[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 email@example.com, mentioning “Roundup” in the subject line. We also welcome your submissions to the Cities Page: please check here.]
Revanchism entrenched: the case of Cairo’s middle-class street food vendors. In her working paper, Nada Sallam argues that street vending has historically been associated with Cairo's urban poor; viewed primarily as an impediment to modernization and subjected to harassment and displacement at the hands of the state. More recently, however, the city has witnessed the emergence of many middle-class street food vendors, who instead have been met with significant public encouragement and supportive state rhetoric and policies.
En Afrique, des lignes de bus cartographiées par les usagers [French]. In Accra (Ghana), Cairo (Egypt), or Nairobi (Kenya), free tools allow citizens to geolocate the transport lines they use, and thus jointly develop the maps that are lacking.
Élections municipales en Turquie. Un scrutin périlleux pour Erdoğan [French]. The Turkish municipal elections to be held on 31 March could have an effect on the national policy of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Two blocks clash, as in the previous parliamentary elections, with the pro-Kurdish party HDP as possible referee in several cities. Ahmet Insel, professor emeritus at Galatasaray University in Istanbul, currently in France, analyzes these elections for Orient XXI.
La timide renaissance du vieux Bagdad [French]. The Iraqi capital is experiencing a timid rebirth, visible in al-Moutanabbi street and its surroundings. However, the renewal of this emblematic place masks a gradual deterioration of the architectural heritage of the old city that may disappear if nothing is done to preserve it sustainably.
Beirut Madinati and the Prospects of Urban Citizenship. Written by Mona Fawaz, an organizer of the Beirut Madinati campaign that launched in 2016, this report shows how the movement pioneered new avenues for activism by proving the city’s potential as a launchpad for political mobilization.
Inde. Quand le Golfe ne fait plus rêver. Les nouvelles aspirations des jeunes et des femmes [French]. As a labor exporter to the Arabian Peninsula since the early 1970s, the Indian state of Kerala is facing a major turning point in its history, with dwindling departures to the Gulf. Yet, the local economy continues to live off the income from emigration.
Housing and Planning Issues
Book argues sectarianism key player in Lebanese urban development. “In her new book, “For the War Yet to Come,” presented during an event Thursday at the American University of Beirut, [Hiba Abou Akar] the assistant professor of urban planning at Columbia University argues such spaces have become “post-conflict” battlegrounds for political and religious groups seeking to gain control of what they see as potential future frontiers.”
Quelle place pour les femmes dans l'aménagement des villes marocaines? [French]. “The rate of governance of cities by women does not exceed 12%, only 21 women are in command of communes, mostly rural, out of a total of 1,538, and no large city is managed by a woman. With regard to the legislature, only 10 out of a total of 81 women MPs were elected to local constituencies in 2016.”
Au Mipim, à Cannes, l’Egypte cherche des fonds pour ses villes nouvelles [French]. Grégoire Allix reports on Egypt, which has launched several major projects, and its presence for the first time at the international market of real estate professionals to meet and seduce investors.
La Smart City de Doha passe à la vitesse supérieure [French]. The German giant Siemens, already well established in the small emirate of Qatar, has announced its desire to make Doha one of the most advanced smart cities on the globe.
Falsifying Property Ownership in El Mina, Lebanon (Part I). Nizar Saghieh explains how the case of the fake property in al-Mina, North Governorate, Lebanon, is one of the best examples of encroachment on maritime public properties or, rather, their abandonment.
Turkish Airlines is switching to a new Istanbul airport – all in 45 hours. In Erdoğan’s latest high-stakes megaproject, ten thousand pieces of equipment will be relocated in a single weekend.
Transforming Riyadh: A New Urban Paradigm? Yasser Elsheshtawy argues that through a series of megaprojects aimed at beautifying the city, Riyadh has the potential to offer a unique model of urbanity that can be a counterpoint to the more speculative trends pervasive in the region.
« Sissi City », un refuge « contre les citoyens » égyptiens ? [French]. “At the same time, a political consideration seems to underpin this decision to build an epicenter of power ex nihilo. This future capital, which some call "Sissi City", is the political and symbolic project of the Egyptian head of state.”
