[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.]
My House in Cairo. Peter Hessler from the New Yorker recounts his time in politically unstable Egypt through stories about his house and neighborhood in Cairo.
Istanbul and the AKP: Springboard, Showcase and Ali Baba’s Cave. The election of Ekrem İmamoğlu, candidate of the Republican People's Party (CHP) in Istanbul City Hall was finally canceled, following incredible pressure from power. It will take place again on 23 June and for economic, political, and symbolic reasons, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan decided that he could not afford to lose this "Ali Baba cave."
Etude - l’inclusion des personnes lGBTQI+ dans la ville. Comment promouvoir le vivre-ensemble à l’échelle locale ? [French]. In order to highlight the good practices of local governance favoring the inclusion of LGBTQI + people in the city, the Urban School of Sciences Po and the AIMF, with the support of the European Union, present a study which leans on the portrait of four cities: Beirut, Phnom Penh, Ouagadougou, and Mexico City.
Housing and Planning Issues
تحرير الاراضي في بنت جبيل: ملايين الدولارات إلى جيوب المسّـاحين! [Arabic] Al-Akhbar reports on the irregularities in the compulsory real estate survey of the city of Bint Jbeil (Lebanon) pointing to violations on public and private property.
عيتاني يؤكد تغيُر المخطط ويعترف بضرر المشروع.. أهالي عين المريسة وبيروت مدينتي يرفضون "تبليط البحر" [Arabic]. The mayor of Beirut, Jamal Itani, confirmed to the "Legal Agenda" that the "Development of the Beirut Sea Corniche" project has changed completely following the observations of the residents of Ain al-Mreiseh and environmental experts who participated in a debate organized by the municipality to discuss the project.
Nouvelles infractions sur la plage publique de Ramlet el-Baïda [French] Lebanese francophone daily, L’Orient Le Jour reports on a new series of violations recorded on Beirut’s Ramlet al-Baida, public beach.
Backlash against Beirut beach blitz. Beirut Governor Ziad Chebib is facing backlash over a decision to destroy unlicensed, temporary structures used by locals and NGOs on the Ramlet al-Baida beach while being accused of turning a blind eye to larger encroachments on the capital’s coast.
Trading Long-Term Development of Lebanon’s Built Environment for Shortsighted Gains. Since Lebanon’s cabinet received a vote of confidence on 15 February 2019, its focus has remained primarily on the budget deficit. Under the banner of “austerity,” decisionmakers have sought ways to cut spending, often by digging into the salaries of underprivileged social groups. Concurrently, the challenge of accumulating revenues for empty public coffers has shifted attention toward building violations, specifically concerning structures which break zoning and urban laws (e.g., building taller and/or larger than allowed) or structures illegally situated in the maritime public domain. Imposing fines on owners of these structures is seen as a potentially important source of public revenue.
Oman Has a Strategic Port to Avoid the Ormuz Straits. Duqm, once a modest fishing harbor located on the Arabian Sea is about to become an economic megalopolis—a mammoth project, initiated by the Sultanate of Oman but taken over by the great powers. On 13 March 2019 the United States signed an agreement to make it easier for their warships to access the harbor, but China may well turn out to be a major player in the Sultan’s conception, meant to revitalize and diversify Oman’s economy.
Métro du Caire: bisbille entre Sissi et les fleurons français du BTP [French]. The flagship site of the subway of the Egyptian capital is partly at a standstill. In question, a hidden conflict between the regime and French companies.
Prochaine relocalisation de Souk el-Ahad [French]. Established for twenty-six years near the Beirut River in Sin al-Fil, Souk al-Ahad is to be relocated soon. This is the end of a dispute that has lasted for more than ten years between the two operators of this week-end flea market and the municipality of Sin al-Fil to whom the land belongs, but which had no control over these places, where all kinds of products were sold and which attract a large crowd every weekend.
Construire trois millions de logements en Algérie (1999-2018) [French]. In half a century, the population of Algerian cities has increased six-fold. Breaking with three decades of hesitation and clientelist relations, the authorities embarked on a bold construction policy from the 2000s. Housing remains a rare, expensive and uncomfortable property, and the methods used by the brutal public authorities.
بلدية الحدت متمسكة بقرارها بقوة "التفّهم" السياسي [Arabic]. This article from the Lebanese daily al-Nahar sheds the light on the Hadath municipality and its unwillingness to sell or rent out real estate to people from a different sect.
War, Conflict, Displacement, and Urban Protests
Australian, Canadian firms pull out of Israeli settler railway. “The Electronic Intifada can exclusively reveal that Canadian engineering giant Bombardier has pulled out of a bid to expand and operate an Israeli tramway linking settlements in the occupied West Bank.”
