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The urban development of Damascus: a study of its past, present and future

Lababedi, Z.; (2008) The urban development of Damascus: a study of its past, present and future. Masters thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access


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Despite holding the title of the ‘oldest continuously inhabited city in the world’, Damascus has seldom been the focus of academic research in urban studies. As the city has been of prime importance to major historical Empires, this study of Damascus’ urban development reflects global shifts in culture, religion, and economics over time. The problems Damascus faces today are in many ways representative of those in other Less Developed Countries. Moreover, particularly in the Middle East where factors such as oil and water supply come in to play, the outcomes increasingly affect tomorrow’s globalised world as a whole. Currently the capital of a closed ‘market-socialist’ economy, Damascus is now attempting to reposition itself as a ‘modern’ city, with various new reforms paving the way for it to become a centre of trade, commerce and tourism. However, it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site whose proud status is under threat as it disregards historical buildings, and struggles with one of the world’s highest urban growth rates, exacerbated inequality and endemic corruption. Therefore, developers are faced with important questions: What does it mean to be a modern city? In a Less Developed Economy, where should priorities lie? To better understand Damascus’ present situation, this paper provides an indepth analytical study of the city’s urban formation, from Ancient times until today. It is written chronologically, taking into account changes in land tenure policy, political environments and economic situations that have influenced development. To provide a contemporary context, this paper also carries interviews with key players in Syrian property development, including developers, investors, academics and members of parliament. Further interviews with architects, civil engineers and local Damascenes add local insight. By placing these first-hand accounts within a historical socio-economic context, this paper is a unique examination of Damascus and a useful reference for future development. Aside from government reforms to combat corruption, this paper concludes that long-term, educated strategies need to be adopted to safeguard the city’s historical wealth, preserving social cohesion and its potential for tourism. New industrial cities outside traditional urban areas would help manage high urban populations, and reduce pressure on the fragile ecological basin of Damascus.

Type: Thesis (Masters)
Title: The urban development of Damascus: a study of its past, present and future
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Approved for UCL Eprints by Mr M. Edwards, Bartlett School of Planning
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > The Bartlett School of Planning
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/14328
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