Urban traditions in the contemporary lived space of cities on the Arabian Peninsula

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This article aims to answer the question “Whose tradition?” in relation to the contemporary architecture and urbanism of the Arabian Peninsula. It first contextualizes tradition in the region within the geocultural politics of the Arab World and identifies key factors that shaped its traditional settlements, including tribal governance, social systems, building materials, and construction techniques. The article then contends that the region’s urban traditions have been transformed from ones shaped by common people to ones shaped by the elite, in which the role of rulers is heavily emphasized. To explore this view, it analyzes two representative scenes in the contemporary urban lived space of the region, using examples from Dubai and Doha. These are articulated in terms of the emergence of elite enterprises, persistent patterns of social and ethnic segregation, and a continuing struggle to construct identity. Conclusions drawn from the discussion delineate key answers to the question “Whose tradition?” But a framework of examination is also introduced that emphasizes that lived space and the traditions that ensue from it cannot be seen in isolation from other types of space — such as conceived and perceived space. There needs to be a new cycle of knowledge production about cities in the region that integrates concern for all three (lived, conceived and perceived space) to better understand its traditions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-39
Number of pages20
JournalTraditional Dwellings and Settlements Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015


  • urban traditions
  • urban governance
  • tribal affiliation
  • social segregation
  • architectural identity

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  • Impacts

    Architectural and urban research for an enhanced decision-making on urban dynamics of emerging cities

    Ashraf Salama (Participant), Alain Thierstein (Participant) & Florian Wiedmann (Participant)

    Impact: Impact - for External PortalEnvironment and sustainability - natural world and built environment, Professional practice, training and standards, Quality of life and safety


    • 1 Key-note speaker and plenary lectures at conferences

    Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Traditional Environments (IASTE 2014)

    Ashraf Salama (Keynote/plenary speaker)

    14 Dec 201417 Dec 2014

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesKey-note speaker and plenary lectures at conferences

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