The Arab cities are experiencing fast transformation in their economic, social and architectural structures. That transformation encompasses many contradictions resulting from internal factors related to natural characteristics and external factors related to the economic globalization. On the one hand, the growing cities generate such economic development dynamics as employment opportunities and creative urban cultures. On the other hand, they face such growing challenges as inequity, violence, social exclusion and poverty. Those contradictions produce different city shapes and urban patterns. This report examines the status of three cities which represent samples of the transformation taking place in many Arab cities, namely Beirut, Cairo and Dubai. Using the urban patterns, it attempts to read the contradictions lying in those cities and between them. It also explains the political, social and economic transformation in contemporary cities based on the concept of urban fragmentation as a framework for understanding the urban patterns resulting from that transformation, by linking the "area particularities" (social and cultural aspects), "era attributes" (crisis of modernization and economic globalization), "procedural systems" (governance and management) and "city occupancy" (urban patterns).