War, Conflict, and Urban Protests
Civil Society Actors’ Downhill Struggle: Preserving the Lebanese Coast. Writing for the Issam Fares Institute Op-Ed, Alexi Touma explores the difficult task that Lebanese activists face when it comes to protecting their coast. He puts an emphasis the importance of unity in forming a common strategy rather than competing strategies and on the need to adopt a long-term mindset rather than merely reacting to violations as they happen.
Après huit ans de guerre, l’impossible reconstruction de la Syrie [French]. Benjamin Barthe reports for Le Monde on the strenuous reconstruction of battle-ridden Syria. After eight years of a conflict that has cut the country by half of its population, Bashar al-Assad remains in power. In a context of disenchantment from his own side, it is now an economic war he must wage.
Strategic destruction to make way for exclusive reconstruction in post-war Syria. Andrea Olea argues that the Syrian regime has used the war as an urban planning tool, allowing it to design a country tailormade for the victors: the Bashar al-Assad regime and its cronies.
Syria’s Land-Looting Campaign for Reconstruction. Mansour Omari describes how a series of laws implemented by the Syrian government are used to confiscate land and facilitate the plans of Russia, Iran, China and gulf investors and their role to play in Syria’s reconstruction.
Culture and Urban Heritage
(Re)faire tous les Beyrouth à pied avec Dinah Diwan [French]. In Wandering City, Dinah Diwan unveils her free and vibrant interpretation of some topographic plans of the Lebanese capital at the Janine Rubeiz gallery.
BeMA : le dernier trait [French]. In this opinion piece written for the Lebanese francophone daily, L’Orient Le Jour, Hala Wardé dissects the controversial decision of the Beirut Museum of Art (BeMA) to retain another architect for the realization of the project, in defiance of the result of the international competition which her agency won.
Cairo Tramways Company. As part of “La fabrique du Caire moderne”, a pilot project about urban development, architecture, Euro-Mediterranean entanglements and global investment in Cairo in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, this article investigates Cairo as a connected space of capitalism and urban revolt through its Tramway Company.
Examining the Suspended Present of Beirut’s Cultural Geography. Judith Naeff argues that Beirut exists in a prolonged state of “protracted ‘presentness’ with limited access to past and future”—specifically, a prolonged state of precarity.
Cities, Biocapacity, and Trade: The Case of Ma’rib. Karim Elgendy argues that in addition to the need for environmental rationale to exist where they do, Human settlements depended to a large extent on their integration into an efficient trade network in order to become thriving cities. He gives the regional example of the rise and fall of the city of Ma’rib, which is today a settlement of less than twenty thousand people just seventy-five miles east of the Yemeni capital Sana’a, but for almost a millennium, was one of the region’s greatest cities.
Des images aériennes déclassifiées prises par des avions-espions U2 dans les années 1950 ouvrent une nouvelle fenêtre pour l'étude du Proche-Orient [French]. Archaeologists have used declassified images captured by U2 spy planes in the 1950s to locate and study sites of historical interest that have been covered or destroyed.
Judith Naeff, Precarious Imaginaries of Beirut: A City’s Suspended Now. Jadaliyya interviews Judith Naeff to know more about her book and other projects she is currently working on.
Water-for-electricity: the Lebanese-Jordanian solution. Cherine Husseini reports on a meeting between the Jordanian king and Lebanon’s speaker of parliament where a potential deal involving the exchange of electricity and water resources was discussed.
Green Incubators: UAE Rethinks Sustainability with 'Sustainable Cities'. “In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), long plighted by extreme climate conditions and vast resource consumption, there is a new type of city cropping up amidst the sand dunes. These meticulously–and expensively–designed “sustainable cities” are touted as models for green development: examples of how, in an inhospitable environment, humans can live with minimal impact on the earth.”
Flooding results in road closures, complaints and rescues on Thursday. Heavy rainfall led to flooding, rescues, fears of dams overflowing and complaints from businesses on Thursday as “unprecedented” rainfall led to soil erosion in the capital’s Jabal al-Joufeh area and manhole closures on Quraish Street in downtown Amman.
