Muharraq, Urbanism of a Gulf City
Language: Arabic
Publishing Date: 1990
Available in a limited printed copy & digital copy
Tarek Waly

This book follows a journey of urbanization in one of the Arab communities in the Gulf region. A reading of the history of a community’s urbanization process For Muharraq City in the State of Bahrain is undertaken for the purpose of understanding the urbanization of the community in light of its history. The adopted angle of vision by the author, presents a social point of reference as well as a composition of political and economic forces. It also covers history, geography, settlement and the local environment. In addition, it deals with all fields of arts and crafts.

The author asserts here that the urban fabric of an Arab city bonds all the various systems, laws, institutions and organizations. Unfortunately, however, the various overviews of the urbanization and architecture of Arab cities are often limited to a descriptive approach, and rarely attempts to deal with a city as a phenomenon, which encompasses an integral form and content. Form here is the tangible manifestation of the features of structural and architectural vocabulary, and the content is held in the spirit of the architecture Arab towns, despite their regional affiliations, are unique in part as a consequence of local natural variations. Including dissonance does not imply discord, but rather, it is "diversity within unity" or "unity within diversity". The Gulf region within its territorial boundaries presents one of the Arab locales that have shaped this compositional diversity.

The selection of the city of Muharraq as a single Island of the archipelago of Bahrain, is because it presents a cohesive model for the urbanization of the Gulf. The oil boom had its direct impact on the economic, political and social variables and was associated with an uncontrollable incursion which was inflicted on the majority of the traditional Gulf cities. This scenario had left the traditional settlements as some remnants or some scattered traces or profiles, except for a few settlements with the city of Muharraq as one of them. The vital relationship between the Gulf and the desert is the spirit of the locale and the salient features of this relationship are explicit in the Bahrain archipelago. Muharraq, the city and the island, the most important island of Bahrain and the most relevant Bahraini historical city which still retains its traditional entities, and is the subject of the book, which has been arranged in four basic sections as follows:

I- The environment and the place: Here, the author briefly refers to the composition of the city within its holistic environmental context, in terms of the spatial relationships and the potential energies of its location and position that have formed the city and the settled community.

II- Settlement: The settlement process and the establishment of its perceptible entities are inseparable from societal aspects associated with the entity of the individual and society and its actions and activities. An identification of patterns which have expressed the society's entity, its development, and the circumstances affecting development has been undertaken.

III- Features of the built environment: What is realized from dissecting the city is posed by the physical expressions produced by the settlement of the community that forms the various entities, reflecting the features that have earned the city its identity. Through analysis of the basic urban fabric, detailed features of each of the core entities may be identified.

IV- Architectural Vocabulary: Physical entities of the city and their urban configurations are a product of architectural elements that frequently repeat throughout the different development levels. Thus, together, they constitute the architectural vocabulary, which conveys the urban law within its local and subjective dimensions.

The author concludes that a Gulf city here reflects the same basic principles of urbanization of any Arab city, past or present. It has not deviated from the urban framework, except for the self-imposed limits of the place and situation. During the past epochs, it was subjected to the impact of its correlation with traditional tribal measures and in contemporary time, it has endured similar problems that have resulted in the imbalance and the loss of identity and traditions of an Arab city.

Tarek Waly


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