Hashemi Shamali Open Air Museum Amman Jordan

Touring the Hashemi Shamali Open Air Museum was fascinating on many levels. The east Amman neighborhood was military housing in the 1970s. Now, it exhibits 28 murals painted by artists to make the urban landscape more interesting and give it color. The neighborhood is home to a community of Palestinian, Syrian, Armenian, and Iraqi refugees, and it’s decidedly different than other areas of Amman I’ve explored. The tour began at 10:00 a.m., and unsure of exactly how long it would take to get there, I was the first of the group to arrive. Friday and Saturday are weekends in Jordan, so there was considerably less traffic.

Artist Suhaib Attar

As the uber driver pulled up to the meeting point, I was excited to see a mural project in process. From a blue construction crane, artist Suhaib Attar was painting a mural commissioned by the US Embassy for International Women’s Day. He’s collaborating with Suha Sultan and other local artists on the mural. Little did I know, Suhaib was the artist responsible for creating the Hashemi Shamali Open-Air Museum project. He was born and raised in Hashemi Shamali, and remains closely connected with the neighborhood and its residents. His family still lives there.

Imagine Sourati 2019

For over a decade, Suhaib has collaborated with local and international artists, like popular Australian street artist and “social realist painterFintan Magee. Together, they’ve created extraordinary murals throughout the neighborhood, building an exciting “open-air canvas for street artists”!

Jordan was one of the first countries to celebrate streetart and graffiti. Through Suhaib’s efforts, street murals in Hashemi Shamali were legalized by a partnership between the street artists and local Amman government. More importantly, the artists won the “trust and support of their local community“.

Young Neighborhood Street Artist – Fintan Magee 2018


“Street artists around the world share the same three values – Love, Peace, Unity.” forumZFD


Alaeddin Rahmeh – Underground Amman Arts Organization
Alaeddin Rahmeh and Amman’s Hip-Hop Community

Our guide, Alaeddin Rahmeh, is from the Palestinian city of Jaffa. Alaeddin also led the Underground Amman tour of downtown streetart I enjoyed a few weeks ago. He’s a multi-talented breakdancer whose father is an imam. Alaeddin shared some of his experiences growing up in Amman’s working-class Jabal Al-Nuzha neighborhood and living in refugee camps “surrounded by violence and a lack of education“. On a lighter note, he also shared his favorite animeHunter x Hunter.

Beginning in the early 2000s, Alaeddin and other artists from the Amman hip- hop community used innovative means to learn breakdancing. They honed their skills by spending hours watching and imitating VHS tapes of German break dancers shared with them by a friend from Dubai

Graffiti Artist Suha Sultan – al-monitor Aj Naddaff

Alaeddin and his wife, Hannah, started an artist’s organization, Underground Amman. The organization develops and supports Jordan’s streetart and hip-hop community as an “artistic catalyst for change“.

Reflections – Dina Saadi Artist

In partnership with the Jordanian National Gallery of Fine Arts, Underground Amman offers a venture called Tales of Jordan. With this endeavor, they “work on a variety of interesting projects in collaboration with artists from the local hip-hop community”.


“Graffiti artist Suhaib Attar says his goal is to brighten up Amman and help people think outside the box.” Zab Mustefa/Al Jazeera 



Several of the murals were influenced by Hashemi Shamali residents, including curious neighborhood children fascinated by their compositions. One of the first and best-known murals is a portrait of a young Syrian refugee girl from Azraq wearing a Mickey Mouse hoodie. Suhaib painted the mural in collaboration with Australian artist Fintan Magee. The girl in the mural was a student in an art education project for refugee orphans supported by Magee and Suhaib. The talented seven-year-old never missed a class and collaborated with them on several neighborhood murals.

Alaeddin, Suhaib, Suha

During the tour, we saw a small number of the total murals created in Hashemi Shamali and other neighborhoods in Amman. The murals and artists each have a unique story. Sometimes the theme is obvious just by observing the mural. Understanding other murals requires a deeper knowledge of local history and spending time in Amman and the Middle East. Some themes may be on the cusp of crossing the red lines associated with three of Jordan’s taboo subjects – politics, religion, and sex. Objectionable murals can be painted over, but that doesn’t happen often.

