[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.]
تاريخ من «مكافحة البسطات»: من يتعلم الدرس؟ [Arabic]. In this article, Ahmad Abou Khalil, traces the history of the fight against informal buses of Jordan’s capital, Amman.
Les marchés populaires reprennent vie dans la Békaa [French]. The popular souk of Taalabaya, organized every Tuesday, has been disused in recent years. But with the economic crisis which has greatly reduced the purchasing power of the residents of the Bekaa, like the rest of the Lebanese, it has again started to attract buyers, who have come to find bargain prices.
Gentrification and grassroots resistance in Amman's historic Jabal al-Weibdeh district. Residents, shop owners, and activists are organising themselves to prevent multinational corporations from taking over one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Jordan's capital.
المتعة ممنوعة على الفقراء... "سرقة" شاطئ مدينة صور [Arabic]. “Fun is forbidden for the poor,” this article explored how the beach of the South Lebanon’s city of Tire was “stolen.”
Housing and Planning Issues
بلديات لبنان نحو الاقفال [Arabic]. This article on the Lebanese daily al-Akhbar states that most municipalities have set next June as the deadline to announce their bankruptcy. The failure of the Ministries of Interior and Finance to give the municipalities their dues for 2018 and 2019 from the independent municipal fund being the main reason.
How Ramallah is Resolving Electricity Crisis. Under the patronage of Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, the Jerusalem District Electricity Company (JDECO) signed 29 December with eight banks operating in the Palestinian territories a memorandum of understanding under which the banks shall buy JDECO’s entire debt to the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC), which amounts to 670 million shekels (191.4 million dollars).
Decentralisation: The Search for New Development Solutions in the Arab World’s Peripheries. Since the 1980s, decentralization has been championed as a driver to develop marginalized peripheries in Arab countries. In practice, many decentralization efforts ended up as mere transfers of authority from a central state to an under-resourced and over-burdened local government, with limited positive effects to citizens. This article explores whether a renewed push for decentralization in Tunisia can finally address the demands for inclusion and development. It argues that in order to succeed, central state institutions need to fundamentally reform the way they function.
Urban Rights and Local Politics in Egypt: The Case of the Maspero Triangle. In this paper, Dina Wahba examines the demolition of Maspero neighbourhood that coincided with the re-election of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in early 2018. She investigates state-society relations and the shifts throughout those moments by looking at how one neighbourhood negotiated their survival that culminated in their removal. Much like the wider socio-political context in Egypt and the story of the Egyptian revolution itself, Maspero is a story of a negotiated failure.
The Road to Mobility Justice Is Not Paved by Technocrats. Jad Baaklini writes about the fight for mobility justice in Lebanon and how it appears much more intertwined with the sectarian political system than it first appears.
Les défis de l’urbanisme au Moyen-Orient [French]. Urban planning has always played an important role in shaping the civic culture of a place. A country's efforts to develop public spaces that allow its people to meet collectively speak volumes about its political and social system. In Lebanon, it is also the concern of Mona Fawaz, researcher and associate professor of urban and urban studies at the American University of Beirut, who advocates for more inclusive cities.
Erdoğan’s ‘crazy project': new Istanbul canal to link Black and Marmara Seas. Kanal İstanbul would be a forty-five-kilometer (twenty-eight-mile) shipping canal joining the Black Sea to the Marmara, running parallel to the Bosphorus strait, which already cuts through the centre of Istanbul. The government says the canal is needed to reduce water traffic through the city.
عن الحلقة الأضعف في معادلة بيع عقارات الملكية المشترك [Arabic]. This article tackles the problems in selling joint properties in Beirut.
انهيار المبنى السكني في الميناء يستدعي ثورة على التنظيم المدني [Arabic]. “The collapse of the Fawwal building in Mina, Tripoli on its residents and killing Abd al-Rahman Kakheya (21 years old) and his sister Rama (18 years old), is additional testimony and proof of what we know and are well aware of: that the low-income population are increasingly living in fragile and risky conditions.”
