Skip to main content

Urbanization and the Changing Character of the Arab City


UNESCWA has published a study titled “Urbanization and the Changing Character of the Arab City” that sheds light on the role of development in shaping the character of the Arab city, with the aim of contributing to the discourse on urban development in the Arab region.

The study analyses the experiences of three Arab cities, namely: Amman, Beirut, and Dubai, which have drawn attention due to significant changes in their economic, social and physical dimensions, and whose development has been characterized by traits that are shared by other cities in the region. It aims to examine the changes that the Arab cities have undergone and are still undergoing as a result of such major forces as rural-urban migration, population growth and socio-economic developments, taking into consideration the historical background of the city and its social capital. An apt departure for this study is to define an Arab city and categorize which cities fall under such a definition.

This publication notes that globalization and economic development are major forces that greatly influence urban development, but the results are manifested in physical and social expressions that can eventually define the change in the character of the city. This delineates the intended context of this analytical study.

The study says that the development of cities is driven by various factors, including the following: (a) strengthening and sustaining institutions, in the case of Amman; (b) political will, in the case of Beirut, and (c) economic growth as is the case in Dubai. In general terms, however, the visible development of cities is one of the most tangible manifestations of positive national development, whereby advancement in the quality of life can be observed and gauged.

Intended to contribute to the discourse on urban development in the Arab region, this study says Amman, Beirut, and Dubai are not the only representative Arab cities yet they have drawn attention for the significant changes in their social and physical dimensions.

To read this study in Arabic, go to