Omar Maani, Mayor of Ammani

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Omar Maani, Mayor of Amman
Presiding over
a booming city

By Andrew Stevens

10 August 2009: As leader of the Jordanian capital since 2006, Omar Maani heads a growing city, both in terms of its population and scope of government. An engineer and successful entrepreneur, he has brought a technocratic approach to governing the city, a position he owes to royal appointment. Amman, which houses half of Jordan’s total population, has since become a beacon of knowledge on urban planning issues and is emerging as a regional capital in its own right, thanks to diligent planning and a tolerant ambience. Mayor Omar Maani has been shortlisted for the 2010 World Mayor Prize.

How good is Mayor Omar Manni?

As mayor, since 2006, Maani has presided over something of a boom in city planning for the Amman metropolis, making it keenly watched by urban policymakers around the world. His Amman Plan provides a comprehensive blueprint for maximising the use of existing space in the city and allowing its urban contours to blend with its physical characteristics defined by its mountainous features. The Plan won the 2007 World Leadership in Town Planning award and Maani has since lectured on the plan to a US audience at the Richard J. Daley Urban Forum of the University of Illinois. Following the success of the plan, Maani was able to convince central government to enhance the city’s powers over transportation in order to tackle rampant congestion, beginning at first with road modernisation and the provision of more buses, eventually working towards the construction of an underground metro rail system.

Furthermore, the Greater Amman Municipality has since established an Amman Institute to spread and promote knowledge gained under the formulation of the Plan and act as a regional centre of excellence in city planning. The institute also provides consultancy and analysis around real estate development in the Middle East. In recent months the institute has also worked on tackling corruption in the region, hosting a conference led by former La Paz mayor turned World Bank adviser Ronald MacLean-Abaroa on ‘transparency in urban governance’. However, in 2008, Maani himself was accused by city councillors of corrupt practices in contracting of suppliers to the city government. The charges however were never substantiated and some commentators believed the affair to be cooked up as an attempt to dislodge reformers from Jordan’s political scene.

Maani has degrees in engineering from the University of Birmingham, England and the University of Southern California. Before becoming mayor in 2006, Maani headed his own company, Maani Ventures, which manufactures prefabricated buildings and office furniture. Maani is married to Maisa Al Bataineh, an architect. His mother, Subhieyeh Maani, is a former senator. Like Jordanian mayors, members of the senate are appointed on the advice of the cabinet by the ruling monarch, currently King Abdullah II.

The Greater Amman Municipality was established as the Amman City Council in 1909. Massive population growth saw the once small city become a major metropolis over the space of several years as an outpost of the dying Ottoman Empire. The municipality is head by the Mayor, who presides over 68 city councillors, with the work of city administration handled by 14 council committees. The municipality also has 27 administrative sub-divisions.

The city itself is the apex of an urbanised Arab society, by reputation alone substantially more westernised and open than its neighbours. Its growing population is bolstered by the number of refugees fleeing both conflicts and intolerant regimes in the region, this usually occurring in response to specific upheavals such as the Six Day War, the Gulf War and the more recent Iraq War. In 2005 an al-Qaeda attack on the city, one of several aimed at more open and tolerant Arab metropolises, killed 60 people. Amman serves as both the national capital and that of the Amman Governorate, which is one of 12 subdivisions in the country and run by a royally-appointed governor.

World Mayor 20/21

The best Mayors for Stronger | Fairer | Greener cities. Elect your candidate for the 20/21 World Mayor Prize and Honours. The Prize has been awarded since 2004