Zaizafoun Art Café: Old downtown’s hidden gem

(Photo: Shutterstock)
AMMAN — One of the best ways to discover a country and learn about the local culture, lifestyle, and important issues is through its art and hidden spaces.اضافة اعلان

Zaizafoun Art café gives you the chance to do just that.

The café was found by Huda Jardat in 2017 in Amman’s old downtown.

The name of the café was inspired by the name of a tree, the Linden tree — known as zaizafoun in Arabic — under which people took shelter from the sun.

The trees gave people a sense of safety and relaxation. “Zaizafoun Art Café will give you the same feelings,” Jardat told Jordan News.

“The Idea took off from the Ehsas Center for Arts that I established in 2010, where we provided drawing courses. In the center we had many students and a huge number of drawings, but the art in general was not reaching the majority of people, it was only reaching people who wanted to learn how to draw,” Jardat said, adding that the café’s message is to show people the art that other people make.

(Photo: Zaizafoun Art Café Instagram page)

The name was specifically inspired by a novel from Alphonse Carr called “Majdulin under the shadows of the Linden tree,” Jardat said. 

Jardat said she chose downtown as the location for her café so people from different backgrounds could visit it. “The location has a special place in my heart. Before I established the café here, I used to walk from Jabal Luweibdeh to downtown via Al-Kalha stairs, and I would imagine having a shop there. After a few years I found a small shop on the stairs and I fixed the place up,” Jardat said. 

Jardat’s drawings focus on the eyes and face “in an expressive method” she said, adding that “I tend to draw in antique blue, yet there are drawings with different colors.”

The drawings reflect purely human issues. “Some of the drawings will shock you and make you think about them. For instance, a drawing of a child’s face will make you wonder if he/she is living in misery or confusion,” Jardat said. 

“There is another type of drawing where we expressed some of the issues in our Arab world such as the Jerusalem issue,” Jardat added. Zaizafoun Art Café has held exhibitions addressing Palestinian suffering and displacement.

“The place is prepared for any artist to come and draw as we have art stands and the atmosphere of the place is artistic; they can come with their own equipment and start drawing,” Jardat said. 

“We wish that artists would come and visit us and we will encourage them.” 
Zaizafoun also serves traditional food alongside art to tourists who make up the majority of the café’s visitors.  

(Photo: Zaizafoun Art Café Instagram page)

“During COVID-19 we held out as much as possible and thankfully we were not among the stores that were shut down due to the pandemic. Many people who love to visit us feel delighted that we survived and are still open,” Jardat said. 

She added that when she saw that people liked the idea and wanted to hold events in the café, she thought of expanding it as the space was too small. This year, Jardat opened another branch of her café in Khalda on a rooftop with a good view. “I worked on it to make it similar to the downtown branch in terms of decorations and drawings,” she said. 

The downtown branch has been sold to an individual who works in art as well. The place retains the same Zaizafoun vibes, with drawings and the blue-colored theme, Jardat said. “The only difference will be the name of the place, the owner, and the management, but I am sure the people will like it,” Jardat said.  

Alaa Mohammed, a visitor at Zaizafoun said that she found the café by coincidence: “I do not visit downtown that much, but once I was walking with my family and saw the colorful stairs and decided to climb them and found a hidden place with many drawings. … so we entered. It was a good experience with all of these drawings and the relaxed atmosphere.” 

(Photo: Zaizafoun Art Café Instagram page)

Mohammed Nayef, another visitor at the café, said: “I do not live in Jordan, and it has been almost two years since I visited Jordan. As COVID-19 restrictions eased I decided to visit and discover new places, I did some research and Zaizafoun Art Café was one of the places I wanted to visit.” 

He said that the space was nice and cozy, and that the drawings all over the place gave it a special vibe. “It was nice to drink coffee and try to interpret the drawings even though I’m not an artist,” Nayef said.

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