Suhaib Attar Mural Broken Innocence 2022


“Our aim is to amplify the voices of marginalized groups and put their ideas and identities in the public space.” Suhaib Attar


Wife of Hombre aka Pablo Fontagnier 2018

I won’t delve into technical elements of mural painting that are over my head. When creating a mural, there are many considerations, beginning with the different methods you can choose to “scale” the painting – outline, smartphone, grid, or freehand. Many murals were created during the annual Amman Baladk Street Art Festivals. Since 2012, regional and international street artists have visited Amman during the festival to collaborate and create new murals.


“Every mural holds another meaning; reflecting the gaps between tradition and modernity in Arab society; of femininity and gender norms; of a generation of youth challenging traditional norms embedded within a conservative society.” Hannah Davis The New Arab



Along the southern face of the first three buildings, there’s a massive three-part Arabic calligraphy installation (aka calligraffiti) by local artists, with the words – “Art/is/the environment“. The neighborhood buildings are a maze of square concrete blocks with three-stories, no balconies, and few windows – a perfect canvas for creating street murals. Depending on their complexity, most streetart projects take between 2 to 6 days to complete. Hashemi Shamali neighborhood forms the shape of a triangle, where each building is offset slightly from the previous one. As you walk southeast from the tour starting point, each building emerges from behind the last, revealing bright colors and vivid images that “surprise you at every turn”.

A Bright New Day Suhaib Attar 2020

A few Baladk-commissioned artists who visited Amman to participate in large murals secretly created smaller paintings in “random, hidden  places” among the buildings. In some cases, it took local artists days to find the undisclosed paintings!

Girl by Don Mateo French Street Artist


“Street artists use their talents to make important social issues that are usually overlooked more visible to the public.” Underground Amman


Empowering Women

Some murals follow the theme Empowering Women through Painting. addressing “gender inequality in regard to social justice”. In 2019, the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts published a “one-of-a-kind bilingual book celebrating the female art scene in Jordan”. It features the “stories and paintings of 88 extraordinary women artists from diverse backgrounds”. There are many successful, talented women street artists. A mural by Dina Saadi entitled Reflections is a favorite of mine. Saadi “uses art to speak her mind, express emotions, and showcase her ideas”. Born in Russia and raised in Syria, she’s currently based in Dubai.

The Deer Suhaib Attar – Al Jazeera Zab Mustefa
A Bedouin Wedding Suhaib Attar 2017

A portion of the book’s proceeds goes to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Jordan River Foundation (JRF). Funds are “invested in psychosocial and legal programs helping women exposed to gender-based violence”.

Blue Haired Woman by ZiNk aka Ibtehal Al Dous 2019

It was a large tour group, so I missed some of the nuances and info shared. I did my best with photos and artist names. Some murals are captioned, the titles of others escaped me. Suhaib and Alaeddin are impressive, dedicated young artists, and I highly recommend this educational and visually delightful tour.


I had a surprise revelation during the tour. I overheard a conversation about Amman’s pigeons. In a previous post, I mentioned my fascination with flocks of birds that appear at dusk and fly in formation – seemingly “buzzing” the windows of my flat in Jabal Amman. Apparently, those birds are pigeons! During Jordan’s coronavirus lockdown, pigeons helped provide an escape from stress, and became a source of solace for some Jordanians.

Suhaib Attar

Arabian pigeon keeping and flying is a popular hobby in Jordan and nearby countries. Some breeders care for hundreds of pigeons on their rooftops. Using a whistle or stick with a net attached to it, they call their birds back to the roof. Pigeon breeding is big business in Jordan, with people from nearby countries, like Lebanon and Syria, coming to buy birds and learn how to keep them. Rare pigeon breeds sell for as much as 1000 Jordanian dinars (JOD) or about ($1400).

Leave a Reply