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An edited version of this article appeared online in the Middle East Eye on May 26, 2019. By Alex Ray “When people pluck these flowers, it’s like they are plucking my heart,” said an emotional Fareed Notafji as we drank sweet, strong ‘labourer’s tea’ in front of the guard shed at Damascus’s Botanic Gardens. The …
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A chance Facebook encounter revives the story of a unique Syrian establishment after six years of war and tragedy.
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by Alex Ray “Look, it’s not the traffic, it’s the people’s character,” the Amman taxi driver told me, as the beaten-up Nissan crawled from glitzy Abdoun to the core of the capital at Jebel Amman. The remark caught me off guard; he was the second taxi driver to deliver the same line that day. Such …
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by Alex Ray Barbeer Shawarma, Hamra – 2 am As I wait alone for my pre-flight dinner of greasy sliced lamb, hoping not to ruin my last clean T-shirt, a tall impeccably groomed young man arrives at the counter, his teeth gleaming in competition with his watch. He announces his presence to the worn-out middle-aged …
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by Alex Ray Queen Alia International Airport – 11.15 am From the outside the booth looks respectable. Signposted in English and Arabic it creates a focal point among an expanse of empty concrete. Recent arrivals gather, anticipating onward – or perhaps return – journeys. Inside the picture emaciates to a lone man, a phone charger, …
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Between Deserts by Alex - 3M ago

Spring has sprung late this year in Amman, with the first noticeably warm day being April 7. The markets are full of strawberries, green almonds and local garlic, below is what Amman’s central fruit markets sound like on a morning stroll, as vendors vigorously announce the prices of their fruits and vegetables.
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by Alex Ray Jutting out from the eastern  side of Amman’s Jebel Weibdeh is a partially used car park with a twist. Each level of the exterior displays a line of an uncredited poem written in Arabic. “Let’s imagine the rivers burning far away we hear the silence and suddenly the music comes toward us …
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by Alex Ray Below a five-star hotel in the West Amman suburb of Shmeisani, three young boys spend their Saturday morning scrounging for pieces of plastic, aluminium and other metals that can be sold for recycling. Scrap collectors are some of the only visible recycling systems in resource-poor Jordan. There is no government recycling service, …
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by Alex Ray A tiny blue and grey Tourist Police kiosk sits at one end of Culture Street, a 350 metre strip of low-rise apartment buildings in Shmeisani, an inner suburb of the Jordanian capital Amman. The area attracts tourists mostly from the wealthy Gulf states: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the U.A.E. Wedged between …
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by Alex Ray “Let’s see what the policeman says. Maybe he’s in a good mood and he’ll allow us to stay; maybe his wife gave him a hard time this morning and he’ll be in a bad mood,” said my Careem driver when I asked him to take me to the airport and drive me …

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