GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Traditional Settlements in the Interior of the United Arab Emirates: Lessons for Future Sustainable Development
Paper Proposal Text :
At the turn of the twentieth century, 69% of the population of the United Arab Emirates lived on the Gulf coast. The remaining population was split between the interior (19%) and the Sea of Oman (12%). The organization of the large trading towns of Dubai and Sharjah and the pearling capital of Abu Dhabi with their tribal farig or quarters located in proximity to the market and anchorage facilities are fairly well understood. As they evolved into the large coastal cities of today, the development strategies of these cities now dominate the international perception of Gulf urbanization. However, the orientation of these towns a hundred years ago not only differed from, but also simply complemented the lesser known strategies of the interior bread basket of the mountains and adjacent plains, responsible for the majority production of dates, livestock and wheat and based around the sustainable harness and storage of winter rains. In addition, the large-scale property developments of the coastal cities in the early twenty-first century constitute a model of development imported from elsewhere and very much the antithesis of traditional relationships between the built and natural environments evident in Emirati material history. With little of the urbanization of the coast, extant structures remain in the mountains and plains and offer a possible alternative typology for future development that is not only environmentally sustainable but is also based on traditional economic and social practices. This paper reviews the settlement and agricultural patterns of Sayh as-Sirr and the mountain terraced farms of the Shihuh and Habus tribes in Ras al-Khaimah as well as the contemporary farm complex in Wadi Madaiq in Sharjah and posits some traditional organizational practices that might be integrated into a new development model for the Gulf.