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Cities Media Roundup (September 2016)

[Entry Gate of Mecca on Jeddah-Makkah Highway. Image by Rowan5j from Wikimedia Comomns.] [Entry Gate of Mecca on Jeddah-Makkah Highway. Image by Rowan5j from Wikimedia Comomns.]

[This is a monthly roundup of news articles, and other materials related to urban issues in the region, and beyond. It does not reflect the views of the Cities Page Editors or of Jadaliyya. You may send recommendations for inclusion in the Cities Media Roundup to, mentioning "Roundup" in the subject line. We also welcome your submissions to the Cities Page: please check details on]

Urban Development & Heritage

Tehran's towers: how the Iranian capital embraced bold architecture Saeed Kamali Dehghan, writing in The Guardian, covers the recent rebirth of Tehran's previously vibrant architecture and design scene.

Basra, Dystopian City Basra, the second or third largest city in Iraq, should be a great metropolis, more dynamic than Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha or Kuwait City, and should dominate the Gulf. Its port, Umm Qasr, offers the rest of the world access to one of the biggest oil-producing countries, which is also a huge potential consumer market. Hydrocarbons are abundant in the area, and the deposits are cheap to exploit, giving substantial profit margins no matter how much the price of oil varies.

Les métamorphoses de la Mecque doivent plus au capitalisme sauvage qu’au zèle religieux [in French] This article by historian Rosie Bsheer shows that the urban revamping of Mecca owes much more to the neoliberal governance practices of the Saudi royal family than to religious zeal.

Iran Hits the Beach Tourism is booming, and millions of Iranians are re-discovering the seductions of their northern Caspian Sea coast. 

Know Your City: Al-Zahir (Cairo) Listening to al-Zahir’s residents, like many others in Cairo, the sense of nostalgia is predominant in their narratives. However, adaptive reuse could be the way to deconstruct the unwanted nostalgic romanticism, which sometimes ignores current residents’ socio-economic reality.

Environmental Sustainability 

The Sustainable Development Goals: An Opportunity for Addressing Urban Inequality? This article is part of a series of articles TADAMUN has published on the Sustainable Development Goals.

L’architecture bioclimatique peut-elle s’envisager à l’échelle de toute une ville ? [in French] Parisian planner Erwann Cordeau writing for the website Demain La Ville-Bouygues Immobilier present the principles of bioclimatism as applied to neighborhoods (and not buildings), and discusses their implementation in the opposite cases of Masdar City (wholly technological) and the Libyan city of Sidi-Sayeh (where the current civil war has prevented the implementation of more traditional bioclimatic technics).

Tafilalet : Première ville écologique dans le désert algérien [in French] The eco-city of Tafilalet in the Sahara is a 20-year project to make the desert bloom, with residents encouraged to help in planting trees and recycling waste.

Conflict in Cities

In a Lebanese Village, Civil War Scars Fade Slowly The story of Brih contains a stark lesson for Syria and Iraq: even when peace comes, divisions persist for decades.

Syrie: Le Liban aux avant-postes de la reconstruction [in French] Philipine de Clermont-Tonnerre reports for TV5 Monde on the expectations and preparation of Lebanese companies regarding the reconstruction in Syria, which are well under course, playing on geographic and cultural proximity, as well as on business networks.

Syria Bombings Leave 1.75 million without Running Water in Aleppo The Guardian reports on the effects of recent bombings in Aleppo, which have damaged the pumping station supplying East Aleppo. In retaliation, the station supplying West Aleppo has also stopped work.

Concessional Financing Facility Funds Projects to Support Refugees in Jordan and Lebanon The Concessional Financing Facility (CFF), an international initiative to address the impacts of the Syrian refugee crisis, announced the first financing today to support refugees and host communities in Jordan and Lebanon.

Les réfugiés syriens dans le caza de Zgharta (Liban) : Premières observations sur les défis de l’exil et les enjeux de l’installation dans un espace secondaire [in French] Geographer Assaf Dahdah shares initial observations from a survey about the installation of Syrian refugees in the region of Zgharta, Lebanon.

The UN: Assad’s Silent Partner in Starvation Lara Nelson, a consultant with Syrian opposition organizations, writes for Middle East Eye blaming the UN for its role in starving pro-opposition areas under siege, in a tacit alliance with the Syrian regime, bypassing the local popular committees in distributing aid.

Le Liban en proie à des effets dévastateurs en cas de hausse mondiale des prix alimentaires [in French] InL'Orient-Le Jour, Anne-Marie El-Hage reviews an ESCWA report about the potential effects of a hike in world food prices on Lebanon, where poverty and malnutrition indicators are already alarming and the agricultural sector is under threat.

Qui a peur de la tenue d’élections municipales en Palestine? [in French] Ahmad Jaradat in Orient XXI discusses the potential municipal elections in Palestine, which were supposed to have been held in October, along with what benefits the postponement brings to various parties. This article is also available in Arabic.