Roland Riachi : « Le code de l’eau consacre la prévalence des intérêts particuliers sur le bien commun » (Lebanon) [French]. The water code, passed last May, brings together in one document all the rules and principles for integrated water management in Lebanon. But for Roland Riachi, assistant professor at the American University of Beirut and author of a thesis on sustainable management of water resources in Lebanon, this text is not a panacea. It does not guarantee a right of access to water at all.
Sustainable Urbanization? It is at the city level that sustainability policies need to be defined and solutions implemented. Over the past decade, many Gulf Cooperation Council governments have actively promoted urban environmental projects. Their uneven results reveal objective limits and contradictory trends.
A World Built on Sand and Oil: When natural resources become essential commodities. “The inexorable proliferation of oil and sand on the global circuits of trade tells us about the shape-shifting ways of production, colonial forms of exploitation, and our reckless wrecking of the global environmental commons. It is about how the commodification of prosaic everyday things affects lives here, now, and half a world away.”
Property Law no.10 and its implications on Syrian cities. In this video Syrbanism explains the new Property Law No.10 in Syria and its consequences on the reconstruction of Syrian cities.
Open Meeting "Distressed luxury of infinite spaces: the capital of New Egypt". You can now listen to the full talk that AUC Press author and urban development expert David Sims gave last month at AUC Tahrir, on Egypt's new capital and urban expansion policies, an event organized by Alternative Policy Solution.
Syrian Architect Marwa Al-Sabouni Proposes Designs to Restore Social Cohesion After the War. “Born in Homs, Syria, the architect and urban thinker has been living and working in the war-devastated city, analyzing the modern architectural and town planning conventions that contribute to the fragmentation of society and conflict, and developing alternative solutions for the reconstruction of destroyed neighborhoods.”
Syrian Cities Damage Atlas—Eight-year Anniversary of the Syrian Civil War: Thematic Assessment of Satellite Identified Damage. REACH produced a Damage Atlas of Syrian Cities, using satellite-imagery analysis conducted by its partner: United Nations Institute for Training and Research - Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNITAR-UNOSAT).
Reconstruction as Violence: The Case of Aleppo. Friday 10 May & Saturday 11 May 2019. A two-day symposium organized by Nasser Rabbat, Aga Khan Professor, and Deen Sharp, AKPIA@MIT Post-Doctoral Fellow. Sponsored by the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This symposium seeks to address the following questions: How do violence and conflict not only destroy but constitute, design, and organize the built environments and infrastructure? How do we understand the urbanization of warfare in relation to urban theory and reconstruction practices? Finally, participants will be asked to consider the recent warfare in the Middle East, with a special focus on Aleppo, in relation to the built environment and the extent to which reconstruction processes can be weaponized.
Urban Resislience: The Case of the MENA Region. This policy brief by Jamal Saghir “argues that inclusive and sustainable growth is unattainable without better managed cities. Unprecedented urbanization trends would continue to transform our cities into unique hubs for services and housings, and to fulfil the promise of social inclusion and better social and economic opportunities for all citizen. However, if not properly managed and planned, these same trends can put a severe strain on urban, water, waste, housing, energy unleashing long-term stresses on their basic components and service delivery to the citizens and exposing their weaknesses, particularly during disruptive impacts of multiple internal and external shocks when they occur.”
En images: Urbex au Liban, l’exploration urbaine des vestiges de la guerre civile [French]. In Lebanon, the urban exploration enthusiasts (urbex) allow us to imagine the golden age of the country by starting to discover places steeped in history often abandoned by their owners during the war.
Exposition: « C’est Beyrouth! » [French]. The Institute of Islamic Cultures in Paris presents a collective exhibition of photographers and videographers on Beirut, which aims to unveil the different facets of the city by avoiding clichés and proposing different representations of those we usually see. Until 28 July.
This media roundup has been compiled by Christophe Maroun with the help of Jadaliyya Cities Editors.