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One-stop-shop receiving Finance Ministry, central bank employees since the 1970s

By Muath Freij - Feb 13,2014 - Last updated at Feb 13,2014

AMMAN — What started out as a boy on a bicycle trying to make a living by selling goods from Hebron and Jericho to customers in Amman has grown into a business that is now over 60 years old.

To this day, employees at the Finance Ministry and the Central Bank of Jordan continue to frequent the shop that Mohammad Ghanem opened decades ago opposite the ministry building on Salt Street near the capital’s Abdali neighbourhood.

“At the age of 18, my father used to bring his goods from Hebron and later from Jericho and sold them in Amman using his bicycle. He also used to travel between Palestine and Amman on his trusty bicycle,” said Khaled, who now runs the Maliah (finance) Store with his brother Hussein.

Khaled recalled that Al Bashir Hospital was located in the new building of the Central Bank of Jordan.

“He [Mohammad] used to sell items to the hospital staff and visitors,” he recounted.

After the situation in Palestine flared up in 1948, the Hebron-born Mohammad shifted to Amman while his parents went to live in Jericho.

“Although he moved to Amman, he kept going back to Palestine to check on his parents and obtain goods from there,” Khaled told The Jordan Times in a recent interview.

When Mohammad’s parents decided to settle in Amman a few years later, he resorted to the capital’s “Souk Sukkar” to buy his goods.

In 1951, he rented his first store, gaining popularity among the area’s residents.

The experience encouraged him to move to larger premises in 1979, which is still a popular destination for customers, where they can now find sandwiches, groceries, medicines and the unique sense of humour of Khaled and Hussein.

Yousef Abu Arab, who used to buy his favourite sandwich from their father, said the two brothers have a certain charisma that encourages customers to keep coming back.

“Khaled always sings while making sandwiches,” he said.

Alaa Abu Ayyash, who works at the Ministry of Finance, said the two brothers are “kind” to their clients.

“If customers do not have enough money to pay, they let them take what they need and give them enough time to settle the bill later,” he said.

Ahmad Shqairat, a public sector employee, described the grocery as a “small mall”.

“You can find whatever you want and they can prepare any kind of sandwich for you,” he noted.

Mohammad had expanded the business beyond groceries, to include sandwiches and medicines.

“Mortadella is among the items we sell. Many customers used to bring bread and buy mortadella to make a sandwich, so my father began getting bread from the nearby bakery and making sandwiches at the store,” Khaled said, adding that his father also let customers make their own sandwiches at the store and offered salad to go with it.

Most of the grocery’s customers used to have their breakfast at the store and then go to work.

The two brothers are working hard to keep this tradition alive.

“This is why we are still a favourite with the employees... we prepare anything they want to have for breakfast,” added Hussein.

Although their annual rent has increased under the Landlords and Tenants Law from JD1,900 to JD3,300, the two brothers are determined to keep their family’s legacy alive.

“We did not get rid of the bicycle because it reminds me of my father and the early days of the store,” said Hussein, who used his father’s bicycle for 10 years.

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