The Arab City - Reality, Fiction, and Affect on Culture and Civilization

  •  Mamadou Salif Diallo    
  •  Abdullah H. Alfauzan    


The increasing urbanization of the Arab world, especially the emergence of huge and ultra-modern cities such as Riyadh, Dubai, and Doha in the Arab Gulf, has renewed discussions and even debates on the nature of the Arabian civilization. Some people maintain that urban places such as the above-mentioned are only copies of Western cities within Arabia, and that there is no such thing as an Arab city, socioculturally speaking. This debate has also taken place informally in the office of the English Department at Qassim University, in a spare time that a number of faculty and staff (including the authors of this article) happened to have. We decided to take it further and look into the question more deeply. Therefore, we covered some relevant literature, including Islam’s important perspective on the issue. We eventually came up with the conclusion that the Arab city does exist and has existed long before the Industrial Revolution. Accounts of real and fictional cities in the Arab world, predating the industrial era, prove the validity of this assertion. Without advocating seclusion or withdrawal into themselves, we think that Arabs should stop thinking they owe the concepts of city, urbanization and therefore civilization to the West. There is certainly a lot that can be learned from each other on both sides, but importing everything wholesale from the West can only result in increasing social problems.

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