AMMAN, Jordan—An article posted Tuesday by Amman-based freelance journalist Mat Wolf on Vice.com takes an in-depth look at illegal porn cinemas in Islamic Jordan. Catering to a less-affluent often itinerant clientele, the porn cinemas of Jordan serve the same role that many adult book shops and the few remaining porn theaters play in the U.S.—as a place for men to enjoy porn cheaply, for cash, in relative privacy.
Unlike Saudi Arabia, which has to contend with the Mutaween religious police on top of the regular cops, Jordan’s secret police don’t bother enforcing religious law with the same determination as their Arabian counterparts.
“Jordan is also unlike Saudi Arabia in that it actually has public movie houses of any kind—like so many things in Saudi Arabia, theaters are banned lest they encourage deviancy,” reports Vice. “So if the regular Jordanian police don’t care, or are paid not to, there won’t be any imam-led militias coming to burn down the Kawakib [Cinema] anytime soon.”
The article is filed under Vice’s Travel section for some reason, and in fact it does provide a fascinating look at a day in the life of these cinemas, the people who run them and the men who patronize them. Westerners might reasonably assume that movies theaters offering porn might exist far underground in any Muslim country, but that is not the reality on the ground.
“A hole-in-the-wall in Amman’s old souk—an area called the Balad—the Kawakib occupies a highly visible location on King Talal Street in the city’s historic center,” writes Wolf of one especially popular cinema. “It’s just down the street from the Grand Husseini Mosque, one of Amman’s spiritual centers and a regular rallying location for Jordan’s branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. At the right time of day, attendees of the Kawakib’s porn matinees have their fornication viewing interrupted by the call of the mosque’s muezzin penetrating the theater’s thin walls.”
Existing safely in a society that, like most, finds seemingly incongruous ways to peacefully accommodate its cultural contradictions, the bottom line for Jordan’s illegal porn cinemas is summed up by Wolf, “Culture, religion, and popular opinion be damned, the cinemas have a loyal and steady customer base. As such, they'll continue inviting customers to have a seat, buy a Pepsi, watch some porn, and come again.”
Image: Steps leading up to the Kawakib Cinema in Amman, Jordan, courtesy of Vice.com.