Jordan’s capital is expanding and growing. But at what price for nature and our sense of beauty?

This story was runner-up in the high school category in News-Decoder’s inaugural essay contest.
Jordan
(All photos by Aisha Malhas)

By Aisha Malhas

The flag of Jordan includes a white star with seven points, one for each of the seven hills on which the capital Amman was built.

Flag_of_Jordan.svg
(Wikimedia Commons)

Today those seven hills are crammed with hundreds of thousands of homes, offices, restaurants and other concrete structures. What was once a city of seven hills could now be described as a concrete jungle.

On a daily basis, we rarely notice change. It is only when we look back at pictures from years ago that we perceive the path that has been paved.

Neighborhoods and cities have expanded beyond lines drawn centuries ago. We have made our world what it is today. We found, conquered and reached into places on earth that no man had stepped foot on. Even the moon has come within our reach.

We have become accustomed to horizons lined with buildings. A country’s development is now measured according to the height of its buildings.

Isn’t expansion the key to growth, and stagnation the path to failure and extinction? But what if expansion is really what will lead to our own demise?

The spectacle of desert snow in winter is being lost.

Moving from a house in the middle of the city to a house in the suburbs makes a person notice things.

First of all, I noticed that Jordan is actually green. That may come as a surprise to people who believe that the Middle Eastern country is merely layers of sand extending for miles and miles.malhas2 (640x427)

I also experienced beautiful mountainous scenery, covered with snow in winter. Again, surprisingly, it actually snows in the desert.

Yet the most striking thing I noticed was that day-by-day, and year-by-year, these views have been disappearing. Living in the city, I never felt its growth, but living in the suburbs, I witnessed it.malhas3 (640x427)

Sitting in the dining area on the ground level three years ago, everything was in sight: a row of buildings on the most distant mountain, the lone house in the foreground and a panoramic view encompassing everything from the center of Amman to the mountains directly circling the Dead Sea.

The dining area now has the lovely view of a white concrete house.

Nature is being replaced by buildings and parking lots.

At least attempts had been made to blend other houses in the area into the natural setting. The newly built structure has refocused my attention from the distant horizons onto the little details that have been added to the neighborhood.malhas4 (640x427)

Wires criss-cross above buildings, between trees and across the landscape. Sunset pictures are forever tainted with electricity towers, streetlamps and the wires they drag along.

The beauty and serenity of a once under-populated area is slowly being overtaken by the sounds of car engines and the scent and sight of burning garbage.

We are expanding outwards and upwards. As buildings and parking lots are being built, the priceless views of nature are being destroyed.


amalhas (640x529)Aisha Malhas was born in Amman and is in her final year at King’s Academy high school in Madaba, Jordan. She has been playing the piano for 13 years and enjoys soccer, photography and Model United Nations. Later this year she will start her undergraduate studies at Georgetown University, where she plans to major in computer science.

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