Posted by: hamede | January 8, 2010

Amman loses cultural icon

By Hani Hazaimeh

AMMAN – Amman lost a cultural icon this week when Omar Mohammad Bernawi, known fondly by locals as the “peanut guy”, passed away.

The 70-something vendor, who was also known as Abu Ahmad, originally arrived in Jordan some 60 years ago on his way to perform the Hajj.

At the age of 15, Bernawi travelled from his homeland of Nigeria through Egypt all the way to Jerusalem. After the outbreak of the 1948 war, Abu Ahmad moved to Jordan, where he quickly became a cultural icon, serving peanuts to members of the Royal family, leaders, citizens and visitors from across the world.

Despite carving out a special place for himself in Amman history, the peanut seller never fulfilled his life-long quest to complete the pilgrimage by the time he passed away on Wednesday due to complications from surgery for injuries sustained late last year.

On the first day of Ramadan, the father of four was hit by a car on his way to join his family for iftar. Bernawi was rushed to the nearest hospital where doctors discovered that he had broken his hip and left leg and needed surgery to implant a platinum bar in his leg.

Determined to set an example in forgiveness, Bernawi refused to enter the operating theatre until his eldest son, Ahmad, dropped all charges against the driver.

The peanut vendor, who had become witness to and a figure of the Kingdom’s modern history, spent two months in bed following surgery before passing away this week.

Amman resident Um Bilal could not hold back her tears Thursday as she read the peanut guy’s obituary, which was placed on the Nigerian’s cart in the gold souk on Prince Feisal Street.

She told The Jordan Times that Abu Ahmad represented much more to her than “just a peanut vendor”. The charismatic Bernawi, known for his wide smile and generosity, had become part of her daily life, Um Bilal said, adding that she would make sure to pass his cart on her way to work each morning.

“Although he had not been at work for over two months, I would still stop by every day and ask his son Ahmad about his condition,” the woman said while wiping away tears.

“It will not be the same without him,” said Wasim Tawalbeh, a vendor who worked a few metres from Abu Ahmad’s now-legendary stand.

“He was a very kind and loving person and made us laugh with his jokes about life,” Tawalbeh said, adding that in the last six months, he and Abu Ahmad became close friends.

Thirty-eight-year old Ahmad Abu Jbara, a jewellery shop owner, said that the “peanut guy” was prominent in many of his fondest childhood memories.

“When he would come in the morning we used to help him set up his cart and in return he would reward us with some of his delicious peanuts,” recalled Abu Jbara, stressing that the whole alley of vendors are grieving Abu Ahmad’s passing.

For the past eight years, Egyptian Walid Amrousi, who works as a waiter at a nearby restaurant, said he would serve a cup of milk for Abu Ahmed before he would start his day at the market.

“Every time we would sit together and he would advise me to save money for my family,” said the Egyptian worker, adding that Bernawi used to give him peanuts as a present to take home to his children.

“He was loved by everyone,” said 71 year-old Adnan Kurdi, the peanut vendors’ accountant.

“I remember when he came to Amman and started his career as a peanut salesman. He would just sit and watch citizens and vehicles pass by with a smile on his face. I don’t remember him getting mad at anyone ever,” he added.

Although Bernawi’s son Ahmad will take over the stand, customers said it will be a long time before they get used to Abu Ahmad’s absence.

“We will miss the poor man. May God rest his soul,” a passer-by said as he paid his respects to Amman’s one-and-only “peanut guy”.

jordantimes

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Responses

  1. So very sad. I was hoping to pay him a visit the next time I was in town after I had read the article in the JT several weeks back. May he RIP.

  2. Thank you for honoring him!

  3. yfa , kinzi Thank you.


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