Urban Design Elements for Cities in the MENA Region

Cities in North Africa, the Saudi Arabian peninsula, and the Levant face unique challenges from the tremendous heat and dusty winds of the surrounding desert and high humidity along coastal areas. These environmental forces along with social and cultural norms have resulted in unique cities created over the past several centuries. Built in the pre-industrial era, these old cities offer many lessons for designing dense urban districts that are environmentally responsive and sustainable. There are many fine examples of modern cities influenced by international planning techniques but adapted to the unique environmental challenges of the MENA region.

Unfortunately, recent urban growth has departed from sensible planning in some areas. One reason for this departure is the adoption and use of international engineering criteria for streets and infrastructure without proper consideration of the region’s unique and traditional urban patterns. This short paper attempts to capture some of the design elements that were used in the old and early modern cities.

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