Neighborhoods as Propertied Landscapes: Lessons from Beirut’s Reconstructions. Part of the TRAFO series “Reconstructing Neighborhoods of War.” Mona Fawaz and Nada Moumtaz’s presentation dwelled on the postwar reconstruction of the neighborhood of Haret Hreik (South Beirut) in the post-2006 Israeli war in Lebanon and drew parallels with the postwar reconstruction of Beirut’s historic core in the aftermath of the Lebanese Civil War.
St. Georges Hotel wins license to rebuild after decades of Solidere struggle. The Beirut municipality granted the owner of the famous St. Georges Hotel a license to renovate the damaged landmark after decades of dispute with Solidere.
Public Space in Kuwait: From User Behaviour to Policy-making - Developing a Method for the Analysis of Public Space in Kuwait’s Residential Neighbourhoods. In this article, Alexandra Gomes and Dr Asseel al-Ragam address the need for significant change in planning urban public space that would influence healthier individual behaviour and environmentally friendly mobility patterns in Kuwait.
War, Conflict, Displacement, and Urban Protests
Tripoli, “The Bride of The Revolution”. Though it gets less media coverage than its Beirut counterpart, the popular uprising against the governing regime and corruption that has pervaded the north Lebanese capital for more than two months shows no sign of running out of steam. This social discontent is rooted in the endemic poverty endured by the region, which is neglected by public authorities and plagued by a sectarian and clientelistic political system—the elimination of which is at the heart of the movement’s demands.
How Aid Groups Map Refugee Camps That Officially Don't Exist. Workers from Switzerland-based Medair use clipboards, cell phones, and GIS software to locate informal settlements of Syrian refugees across Lebanon.
The Lateral Conflict Of Urban Planning In Damascus. With no fund in the horizon for large-scale reconstruction in Syria due to the absence of any political deal, the Syrian government has been designing and implementing neoliberal reconstruction policies that are socially unjust, economically exclusive, and politically driven. The focus of this paper is on the latest urban policies that have been set regarding reconstruction since 2011, such as Decree 66/2012 and Law 10/2018. It also looks at the extent these legislations are negatively affecting Syrian citizens and cities. The paper explores the impact of the current reconstruction policies on the Syrian citizens starting from removing people from their home without adequately compensate them, dispossessing people of property rights, advancing the agenda of external “developers” and in many other ways showcasing the mentality of leveraging urban reconstruction as a powerful political tool in the conflict.
The Regime Is Shifting the Burden of Early Recovery to Residents. Despite the regime’s ability to re-establish its control over the majority of Syria’s territories, it is still struggling to restore crucial state functions inside them. The large scale of physical and financial destruction has significantly impacted the ability of the state to provide services. The lack of financial resources, among other reasons, has shaped the state’s decision to shift the burden of service provision in recaptured areas to inhabitants themselves.
Palestine and the Oppression of the Map. This policy brief examines the varied ways that Palestinians have been excluded from maps of their own land, from the start of the British Mandate to the present day. It argues that poorly mapped localities alter the way that Palestinians understand space and alienate them from their homeland. It also explores alternative, subversive maps as ways of recognizing the past, appraising the present, and imagining the future. It concludes that maps, though intricately linked to both British and Israeli colonialism, and consistently used as vehicles of erasure, can be reclaimed as expressions of geographic imagination and a means of resistance.
No Damascus Like Home. In this article, the author explains how the scale and pace of today’s changes in Damascus feel unprecedented and irreversible, forcing Damascenes to adapt constantly even as they cling to whatever aspects of our city provide an element of continuity.
رغم الكورونا.. فقراء طرابلس وثوّارها يعودون إلى الساحات [Arabic]. Despite the coronavirus ... the poor of Tripoli and its revolutionaries return to the squares.
Hope Turns to Doubt, Then Gunfire, as Saudi Megacity Emerges. “When Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveiled plans for Neom, a futuristic megacity on the Red Sea coast, residents rejoiced. Jobs and investment would surely accompany the $500 billion development at the center of the young leader’s plan to transform his conservative kingdom. But as Neom pushed forward with plans to resettle thousands of people to make way for the project, optimism gave way to uncertainty, then resistance.”
