At the beginning of my second week in Amman, things are going well. Having spent week number one in meeting after meeting with contacts from NGO’s, embassies, fixers and so on, it’s nice to be getting behind the lens and spending most of my time photographing. At least, that is, when the light is worthwhile for a few morning and evening hours – the Middle Eastern summer just doesn’t allow for mid-day lightstalking. Not if you want to make good use of your film, that is…
So week number two is lining up to be pretty busy. I’m still trying to make contact with some Iraqis who want to talk – late last week my fixer got in touch with about five families who (for a lot of good reasons) didn’t want to talk to the media. The refugees here aren’t allowed to work. So, if they are managing to support themselves they’re doing it illegally, which means it’s hard for them to talk to someone who essentially wants to expose this, meaning they’d potentially be open to all sorts of trouble from the Jordanians. There also seems to be a bit of media-fatigue among the refugees here – a perception that while journos come and go, take their photographs and interviews and make their money, nothing ever changes. It’s a pretty good point, these people been here for years and for the most part have lost everything. They want visas to America, Australia, England, Germany but few are given out each year (although the numbers are increasing) so for most the limbo they’re in seems never ending. Another journo with a camera turns up – so what?
Despite all this, the work is going well. I’ve been shooting a lot of b-roll video and doing a lot of street photography for the project. This week I’ll be interviewing some people working with NGO’s in the city, and continuing to seek out some people who are willing to talk with a journo. Some very positive conversations occurring yesterday and today, so hopefully over the next week things will move in the right direction.
In other news, I went to a hillarious concert the other night. It’s the Jordan Festival at the moment, in the leadup to Ramadan’s beginning at the end of the month. Around the corner from here is the Roman Amphitheater, a ten-thousand seat stadium that’s apparently the largest surviving Roman theatre in the world. It’s a pretty cool sight – very easy to imagine a Roman senator standing on the stage below, bellowing out something along the lines of “Friends, Romans, Countrymen…” and a few thousand toga-wearing men yelling political banter and heckling away in Latin. Returning to the present day – or at least Sunday night – the Petra Symphony Orchestra played the Amman Amphitheater to what would have been a near-sell-out crowd had they been selling tickets.
A good section of the crowd, however, was made up of a few units from the Jordanian Army on what I guess was R and R. Of course, we managed to sit right in the middle of one of these units which I might add was full of typically friendly Jordanians very keen to either practice English or help me butcher some more Arabic. So while the orchestra warmed up and the stage was prepared, a bit of a competition was struck up between the units spread throughout the amphitheater to see which unit could chant the loudest. And these guys can sure as hell chant… in fact their impressive display entertained us pretty well in the extra hour it took the orchestra to get ready before the show started.
The orchestra finally got started and they really were very good, but not good enough to keep the Army guys entertained, as after about 20 minutes of music the chanting competition started up again and didn’t stop… drowning out the orchestra and turning the concert into something between a stadium gig and a sporting event…
It turns out that they were chanting ‘long live the king’, so nobody could tell them to shut up!