The Fading Pulse of Place

Eastern Mediterranean cities in the neoliberal era

Authored by: Ramzi Farhat

The New Companion to Urban Design

Print publication date:  May  2019
Online publication date:  June  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138302129
eBook ISBN: 9780203731932
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9780203731932-8

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Abstract

In the Near East, urbanization has historically been organic and piecemeal. In this context, the persistence of a trade-oriented economy, the resilience of close-knit communities, and the prevalence of fine-grain social integration have contributed to the vibrancy that the cities of the region are noted for. With Amman (Jordan), Beirut (Lebanon), Cairo (Egypt), and Damascus (Syria) as examples, this chapter will show how various overlapping political, communal, and economic motives drive a neoliberal reorientation of urban development that threatens this character. Recent and ongoing redevelopment efforts in “old towns” and “downtowns” offer a cautionary tale about how illiberal development policy can exacerbate gentrification. On a more positive note, the resilience of the city is manifest in sporadic and reflexive efforts to regenerate “hip-town” districts in the spirit of the organic, piecemeal patterns of the past. In a region marred by authoritarianism, tribalism, and growing inequality, the ultimate success of these efforts depends on whether the state can be freed from the stranglehold of elite and real estate interests and can support policies that nurture and promote civic values and aspirations.

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