Culture and Urban Heritage
Chaalan, formation et mutations d’un quartier de Damas 1920-2010 [French]. Chaalan, a cosmopolitan district and a space of social and architectural modernity from its inception, occupies a special place in the general development of the Syrian capital. This work, the result of a collective and multidisciplinary research carried out mainly between 2005 and 2010 by a Franco-Syrian team, proposes to reconstruct the history of this "piece of town" by going back in the memory of its founding families and some of its oldest inhabitants.
Villes méditerranéennes / edito [French]. This dossier focuses on the open spaces of Mediterranean cities. It illustrates the contrasting representations of these spaces, their planning challenges and the diversity of roles they can play in the transformation of metropolises. It consists of a series of case studies in France (Marseille, Montpellier), Italy (Rome), Morocco (Rabat), Turkey (Istanbul), Lebanon (Beirut), and Greece (Athens).
Villes méditerranéennes / entretien : espaces publics, espaces ouverts ? Pratiques festives, régulations et normativité dans un beyrouth post-conflit [French]. “Thinking of public space through the nightlife of Beirut implies having in mind a plural meaning of the concept. Its association with open, accessible places legally belonging to the public domain shows that festive practices allow an appropriation of these spaces (the street, the sidewalk) via a series of encroachments. Conversely, the legally private nature of nightlife establishments allows actors to define their own access rules and make these places more open than certain developed urban spaces.”
Villes méditerranéennes / entre fabrique d’espace public et émergence de l’individu métropolitain, la transformation du quai de rabat (Maroc) [French]. The article is interested in a particular type of public space on a metropolitan scale as an example of open space (other than agricultural or natural) to be considered as a support for social interaction to meet the challenges of sociability, urbanity, and interactions. In our case, the study will focus on the quay of Rabat resulting from the Bouregreg valley development project. Our hypothesis is that the public space is coproduced by the practices of its users, far beyond the standards and logics of the developer.
Reclaiming Public Space and Its Role in Producing the Revolution. Writing for the Legal Agenda, Cynthia Bou Aoun tells the importance of reclaiming public space during the Lebanese revolution. “Public spaces have emerged not only as a physical and spatial entity in which the events occur but also as a key political component in the production, continuation, and fueling of the revolution.”
Algeria’s Turmoil Adds New Obstacle to Saving the Historic Casbah. Much of the capital is boiling over with stifled anger at twenty years of police-state repression. But the Casbah, in the heart of Algiers, is strangely quiet, the ancient stone alleys empty in the glare of the sun.
Post-conflict urban recovery of historic cities: a capacity building workshop for Aleppo. On 13–18 January the Urban Recovery Platform at the Beirut Urban Lab, conducted a capacity building workshop generously funded by the Barakat Trust in the United Kingdom and the Ford Foundation in the United States. The workshop focused on post-conflict urban recovery and took the city of Aleppo in Syria as its site of inquiry facing protracted displacement, massive physical destruction, and limited humanitarian aid.
Neom, le rêve hollywoodien de Mohammed Ben Salman pour l’Arabie saoudite [French]. The Saudi prince wants to build a huge, ultramodern city in his country by 2025. The design has been entrusted, in the greatest secrecy, to creators accustomed to working for the cinema.
Visualisation du Caire moderne dans le temps et dans l’espace [French]. Visualization of modern Cairo in time and space or when cartography and the semantic web meet history.
How an Abandoned Modernist Cinema Became a Revolutionary Symbol in Lebanon. The Beirut Egg is riddled with bullet holes and covered in graffiti. Protesters recently reclaimed it.
The Green Buffer Pavement of Amman. “Trees provide an added layer of both visual buffering and visual interest. The pavement, is de-pavement-ed in the process, and is rendered useless as a mobility element. It silently dis-invites any potential user from approaching, while still keeping up a pleasant façade. It presents however, a form of a silent, contemporary gesture of rejection of global norms, as well as appropriation of a tiny part of public sphere to suit the private needs of a conservative society.”
