Jordan: Amman

The Jordanian capital Amman is characterised by rapid growth since the first wave of Palestinian refugees in 1948. In 1943 the population of Amman was only 30,000 (Aruri 1972:34). In 1991 1,3 million inhabitants resided in the capital (Jordan, Statistical Yearbook 1992:19)

The suburbs outside the down-town area are spread over numerous hillsides within a diameter of around 20 kilometres and are surrounded by farmed land.

The dominating economic activity for the labour force is in the service and administrative sectors. Most of Jordan's manufacturing industry, which has been recently developed, is concentrated in and around Amman, following the loss of Nablus as industrial centre in 1967. The factories produce mainly food products, clothing or consumer goods, while the heavier industries are phosphate extraction, cement manufacture and petroleum refining. In addition to its position as a centre of trade, commerce and finance, Amman is an important connection point with highways to Aqaba, Baghdad and Damascus.

One part of the new urban population are East Bank natives who have given up their traditional bedouin life. Most of the urbanisation process, however, is due to the arrival of Palestinian refugees, most of whom choose to settle in the capital or its surroundings. There are no statistics available showing the percentage of Palestinian residents in the different suburbs, though some areas clearly dominated by Palestinians can be distinguished from mixed areas. The north-west part of the city is dominated by the middle and upper economic strata, while the southern suburbs are mostly populated by the lower-class strata.

We can distinguish between three types of urban areas in Amman where Palestinians live. First, there are large areas outside the camps, inhabited by refugees who have had the ability to move out. Part of our fieldwork was conducted in one such area called Jabal Nasr. These "extended camps" are dominated by lower class Palestinians, and the border between the camp territory and the surroundings is not always marked, even though the streets are usually wider, and the houses higher outside than inside the border. In terms of physical adaptation, then, Palestinian households in Jabal Nasr are more or less assimilated into their surroundings.

Second, there are islands of more or less pure Palestinian communities in Amman, where refugees from the same hometown or with a common background have settled together. One such area is a part of the al-Taybeh suburb, where nearly all the inhabitants are originally from the Palestinian village of Dora. Another example is Umm Nuwwara, which is a new suburb inhabited mostly by Palestinians who were obliged to leave Kuwait after the Gulf crisis in 1990. Both suburbs of al-Taybeh and Umm Nuwwara are examples of physical adaptation where Palestinians have formed more or less segregated neighbourhoods in the Jordanian capital.

Finally, there are mixed areas, where Palestinians and Jordanians live together. One example is the upper class region called Jabal Amman where Palestinian housing units are assimilated, i.e. not physically separable, from the housing units of their Jordanian neighbours who belong to the same upper social class as the Palestinians.

Most Palestinians who came with the big waves of refugees in 1948 and 1967 had no choice but to stay in camps, at least for a while. Only the most prosperous people had the resources to settle outside camps. But many Palestinians from the West Bank established relations with the East Bank during the 1950s and 1960s. They went there to study or work, and had therefore already established a home when the 1967 War made it impossible for them to return to their families on the other side of the Jordan river. This group of displaced persons have thus not been obliged to move into camps as a result of an external crisis.

Social networks are naturally dependent on the type of neighbourhood. In Palestinian dominated areas, like outside some of the camps and in Palestinian "island suburbs", the social contact with Jordanians is limited. Intermarriage is rare, and it is not unusual to hear that a father would not accept a Jordanian husband for his daughter. This could be explained by the high percentage of marriage between relatives; many say that the husband should ideally be from the same hamula (patrilineal descent group).

In more mixed suburbs, many stress that "there is no difference between us and the Jordanians". However, students are usually able to tell how many Jordanians and how many Palestinians there are in the class.

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