There is a splendid arts complex in the capital of Jordan that is situated just north of the Amman’s Downtown. Going by the name Darat al-Funun, this gallery aims to promote local arts in the city as well as the region in general, and does so by holding regular exhibits as well as displaying a growing permanent collection.
The small house of the arts (this is the literal translation of the name) is located almost at the very centre of the city of Amman, in a place generally regarded as the artistic centre of the city too. Near Darat al-Funun are several other art galleries, in fact, including the country’s National Gallery of Fine Arts, which is also worth a visit to those interested in local art and culture. A note worthy of mention here is that the very quarters used for Darat al-Fanun—that is, the buildings that house the gallery and its exhibitions and activities—are actually exhibition pieces in themselves. Situated right next to each other, the edifices hail from the 1920’s, with an even older 6th century Byzantine ruin mixed in.
Now it must be noted that some element of clarification should perhaps be given at this point, as “arts” can be quite a blanket term. While Darat al-Funun has demonstrated in the past that it does not scorn to touch even the less well-known art forms in the region, the centre’s avowed focus has largely been and continues to be in the realm of visual arts. Indeed, it is for this reason that the commonly given goal of the centre is to propagate awareness and appreciation for art, archaeology and architecture—the last two items in the alliterated list being more or less giveaways as to the visual orientation of the organisation. Hence, if your primary interest is in arts more, say, aural in nature for example, then you may want to go to other locations in the city—Amman actually has several excellent theatres and famous performance groups—in order to satisfy your craving for some local culture.
That having been said, Darat al-Funun is still a treat for anyone who appreciates art in any of its forms, no matter what their primary preference might be. The exhibits are typically a blend of urban art styles and traditional references, and many very promising Arab artists often turn up here with their works. Those with a predilection for the artistic sensibilities of the region shall not be disappointed.
While it used to be a distinct gallery, Darat al-Funun has actually been assimilated already in the Khalid Shoman Foundation, its patron having been Khalid Shoman himself. It was with Khalid Shoman’s funding and drive that the buildings housing the art centre were restored and renovated into becoming usable again, and now the gallery still operates under the foundation’s guidance. More information on the genesis of the art centre as well as the latest exhibitions and events it is going to be holding can be found on its website at www.daratalfunun.org. A little tip for the tourists: if you do go to the centre, do not forget to take a peek outside of the gallery as well. The height of the location makes it an excellent vantage point for the lower-lying parts of Amman, after all, and you can snap great panoramas here.