Basra’s Political Marketplace: Understanding Government Failure after the Protests. To date, the policy discussion on Basra has revolved around whether or not the newly appointed central government under Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi’s leadership can deliver basic services to a population angered over many years of stalled, failed infrastructure projects. Comparatively little attention has been paid to the impact of Basra’s unique local political dynamics on the challenge of service provision and reconstruction. In what follows it is argued that the failure of reconstruction is a product of this fraught, extractive political marketplace.
Precarious revolution: labour and neoliberal securitisation in Egypt. The article draws on precarious workers’ engagement with the Egyptian revolution between 2011 and 2013. Despite their radical moves—reclaiming land previously appropriated by the state and staging various neighborhood protests—the workers in this ethnography refused to associate with the revolution.
A Tunis, les chiffonniers sortent de l’ombre [French]. In Ettadhamen, a popular suburb of the Tunisian capital, the waste collectors' corporation is organizing to defend its rights.
Raqqa is in ruins like a modern Dresden. This is not 'precision bombing'. In her opinion piece for the Guardian, Kate Allen asks, “Thousands of Syrians are dead and their city devastated. How dare the US, UK, and French militaries speak of ‘surgical strikes’?”
Maintaining a Jewish majority: Jerusalem Municipality to demolish entire Palestinian neighborhood, leaving 500 people without a roof over their heads. The Jerusalem Municipality issued demolition orders for all the neighborhood homes so all the families there are facing the threat of expulsion. In late April, the city already demolished two of the houses and displaced two of the families.
Why Syria's territorial divisions complicate reconstruction. Russia’s efforts towards the reconstruction of Syria are hindered by inherent challenges in the territorial fragmentation of the country.
How a small Turkish city successfully absorbed half a million migrants. Gaziantep has grown by thirty percent due to newcomers fleeing the crisis across the border in Syria, but remains a model of tolerance and pragmatism.
Housing, displacement and the elderly: intersectional spatial narratives from Tareek el Jdeede, Beirut. This short contribution stems from a current research partnership between Public Works Studio and DPU in the remit of the RELIEF Centre Project to study the effects of real estate policy and the financialization of housing markets, which have resulted in the eviction and displacement of the most vulnerable social groups in Beirut turning the capital city into an exclusive, unjust, and vulnerable place.
Culture and Urban Heritage
Shrines, palaces, malls and red buses: A whistle-stop tour of Iraq. Iraq's tourist industry is largely geared towards religious pilgrims. Robert Tollast from the Middle-East Eye decided to go on a seven-day tour of the country.
A Jewish Shrine inside a Mosque: The History of Ezekiel’s Tomb in Iraq. “Al-Kifl is an ordinary Iraqi town, except for one thing: the synagogue that gives the place its identity. Down the narrow lane of al-Kifl’s bazaar, through a small passageway whose overhang is covered in geometric turquoise tile work, sits the shrine of the Biblical Prophet Ezekiel.”
Le tourisme 2.0 en Iran : déconstruire les clichés et les peurs [French] Iran fascinates, intrigues, awakens curiosity and fantasies. Millennial culture, legendary hospitality, incredible landscapes, the country has more than one asset. Yet, travelers are still few to discover it. To attract them, Iranians have decided to deconstruct fears and clichés.
The SoHo of Beirut: why Karantina is now attracting designers, artists and DJs. “Karantina has a long history as a neighborhood designed for and populated by outsiders–first migrants and refugees and later workers in industries kept out of sight and mind on the fringes of the city. Now it is being enfolded into the fabric of Beirut. In the past few years, it has become a magnet for nightclub owners and creative entrepreneurs seeking alternatives to a city that has priced them out of the market.”
Memory And The Everyday In Homs, Syria. Ammar Azzouz architect at ARUP. Ph.D. University of Bath, and a former visiting scholar at the University of Cambridge and author of A tale of a Syrian city at war: Destruction, resilience, and memory in Homs interviewed by Debbie Humphry.
Deir Ezzor’s streets after the war: What do we do with all these memories? Writing for Raseef22, Zeina Shahla recounts the memories left from the city’s destroyed landmarks.
L’Arabie au-delà des mythes [French]. While consulates have texts in European languages already known about the history of the Arabian Peninsula, the book of Louis Blin, Consul General in Jeddah (2012-2015) presents the originality of offering readers a discovery of Arabia through literary texts. The author offers 208 writings composed by seventy-seven visitors from Jeddah. They are happy with their travel memories, among which the story of this terra incognita is traced through thrilling documents teeming with details.
How Egypt’s water feeds the Gulf. This story by Nada Arafat and Saker El Nour about the acquisition of Egypt’s natural resources to secure Gulf food.
Growing Link between Lebanon’s Cancer Surge and EU Abetted Corruption. Martin Jay reports on Lebanon’s infamous corruption that is swallowing up EU cash for environmental projects which scientists are now calling a “disaster” for health.
