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Underground Amman: Exploring Jordan’s little-known hip-hop scene

Underground Amman: Exploring Jordan’s little-known hip-hop scene

The neighbourhood of Jabal Amman is like a canvas. On any other day, I would have walked past these mural-covered walls with barely more than a glance. But exploring the meaning behind each piece on a unique hip-hop tour was unlocking a whole new perspective on the city for me.

Petra, the Dead Sea and Wadi Rum, three of Jordan’s most popular sites, may attract millions of tourists to the Middle Eastern country each year. But Jordan is also home to a capital brimming with colour, thanks to its underground art scene.

Amman, originally built across seven hills, is now a thriving city with a unique blend of modern culture. Home to archeological wonders such as the Amman Citadel and a Roman theatre, it is often claimed that it’s one of the world’s oldest cities. These historical sites are packed tightly around busy neighbourhoods, aesthetically pleasing cafes, and expensive rooftop bars catering to the city’s four million residents.

But when you’re appreciating the skyline of houses that creep up the hillside, there’s also something else that might catch your attention. Look closely and you’ll start to notice street art on many of the buildings. For those in the know, it’s a message that Amman’s underground hip-hop and street-art scene is thriving.

Many of Amman’s buildings are painted with colourful street art murals

(Jack Lawes)

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I decided to get a closer look at this off-beat side of the city with the Underground Amman Tour, a two-hour walking tour that takes visitors around some of Amman’s oldest neighbourhoods while highlighting the role of street art in Arab culture. Launched in 2019, the donation-based tour lets visitors learn more about the hip-hop scene and meet community members, with the money funding local hip-hop initiatives and encouraging further creativity in the city.

Avoiding the hottest part of the day, the tour started from Rainbow Street in the early evening. Awaiting us was Alaeddin Rahmeh, a 33-year-old art activist, breakdancer, and co-founder of Underground Amman. Clearly, his paint-spattered jeans were a sign we were in the right place.

Alaeddin Rahmeh is a co-founder of the Underground Amman tour

(Jack Lawes)

Raised in a Palestinian camp in Amman, Alaeddin’s first brush with hip-hop came through watching it on TV as a youngster. While Amman’s concrete cityscape…

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