Covid-19 : Dérapage anti-décentralisation en Tunisie ? [French]. Despite their low material and human capacities as well as the lack of financial resources and other limited logistical capacities, the municipalities now play an important role in the fight against the coronavirus, because of their direct relationship with the citizen and their proximity to the ground.
Tripoli, une véritable bombe à retardement [French]. "In any case, we are going to die, if it is not coronavirus, it will be poverty. In the popular souks of the capital of North Lebanon, life goes on as if the pandemic did not exist.”
Covid and the camps. “Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have pulled out all the stops to prevent the virus’ spread in the camps, but ordinary people can only do so much without systematic, state-led support. The government treats Palestinians differently from Lebanese—as an afterthought if not a burden and a threat—although the virus itself knows no such boundaries. Thus, the fear that Lebanese and Palestinians share, of a COVID-19 outbreak that would devastate and spill out of the camps, is all the more likely without a unified and coherent response.”
Saudi futuristic city turns into a mirage in Covid-19 era. NEOM, a five hundred-billion-dollar fantasy world, was supposed to replace Dubai as the Hong Kong of the Middle East
Turkey finally releases epidemic figures: coronavirus epicenter in Istanbul. Turkey’s death toll from the COVID-19 outbreak has hit 356 as political sparring has broken out over rival assistance programs for the poor and the government’s efforts to keep the economy afloat.
البلديات والأحزاب تتسابق في استعراض فرق التعقيم: رش عشوائي يضرّ بالبشر والنّحل وليس بالكورونا [Arabic]. This article tackles how municipalities’ and parties’ random sterilization processes is harmful to humans and bees.
Gaza and the COVID-19 “Crisis”: Breaking the cycle of structural vulnerability first. Co-authored by Haim Yacobi, Michelle Pace, Ziad Abu Mustafa, and Manal Massalha this article is part of The Bartlett Development Planning Unit Post COVID-19 Urban Futures series.
À Jérusalem, des Palestiniens livrés à eux-mêmes [French]. The Shuafat refugee camp, rejected beyond the wall, is deprived of public services and without means in the face of the coronavirus.
De nets progrès enregistrés dans la lutte contre les rejets industriels dans le Litani [French]. This article goes over the progress that has been made in curbing the industrial pollution from which Lebanon’s Litani river has been suffering for decades.
مرج بسري في قلب الانتفاضة [Arabic]. The Legal Agenda’s latest issue is exclusively dedicated to tackling the issues surrounding the Bisri Dam. Several articles discuss the social, environmental, and economic aspects of the project as well as the protests and campaigns to stop it.
Ennahli : La montagne violée par l’immobilier [French]. Ariana, the city of roses, once known for its greenery and Hafsid gardens, is no longer what it used to be. After the revision of the Urban Development Plan (PAU) and the updating of the agricultural map, the green spaces around Ennahli Park have shrunk considerably, increasing the risk of flooding. And it is the property developers who benefit.
Les problèmes de la gestion des déchets et décentralisation dans les pays arabes : Revue de littérature [French]. The waste crises recorded in several developing countries such as Tunisia and Lebanon and more generally in Mediterranean countries such as Italy, have raised the debate on the political meanings of dysfunction of this public service. The waste management reforms, adopted in the context of the evolution of the concept of public policies, have been confronted with high challenges in developing countries, thus giving rise to a faulty and irregular service. The decentralization strongly conveyed by international donors as guarantor of the democratization of public action is causing great controversy in a global vision of uncertainty of ends.
فساد تنفيذ المشاريع وإهمالها يعطل أكبر ثروة مائية في لبنان: السيانوباكتيريا تعود مبكرا لقتل "القرعون" هذا العام [Arabic]. Corruption in project implementation and neglect disrupts the largest water wealth in Lebanon: the Qaroun dam in Lebanon is full of cyanobacteria.
