Courtyard life in Amman : A slower pace of living

1. Freya Insoll
(Photo: Freya Insoll/Jordan News)
When thinking of courtyard living, the mind instantly jumps to the serene Riads of Morocco or the traditional courtyards of Syria. Thoughts of intricately tiled spaces filled with fountains and greenery conjure an instant sense of calm — one that we likely seek to recreate in our daily lives. اضافة اعلان

While it’s not possible or practical to hop on a flight to Marrakech every time we seek to indulge in some Riad recreation, we can instead give tips to replicate the experience in an outdoor space and share some of the best courtyard spaces Amman has to offer.

The courtyard has long functioned as a private yet social center of the home, a historical feature of houses stretching from the Arabian Gulf to the Atlantic Ocean. The centralized courtyard became popular throughout the Arab world thanks to the privacy it afforded families and the relief it provided from the hot summer sun.

The courtyard’s architecture creates its own cool microclimate, simultaneously providing shade and open skies.

A classic courtyard home consists of living spaces distributed around a central open area, but the courtyard concept has gradually been reimagined for modern living.

If the idea of courtyard living appeals to you, but you prefer to enjoy your time at home, you can replicate the courtyard ambiance in whatever outdoor space you have accessible. Whether you can relax on a rooftop, balcony, or garden, making some small changes can transform the space.

If you intend to work from your space, I would suggest investing in a shady canopy or awning to replicate the coolness of a courtyard — while we have struggled to source a budget canopy in Amman, a makeshift awning of curtains is a cheap current fix!

The addition of comfy communal seating is likely the most important one. To make your space more social it’s essential to have enough seating for your guests, making it easy to have relaxed evening dinners at a fraction of what it would cost at a restaurant.

With all the practicalities covered, the next point on your to-do list should be replicating the courtyard ambiance. Lighting, plants, and decorations are all essential; as is always the solution, Friday Market provides a wealth of second-hand options, allowing you to personalize your outdoor area to your tastes.

Soft furnishings can add softness and comfort to your “courtyard”, but make sure to bring them inside if you do not want to lose anything to the Amman winds! Once your outdoor space is complete, it will undoubtedly provide a personal haven to relax during the summer months.

If creating a courtyard-like space is not possible for you, you are in luck, as many restaurants and cafes have capitalized on the comfort of an enclosed outdoor space, providing a modern iteration of the historic courtyard lifestyle.

Over the past few weeks, my friends and I have started seeking out the best outdoor-indoor spaces to work from; while we tend to stick in our local area, there is no lack of options to be found.

Shams El-Balad and the Good Bookshop both provide tranquil courtyard areas coupled with great coffee; Shams successfully merges the outdoor with the indoor, filling the space with towering trees of Fir, Olive, and Mulberry. The combination of plush armchairs, retro tables, and towering foliage provides a haven to work and relax.

The Good Bookshop reflects a more traditional courtyard style, a smaller, more intimate space filled with tables and parasols, perfect for shaded working.

In the aftermath of COVID-19, many moved to fewer hours in the office or made the complete switch to remote work. Working in spaces such as Shams or the Good Bookshop is beneficial both practically and mentally, boosting productivity and mood.

As noted in last week’s article on the positives of bringing the outdoors in, being in nature is proven to reduce blood pressure and stress levels. Similarly, a moderate amount of background noise has been shown to improve creativity, making a calm outdoor area the best place to think.

However, the benefits of the courtyard are not solely confined to those of us who work from home; they also provide the most attractive of places to relax and socialize. Several restaurants in Amman offer both indoor and outdoor spaces for customers, perfect for balmy summer nights.

On the fancier end of the dining-out scale, Sufra and Fakhreldin provide beautiful outdoor settings to enjoy dinner. Both restaurants are housed within elegant 20th-century villas, with Fakhreldin originally being built and owned by Fawzi Al-Mulki (the 10th prime minister of Jordan).

Both courtyards are traditional and paired back in style, allowing patrons to enjoy delicious food while socializing in a calm environment.

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