Written by: Shosha
Translations by: Ahmad Amaireh
Copy Editor: Eliza Marks
Art work: T. A
Should it really be mandatory to be accompanied by either a woman or a foreigner to be granted entry in Amman’s recreational spaces? And is it actually fair to be denied your right to have fun for whatever reason that may be? It’s my belief that each person must know their right as a citizen and not belittle such issues, as it affects each and every one of us. And getting to the root cause of this problem would ease the confusion around such discrimination and help resolve it.
Families only: Race, gender and class in Amman’s leisure spaces
One day, my four friends and I were entering this bar called Chaos, located in Amman, near Jordan Hospital. Being one of their frequent customers, I entered without a second thought, but soon after, I noticed that none of my friends were behind me. The host was saying to my friends, “Where do you think you’re going? You can’t come in unless you have girls with you!” The host had denied them entry, and we couldn’t all get in even though the place was empty.
Either a car or a girl
On a Thursday, I was trying to enter City Mall to exchange an item I bought from one of its stores, when I was stopped by the security guards and denied entry because it was “Families only day.” My only solution was to either have a girl with me or a car, since weirdly enough, the same exact policy doesn’t apply to the mall’s garage gates. Since I had neither, I tried to enter from another gate, but that same security guard had the guts to inform his fellow colleagues right in front of me. I was faced with a police officer screaming in my face: “What’s your problem? The owner of the mall has the right to grant and deny entry to whomever he pleases.” Ironically, the same police officer could be put in the same exact situation, yet he shows complete support for the policy. I dare call this policy classist, for it doesn’t let a guy enter but happily allows a guy with a car on him in.
Not every girl or foreigner is who they seem to be
I remember vividly, one night as I was waiting in the queue to enter a pop-up club that’s located in Amman, Wadi Saqra called CLSTR. And as my turn was up, my “Arab-looking” friend and I were denied entry. At the same time, I saw a bunch of white guys in front of us happily let in. I asked the guard about why we weren’t let in but these other guys were, to which he replied nonchalantly, “We were instructed by the Ministry of Tourism to allow easy access to non-Jordanians.” In shock, I proceeded to ask him, “And how come you assumed I’m Jordanian, I could be Iraqi or Syrian.” I was surprised by his dismissive reaction as he ignored me and let in people behind me. This was such an obvious case of white privilege, one that showed how the club’s “couple policy” no longer applied in the face of such a race.
Since their issue was that I didn’t have girls with me, I invited three of my girl-friends to party together at the same club. We went, hoping to dance like no tomorrow, but were yet again surprised when we were still denied entry.d When we inquired this time, we were told, “we’re on full capacity tonight.” We knew that was simply untrue, as he shamelessly let the people behind enter, and realized later that it was due to the fact that the girls who accompanied us were black. He obviously didn’t disclose that, but he didn’t have to. On that day I further realized how skin color can trump both class and gender.
Not every couple is a “couple”
I started getting anxious about going to places only to be denied entry, so I started calling in before showing up. On one night, I decided to go out with my boyfriend to this party Café de Paris in Jabal Al Weibdeh, so to inquire about their entry policy, I contacted their phone number:
Them – Hello, Café de Paris.
Me – Hello, I wanted to ask, is tonight’s party for everyone or couples only?
Them – Couples only
Me – Cool, so my boyfriend and I can get in?
Them – Sorry, no.
I felt that my relationship wasn’t valid in their eyes, as if there were a banner on the door that says. “No homosexuals.”
I believe we need to reconsider the primary purpose of recreational spaces: entertainment and stress relief… Their role is not to discriminate, especially so overtly that we want to forget about them or flee when we are at their doorstep. Classicism, homophobia, misogyny, and racism should never be practiced there, nor should socio-economic status. It’s starting to feel as if I’m applying for a visa to somewhere like Canada!