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A Jordanian Writer Tells Us About Amman's Music and Nightlife Scenes


Roba Al-Assi



Where do you live?


What do you do there?


What Jordanian bands or DJs are you obsessed with that you think we should know about?

El Morabba3 are my favorite Jordanian band. To me, they specialize in 'uncomfortable comfort music.' I love them. I also love Jordanian rapper El Far3i, for his gorgeous energy.

How did you discover them?

I ended up going to [El Morabba3's] debut performance last year at a gorgeous theatre called Masrah IlBalad in the old part of town. The show was accompanied with kick-ass VJing. Here is footage from their debut performance.

What does their music sound like?

Their music is all in Arabic, but I guess it can be described as post-rock. Their music has intense melodies submerged in haunting sounds, making it truly different from most other sounds coming from the region. The bulk of their tracks [sound like] nightmares [and reflect] the tough realities of an Arab world that is corrupt, polluted, and seemingly hopeless. In a song called "Tarweej" ("Promotion"), the lyrics go: "Where am I supposed to revolt? Where am I supposed to revolt? / Who will change the scene when the one responsible is sitting like stone counting cash?"  With El Morabba3, every note is so tasty and rich that you can't possibly do anything else as you listen. Haunting melodies, meticulously arranged lyrics, and an overwhelming sense of epic-ness are emotionally draining to the listener. With El Morabba3, there's not much to do but sit back and enjoy it as you take it in. My favorite tracks are "Taht il Ard" ("Beneath the Ground"), "Hada Tani" ("Someone Else") and "Cigara Abel Manoom" ("A Cigarette Before We Move").

Where are the cool places to see live music in Amman?

The TBA Collective throws some of the best events in town. They aren't confined to one place, but most of their events happen in ancient discotheque-style bars in l'Weibdeh, one of the oldest parts of town. They book funk/soul/groove as far as the DJing is concerned, and their live music numbers are usually quite eclectic. Their last event included reggae, slam poetry, pop, and soul. The crowd is just as eclectic, but it's mostly the people who are out to have fun.

The Corner's Pub also has fantastic live performances, my favorite being the weekly Shadi and Firas gigs. They sing Arabized Western pop music, like ABBA hits in Arabic. They're awesome. Here's their Arabic version of [Leonard Cohen's] "Suzanne." I love them cause they can get ANYONE AND EVERYONE dancing.

Describe your perfect night out in Amman.

It's a lot of lazing around under the Mediterranean sun during the day in the summer, followed by a lot of drinking at night. When there's a show, a concert, a play, or any other cultural activity, it takes place between the sun and the drinking. I love starting my night at Negresco, an amazing old hole-in-the-wall pub with happy hour and a gorgeous garden. Anyone visiting Jordan must try a Mexican beer, a refreshing concoction of lemon, beer, and salt. I also love rooftop barbecues at friends' houses. Amman is very hilly, so we get gorgeous sunsets and beautiful weather. Nothing beats a good old Arabic lamb-chop barbecue combined with araq, our local alcoholic drink. It's similar to Greek ouzu, and gives you this lovely dreamy buzz. You can't end a long day without going to one of the old restaurants in downtown Amman, where you get cheap, good, late-night food. I also love driving outside the city for a quick picnic (even if it's just cold cuts). The beauty of Jordan is its wide geographical diversity in a confined area, so you can choose to spend the day in the desert of Wadi Rum, the forests of Ajloun, the water-filled valleys of Wadi Mujib, or the ancient ruins of Jerash.

What's your favorite night spot in Amman?

My favorite place in town is a tea bar called Turtle Green on Rainbow Street in Jabal Amman. I love that place, it's like home. It's where I go to read, celebrate New Year's, meet with friends, or recharge. They also make the best damn hibiscus drink in the world. Otherwise, I tend to prefer the small pubs, because they combine the occasional live gig with affordable drinks, the ability to carry on a good conversation, as well as the serendipity of random people in a place where you're a regular. I try my best to avoid clubs (unless it's the random party at non-club venues like the ones organized by the TBA Collective) because the Jordanian clubbing crowd is horribly pretentious. No one dances... everyone wears their nicest outfit and stands there looking pretty. In terms of cool neighborhoods, I hang out in what I call the "Golden Amman triangle" which is l'Weibdeh - Jabal Amman - Shmeisani. All my favorite places are in l'Weibdeh and Jabal Amman (and these two hills meet in downtown Amman), two of the oldest parts of town. They have lots of character, and the crowd is easy going. Shmeisani isn't really that cool but that's where I live so I literally never venture out of the triangle. l'Weibdeh is particularly awesome because it's very niche. It's the art district (sort of), so it's where all the galleries are at. There's also this little t-shirt store called Jo Bedu, which I love to bits.

What's a nightclub you would NEVER go to in Amman?

Every time I go to Flow, one of the most popular clubs in town, I always swear I will never go again. They manage to lure me with their live music though. I hate Flow because it's loud, obnoxious, and pretentious.

Check out Roba's band and DJ recs:

El Morabba3 -- "Taht il Ard" ("Beneath the Ground")

-- "MEEM"

Check out Roba's nightlife listings:

The Corner's Pub, 2nd Circle, Amman

Negresco, Al Ba'Ouniyah Street, 52, Jebel Webdeh, Amman,11191

Turtle Green, 46 Rainbow St., First Circle, Jabal Amman, Amman

More from our 'No Sleep Til...' series including nightlife and music in Paris, Mumbai, Seoul, Bogotá and more!

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