Nezar AlSayyad


This special issue of The Journal of Public Space deals with the idea of re-visioning places of public gathering in the Contemporary Arab City. The three keywords or concept in this formulation are the “Arab city”, and “Public gathering” and “urban place or space”. It is worthwhile to spend some time interrogating each of these concepts by themselves and in a relationship to each other.  We may first ask what is the Arab city? Is it a city that is truly different from its counterparts in much of the global south? It is different from the non-Arab Middle East, or for that matter other cities in the developed world that underwent substantial changes over during the last few decades. Equally important is to posit the question regarding the types of public gatherings that occur in the Arab city today which require a specific spatial accommodation. And finally, it is essential to inquire about the nature of urban space in the so-called Arab city and to interrogate how this space is used to accommodate, contain and sometimes even to restrict different forms of public activities. 


How to Cite
AlSayyad, N. (2021) “On the Meanings and Uses of Urban Space in the Arab City: An Historical Perspective”, The Journal of Public Space, 6(1), pp. 5–8. doi: 10.32891/jps.v6i1.1457.
Author Biography

Nezar AlSayyad, University of California, Berkeley

Nezar AlSayyad is Professor Emeritus of Architecture, City Planning, Urban Design, and Urban History. He  was a member for the Urban Design Graduate Group (MUD) and the International Area Studies Graduate Group (IAS). He was the Faculty Director of the Center for Arab Societies and Environments Studies (CASES) and for two decades he also chaired the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Berkeley leading it to International standing.
Educated as an architect, planner, urban designer and historian, AlSayyad is principally an urbanist whose specialty is the study of cities, their urban spaces, their social practices and their economic realities. As a scholar, AlSayyad has authored and edited several books on colonialism, identity, Islamic architecture, tourism, tradition, urbanism, urban design, urban history, urban informality, and virtuality. He has also produced and co-directed two public television video documentaries: “Virtual Cairo” and “At Home with Mother Earth.” Among his numerous grants are those received from the U.S. Department of Education, NEA—Design Arts Program, Getty Grant Program, the Graham Foundation, the SSRC, and a Guggenheim fellowship. His awards include the Beit AlQuran Medal from Bahrain, the Pioneer American Society Book Award, the American Institute of Architects Education Honors, and the Distinguished Teaching Award, the highest honor the University of California bestows on its faculty.
In 1988, AlSayyad founded the area of Environmental Design and Urbanism in Developing Countries (EDUDC), an interdisciplinary area of research and practice that connects history, theory, social processes, and design, and in the same year he co-founded the International Association for the Study of Traditional Environments (IASTE), a scholarly association concerned with the study of indigenous vernacular and popular built environments around the world where he still serves as its president. AlSayyad also maintains a small architecture and urban design practice XXA- The Office of Xross-Xultural Architecture  which provides design and consulting work to various clients in the US and several Developing Countries.


Abu-Lughod, J. (1987) “The Islamic City--Historic Myth, Islamic Essence, and Contemporary Relevance,” International Journal of Middle East Studies, 19(2) pp 155-168.

AlSayyad, N. (2016) “The Arab City, the Middle Eastern City, the Islamic City: Reflections on a Concept.” In Saliba, R. (ed.) Re-Conceptualizing Boundaries: Urban Design in the Arab World. London: Ashgate, pp. 31-43.

Alsayyad, N. and Guvenc, M. (2014) “Virtual Uprisings: On the Interaction of New Social Media, Traditional Media Coverage and Urban Space during the ‘Arab Spring,’ Urban Studies 51(3) pp. 1-17.

Alsayyad, N. and Bristol K. (1992) "Levels of Congruence: On Urban Space and the Institutional Structure of Different Societies" Journal of Architecture and Planning Research 9(3) pp.193-206.

AlSayyad, N. (1987) "Space in an Islamic City: A Case Study," Journal of Architecture and Planning Research 4(12) pp.108-119.