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Al-Hussein Cinema: Amman’s architectural icon abandoned, in tatters

Amman was a village before it became the capital of Jordan more than a century ago. In a matter of decades, that village saw public buildings erected in its midst, which were constructed to reflect th
Amman was a village before it became the capital of Jordan more than a century ago. In a matter of decades, that village saw public buildings erected in its midst, which were constructed to reflect the intellectual, social, political, and economic nature of its urban transition. (Photos: Nayrouz Ali/Jordan News)
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From the 1940s till 1980s, cinemas played a major role in shaping the cultural, social, and architectural identities of Amman.

But these architectural icons have been withering since then, and these days, they have become abandoned and forgotten. اضافة اعلان

Amman was a village before it became the capital of Jordan more than a century ago. In a matter of decades, that village saw public buildings erected in its midst, which were constructed to reflect the intellectual, social, political, and economic nature of its urban transition.


(Photos: Nayrouz Ali/Jordan News)

In addition to governmental buildings, several cinemas and theater houses were built-in Amman, becoming the city’s main attractions as well as its residents’ main source of entertainment.

Most of these cinemas were in the downtown district and the surrounding hills. One of these buildings, Al Hussein Cinema, is considered by many a masterpiece and a modern, architectural icon.

Located on King Ghazi Street, a vibrant street in downtown Amman, Al Hussein Cinema was built in 1959 by Egyptian modernist architect Sayed Karim.


(Photos: Nayrouz Ali/Jordan News)

The architect succeeded in creating a structure that blended perfectly with its surroundings and expressed the identity of the area, all the while embodying the soul of that era and keeping up with the international architectural style of the ‘50s.

The structure expresses both modernism and brutalism, using minimalistic forms and shapes and honest materials such as reinforced concrete, horizontal glass windows, and vertical louvers verticality. This creates an interesting dialogue between the different geometrical patterns.


(Photos: Nayrouz Ali/Jordan News)

The design is dynamic and asymmetrical, introducing the viewer to new experiences. The façades use different colors and materials, with the outstanding vertical layered corner painted with a light blue color and marked with “AL HUSSEIN.”

The simple plan consists of two floors — the cinema hall and seats. The main entrance faces King Ghazi Street, welcoming visitors with a yellow and blue patterned ceramic.

The cinema’s program used to be published in official newspapers that drew a diverse audience from different social backgrounds and age groups. Tickets were affordable, ranging between 30 and 50 piasters each.

Mohammad Awad, a 58-year-old Amman resident who was a regular visitor of the cinema, describes it as “luxurious” and remembers that the first film it displayed was “20,000 Leagues Under the Seas”.

He recalls the queues of various people waiting to be let in.

“If anything, this gives you an idea about the level of art appreciation Amman’s residents had (for the cinema) at that time,” said Awad.

The cinema is not only an architectural masterpiece, but also reflects a collective memory of cultural and social life in Amman, making it a crucial part of the city’s cultural heritage that must be protected. 

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