Arab League Café
Hani Alqam

March – May 2007

"The staircase leading up into the coffee shops in Down Town Amman are well worn. This wear and tear is evident by the indelible stains left from the constant flow of traffic of feet over many years. These stains are part of legacy that is important to the memory of all card players. coffee drinkers and many others, for we live in a time of change where in future years it may not be commercially viable to linger for hours nursing one cup of coffee.

The contrast of murky, bleak staircases to the fluorescent lit spaces of the coffee room is comforting and somewhat familiar place. It is familiar as during my adolescence, I would have seen many of these men walk in and out of these coffee houses. Sometimes I would take the courage and climb those steps inside and watch for a moment, quietly absorbing this intimate world where plain men came together to forget the everyday realities of life.

In my life I have learnt to appreciate the ordinariness of life, it is the simplicity and uncomplicated way of life that helps to hold my integrity working as an artist. The coffee house holds everything that is true to me of mankind. It’s a place where there is no room for social pretension. There is a harsh rawness and at the same time a fragility that leaves all exposed.

Its worn chairs and tables balance precariously, paint peeling from the walls, bent ashtrays from years of use and lit pipes gathering a haze of smoke….

High ceilings, earth y colored walls are the background which gives a warm glow in juxtaposition with its stark dark wooden chairs. The tables well scratched and the arranged at random within the room. Both the chairs and the tables tell a history in it self.

Groups of men huddled together like a flock of blackbirds all varying in shape and size. There is an unspoken friendship as the men play, rarely taking their eyes off the cards. Their bodies rarely move, almost statuesque. A quiet hum fills the room which is reassuring as I try to capture the moment of a bent body or an empty chair which sits forlornly in the space.

Over the last six years I have spent a few nights a week painting and drawing in this environment. In a way this café has become another home for me. I sit afar and observe all that is there and as in my boyhood the fascination remains, as I capture the unique moments of the Down Town café."

-Hani Alqam