This has been, among many things, a year of intense and brutal irony. This week, as bars shut back down and an even earlier curfew is enforced, it also happens to be a year to the day since the last (possibly best) bar night, with the absolutely delightful, supremely talented Mykki Blanco and Splash in a Wingspan. Take a look back with us and watch never-before-seen footage from the night!
It's surreal to think that this party was only a year ago to the day. Looking back, I’m tempted to call it our last normal night but it was far from that. The Coronavirus had already started making moves. Mykki and Sam, of Splash in a Wingspan, had narrowly evaded lockdown twice on their way here. First in Italy where they left only a couple of days before the first major European lockdowns were announced. Then in Palestine, where the concert they had planned was cancelled due to the earliest Covid restrictions imposed in the West Bank.
At the time, no one knew anything really about the disease. I distinctly remember having the discussion of whether bartenders should wear masks, which we concluded, in the sheer naiveté of the time, would unnecessarily freak people out. There was little to no public guidance, there had yet to be any real cases in Jordan and our concerns were mostly fuelled by the brewing media frenzy in Europe.
Turnout was lighter than usual, and understandably so. Some people were becoming increasingly afraid already. We did consider calling the party off more than once. It was very risky, and knowing what we do now, I’m sure it was not the wisest decision to move forward, but hindsight is twenty twenty. It seemed so absurd then to think that the virus would deeply impact every aspect of our lives, just as it does now to look back at how entirely different everything was a single year ago.
Luckily, the party was not a superspreader event, so we can sigh a breath of relief and revel in the memory of a night that was legendary by any standard. We could not have dreamed of a more gracious, dynamic and loving performer than Mykki to lead us into what would be a daunting new chapter for all of us.
This evening holds a particularly special place in my heart. For the past several years, we have worked so hard to nurture a professional environment of acceptance and openness at Shams. This night was the crescendo for me. After a seamless dinner service, my team of cooks, waiters, bussers and stewards started to join the audience, one by one after their shifts. Eventually right by Mykki, on the side of the stage, there was a whole group of these young, talented professionals having the time of their lives. Many of whom don’t subscribe to traditional or locally accepted categories of gender or sexual identity. We know all too well, spaces that nurture such professional and personal fulfilment are sorely lacking in Amman and beyond. We had succeeded as much as possible in creating such a space, at Shams they were home.
This may be the achievement I am most proud of during my five years in Amman, and why however hopeless we all may sometimes feel we can rest assured that there is indeed hope.
For me, that moment was a revelation. After all the stress, Mykki’s energy transported us into the future we had dreamed of all along. Immersed in that light, I realized how special and entirely unique this experience has been for us all. I didn’t know it yet but this would very much be the end of a defining chapter at Shams.
From a team of about sixty five, we’ve since shrivelled into one of fifteen. That has been as painful as you can imagine. I know that even if we do reopen the restaurant after this all comes to pass, the chances of that same group of people, that same combination of youth, curiosity and drive, recreating what we had going for those few years are very slim to say the least. My heart swells to think that in the short time we had together, we left such an indelible mark on the people we embraced and the city we call home. I can’t think too long about how proud that makes me feel. Change is one of those strange things that feels so far away until it smacks you right in the face. عليهم
The idea for this piece started as one for a simple instagram post. As always, one thing led to another, we unearthed a treasure trove of footage from Karma’s iphone and others, so we couldn’t resist putting together a never before seen video of that spectacular night.
Admittedly, the video is a little long. We tried our best to string together all of the archival footage in a logical way that flows and transports you in some way to that night. This footage of that ephemeral, magical moment is to me far too valuable to chop up. If you’re not feeling particularly patient make sure to watch the last minute or so for the most cathartic moment of 2020. Mykki guiding us into this new phase of our lives, closing out their momentous performance with a message of gratitude, love and light that is more relevant today than ever.
TIMES ARE ONLY GETTING TOUGHER! WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT TO STAY IN BUSINESS!
To mark this occasion, we’re printing a limited batch of the original poster from March 12 2020. Designed by the talented Shukri Lawrence of Trashy Clothing, in collaboration with our very own design head Karma Malhas. Proceeds from the sale of this print will be divided between Shams and the artist. We need your support today more than ever, we know you’re heard it before but the situation is only getting more challenging for businesses like ours. Order the print online here! It is available for international shipping to over 220 countries!