Stopping the Bisri Dam: From Local to National Contestation. The Lebanese government has decided to go ahead with the construction of a controversial dam in the Bisri Valley ignoring criticism of the project’s impact on the environment. Examining water management and the politics behind dams in Lebanon, this paper sheds light on environmental activists’ local resistance to the project and outlines how it became interlinked with a wider national contestation seeking to renegotiate what the public good means in Lebanon.
Barrage de Bisri : coût réel et alternatives [French]. At a time when the controversial project seems to have been suspended, a study by civil society takes stock of the details of the budget for this work (1.2 billion dollars) and its adjoining infrastructure, as well as alternative sources of water supply for Beirut.
Clientelism and the Destruction of Ancient Water Systems in Saida. This article is drawn from a paper presented by Lyne Jabri at the Vulnerability, Infrastructure, and Displacement Symposium held at University College London on 12-13 June 2019, as part of the panel on “Networks and Circulations: Waste, Water, and Power.”
Infrastructure and the Vulnerability of Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon: The Story of Shatila Camp’s “Electricity Martyrs”. This article is drawn from a paper presented by Dana Abi Ghanem at the Vulnerability, Infrastructure, and Displacement Symposium held at University College London on 12-13 June 2019, as part of the panel on “Networks and Circulations: Waste, Water, and Power.”
Dreamland. This article is drawn from a paper presented by Fadi Mansour at the Vulnerability, Infrastructure, and Displacement Symposium held at University College London on 12-13 June 2019, as part of the panel on “Networks and Circulations: Waste, Water, and Power.”
Infrastructure, the Circulation of Matter, and Vulnerability: Response to Jabri, Mansour, and Abi Ghanem. This article is drawn from a discussion by Eric Verdeil at the Vulnerability, Infrastructure, and Displacement Symposium held at University College London on 12-13 June 2019, as part of the panel on “Networks and Circulations: Waste, Water, and Power.”
Cancer, Catharsis, and Corruption in Lebanon. “If there is one main feature of the unprecedented Lebanese protests that erupted on 17 October 2019, it is their cathartic nature. In Greek, katharsis means purging, purifying, or cleansing, in the religious, physical, and spiritual as well as symbolic and metaphorical sense. Since the day the popular revolt erupted, people across regions, backgrounds, classes, and religious groups have been voicing shared grievances against a toxic politics, a toxic ruling class, and a toxic environment that is now literally killing them.”
Episode 3 - Season 2 of Qanuni Podcast [Arabic]. Bisri Dam Project: Between the earthquake risks and the environmental massacre. Karim Nammour interviews Roland Nassour.
Book Review – ‘War and the City: Urban Geopolitics in Lebanon’ by Sara Fregonese. A book review written by Hannes Baumann, dissecting Sara Fregonese’s book on “on ‘urban geopolitics’ in Beirut.”
Vulnerability, Infrastructure, and Displacement: The Role of Public Services in Lebanese Spaces of Migration. This special collection of articles is based on an interdisciplinary symposium held at University College London in June 2019. The event concluded the project "Public Services and Vulnerability in the Lebanese Context of Large-Scale Displacement," a collaboration between researchers at University College London and the American University of Beirut, funded by the British Academy.
المنكوبين في طرابلس والميناء [Arabic]. Sixty-four years since the Abu Ali river flooded, and the people of the afflicted (al-Mankubin) area are still living in improvised and decrepit houses with no sanitation, water network, or job opportunities. The Legal Agenda provides a platform to the families of the afflicted, talking about themselves as an example of the conditions of life in the slums Tripoli and al-Mina.
Qanuni Podcast | البودكاست القانوني S02-E09: البيت والمدينة في زمن الكورونا [Arabic]. Episode 9 of the second season of the Qanuni Podcast. "The House and the City in the Time of Corona." Karim Namour interviews Dr. Mona Fawaz
This media roundup has been compiled by Christophe Maroun with the help of Jadaliyya Cities Editors.