to the already raised prices. The "Jardin des Delices" is of course located in the really expensive properties, in the really posh areas, that may exceed sometimes 1 million JD (approx. 1,45 millions USD). Prices in property have grown higher in Amman by 50% according to moderate estimations during the last 3-4 years. At the same time, salaries have not adjusted accordingly. They did not even follow up the rate of rise in the cost of living index, for the simple but adamant daily expences. Therefore, the more the two basic economic parameters fall apart, the more the realm of daydreaming gets reinforced. Photographs become the location of another parallel world where one wishes to house the possibilities of happiness.
Inspired by my two recent trips to Aqaba, and the huge posters almost everywhere in Amman, asking for redefining the notion of Vacations in Jordan, I visit the sites of the grand entrepreneurs of this "New Jordan" and I find them generous in visual material. Sometimes, the promises are revealing: Residents' only beach and marina. 24hours a day security. What also impressed me this time was the remark that at the area of the already existing 5stars hotels (which are nothing compared to the new ambitious construction plans) no locals appeared except the people working there, as policemen and security/services personnel. It sounds that the new projects will be heavily exclusive paradises. Which is not strange after all, if a small one bedroom villa costs approximately 340.000 $, almost the cost of a studio in Manhattan.
Of course, if a middle class family decided to realize their dream of having a villa in Aqaba, and to redifine the notion of vacations, they would need (let us assume an ascetic diet and savings of 800 $ per month) approximately 35 years and enormous amounts of good luck. But the prospect is long, and optimism is not the most widespread stance among the citizens. Therefore, one could find another, less costly way to make dreams come somehow true. There are talented web-developers, designers, animators in this country: so they could create a series of realistic computer games and environments, with real locations and, perhaps, interactive. So the family could be spending a virtual evening in an "Abdoon Mansion", the weekend in "Ayla- Exclusive Residential Area", and on occasions to our "Grand Villa" in Saraya-Aqaba. Why not? The conditons of reality get more and more virtual anyway...

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