بعد المنطقة الصناعية: المتين بلا غابة ولا ينابيع! [Arabic]. Al-Akhbar reports on the fears of Mtein’s (Lebanon) residents towards the project of the industrial zone to be built in their town will be completed on the entire "Horsh al-Haya" which is classified as a nature reserve.
انتحار جماعي للمدينة: الهواء الملوث يغطي 76% من بيروت [Arabic]. In this piece, al-Akhbar sheds the light on the worsening air pollution issues in Beirut.
The gardens of Damascus: Can Syrians reconnect with nature? Alex Ray reports on how the Syrian capital's green spaces symbolize how many are trying to revitalize the environment amid the blood of war.
New urban forest planted to save Beirut's river. Sam Brennan for al-Monitor reports on the local and international civil groups coming together in Lebanon’s capital to create an urban forest as part of a larger project to restore the heavily polluted Beirut river.
Arab Sustainable Urbanism: Worlding Strategies, Local Struggles. Despite strong warnings, Arab cities seem reluctant to embark in ambitious schemes addressing sustainability issues. The article draws on a literature review to highlight two arguments. Firstly state-led governance prioritizes in most urban settings social stability and claims to modern and resource-consuming comfort. It tends to favor private interests, which conceives sustainability as a business and marginalizes local authorities and even more, civic movements including green parties and associations. Secondly, the dominant framings of sustainability tend to focus on global transitions (GHG emissions and low carbon energy), hence overlooking local claims for sustainability that do not fit in the global environmental narratives, thus dismissing it. Nonetheless, these issues represent key motivations for the local definition of a sustainable urban future.
The Ababda tribe: Scattered by climate change and development initiatives. This article is part of a joint publishing project under the umbrella of an independent media network in the Arab world that brings together Nawaat, Al-Jumhuriya, Assafir Al-Arabi, Mada Masr, Babelmed, Mashallah News, 7iber and Orient XXI. It attempts to shed light on the phenomenon of migration, but not by focusing on existing definitions, numbers, and established facts. The journalists involved in the project have been following migration from different angles, considering the multiple routes and diverse motivations and causes behind the phenomenon; from travel preparations and detailed journeys to processes of integration and social and economic conditions in host countries.
Mahdia : Mobilisation citoyenne à Rejiche contre la pollution marine par l’ONAS [French]. The beach was rusty, the water was black, the smell was very strong. Still, they kept saying that everything is fine. "Go ahead, prove it," responded the regional director of ONAS when the inhabitants of Réjiche (Mahdia) denounced the marine pollution caused by the wastewater treatment plant of the town for nearly twenty years. This month of June 2019, the confrontation between citizens supported by the municipality and the National Office of Sanitation has reached its climax. It took an ecological disaster and unprecedented police violence so that the citizens of Réjiche finally get agreements. Back on a mobilization that does not lose its breath.
Media Roundup: CEDEJ – Revue de Presse, Ville – Mars/Avril 2019 [French]. CEDEJ’s March and April edition of their bimonthly Cities Media Roundup.
Report: La mise en image du rebut. Matières, corp(u)s et pratiques autour des déchets [French]. Extracted from the traveling exhibition "La mise en image du rebut : matières, corp(us) et pratiques autour des déchets," these photographs result from a reflection on the status of images in research work on waste. This work was put in place by the research network of the Sociétés urbaines et déchets (SUD), which uses various approaches and fields to analyze social, cultural, political, economic and social and special processes that unfold around waste management and affects these workers.
Report: Dynamiques marchandes et nouvelles centralités dans une ville portuaire algérienne : Skikda [French]. The question of redefining urban centralities and the practices of city dwellers is relevant in the context of Algerian and Maghreb cities more widely. In Algeria, numerous publications and theses have shown the emergence of new forms and functions of space, even affecting residential neighborhoods, as a result of the redistribution of oil rents and the rise of the import trade. Based on empirical research in a port city in Algeria, this article examines how the process of commercial expansion affects the system of centrality, as well as the spatial practices and representations of inhabitants. It highlights the strategies of private economic and decision-making actors in this process, as well as the relationship that inhabitants develop with these areas. This research shows that the recent commercial dynamics of initially residential neighborhoods have given rise to new market forms, reorganizing the structure of centrality and renewing the everyday life of the inhabitants.
Report: Remunicipalisation of Local Energy Provision: The Role of Cities and Bottom-up Initiatives. On 29 March 2019 CIDOB held a roundtable on “Local Energy Supplies and Recommunalisation of Utility Providers” to discuss the different ways actors are transforming the traditional schemes of local energy provision. Bringing together practitioners, civil society actors and academics made it possible to shed light on practical cases in European cities such as Hamburg, Berlin, and Barcelona, as well as cases in the Global South such as Hebron in Palestine and Montevideo in Uruguay. This policy brief is a compilation of the opportunities and existing challenges that surround processes of remunicipalisation.
This media roundup has been compiled by Christophe Maroun with the input of Jadaliyya Cities Editors.