Book Review: In Homs, a “Battle for Home” In her book and in a widely viewed online TED talk, Al-Sabouni argues that architecture “has played a vital role in creating, directing and heightening conflicts” in her country.

Book Review: Bulldozer Politics The Funambulist reviews The Palestinian ruin as an Israeli Architectural Project. 

Film Review: Bosphorus through the Decades on the Screen The film is a detailed look at the effects of neoliberal policies that began sweeping the world after the 1980s, and more specifically in the last decade and how the Justice and Development Party (AKP), when it became the ruling party, began its quest to transform Istanbul from an industry-based city into a finance and service-centered metropolis.

Report: A Conflict Sensitive Approach to the Syrian Refugee Crisis? Focusing on the combined policies and actions of the international community in general, and those of the EU and regional governments in particular, this policy brief maintains that attempts to deal with the refugee crisis may inadvertently contribute to emerging drivers of conflict and violence in the near future. 

Report: Maintien de l’ordre public et community policing. Le cas du commissariat de Ras Beirut [in French] Researcher Leila Seurat offers an ethnographic study of Ras Beirut police station which has been reformed according to the community policing model. The study highlights the problems encountered in the implementation of this reform, lying in the religious and political divisions inside the State, as well as in the internal dynamics at work inside the police station and the influence of the patronage networks.

Report: Formal Informality, Brokering Mechanisms, and Illegality. The Impact of the Lebanese State’s Policies on Syrian Refugees’ Daily Lives. This report seeks to provide an overview of Lebanon’s current policy towards Syrian refugees, and to explore the new rules and regulations issued by General Security regarding the entry, residency, and departure of Syrian nationals. It also analyses the challenges pertaining to the current policy and its impact on the daily lives of Syrian refugees, with a special focus on their emerging illegality, their struggle for decent livelihood and working conditions, and increased informality and insecurity.

Working Paper: Rethinking Shared Space. Petra Samaha and Rouba Dagher co-author a study investigating design interventions in the open spaces of the poor neighborhood of Nabaa, as part of the Social Justice and The City research program at the AUB's Issam Fares Institute.

Book Chapter: Exclusion and Norms: Enforcing Women's Right to Property in Jordan The geographer Myriam Ababsa analyses the exclusion of women from property rights in Jordan and policies to reverse this, in a chapter for the World Bank’s book The property right in Jordan Rules on Paper, Rules in Practice. Enforcing Laws and Policies in the Middle East and North Africa.

Website: Refugees and Host Communities This regional knowledge base aims at highlighting the socio-economic challenges involved in hosting refugees in the heavily affected Middle East and Turkey, as well as Europe and North Africa.

Website: Syria Regional Refugee Response This web portal presents updated information on Syrians registered in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and North Africa.

Website: Service Delivery and Social Stability in Lebanon and Jordan The project aims to i) contribute to the evidence base on potential linkages between service delivery, social stability and legitimacy, and ii) better understand whether and how donor programmes can think and work in politically aware ways, and what lessons emerge to inform ongoing practice.

New Journal Issue: Architecture_MPS: Volume 10, issue 1 now available (open access) The newest issue of the open access journal Architecture_MPS has been released.

CFP: AAG 2017: Landscapes of Humanitarian Expertise A call for papers for this proposed session to take place April 5-9, 2017, in Boston, MA, hosted by the American Association of Geographers. The conveners invite 300-word abstracts and a brief CV by October 20, 2016.

Recently on Jadaliyya

A Cautionary Note for Habitat III: Decentralization Can Lead to Centralization Mona Harb sounds a note of warning for the New Urban Agenda, which is to be presented at next month's Habitat II conference, arguing that the experience of the Arab world shows that decentralization can be a cover for a further increase of power at the top of government.

الاستثمار الفلسطيني في القدس Abd El Raouf Arnaout covers the various types of investment taking place in Jerusalem, and questions the effects they are having on the city.

New Texts Out Now: Farah Al-Nakib, Kuwait Transformed: A History of Oil and Urban Life al-Nakib discusses the development of this book, which covers the radical urban and social transformations Kuwait has undergone.

Urban Conflicts and Multiple War Narratives: The Case of Aleppo Giovanni Pagani explores the development of contradictory rhetorics surrounding the war around Aleppo, attempting to understand how particular regions the city arrived at the loyalty they now hold.

New Texts Out Now: Nelida Fuccaro, Violence and the City in the Modern Middle East Jadaliyya's interview with Nelida Fuccaro highlights the themes of this edited collection, including the importance of the 'violent event' and the specifically urban nature of the Arab Uprisings.

New Texts Out Now: Deen Sharp and Claire Panetta, Beyond the Square: Urbanism and the Arab Uprisings Jadaliyya interviews Sharp and Panetta on their new collection, which explores the crucial role of urban space in the Arab Uprisings.

Critical Readings in Political Economy: De-development Max Ajl reviews Sara Roy's The Gaza Strip: The Political Economy of De-Development, with a focus on the work's theoretical grounding and the lessons the case of Gaza can provide about the concept of 'development'.

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