Disappearing Cities of the Arab World

Speakers include Ziauddin Sardar & Eyal Weizman

Sun 12 July 2015, 11am-5pm

Talks · The British Museum

Jerash, Jordan ©Andrew Cross

Jerash, Jordan ©Andrew Cross


Sun 12 July 2015, 11am-5pm

The British Museum

BP Lecture Theatre
Great Russell Street,
London WC1B 3DG
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In the post-colonial age, Arab urban life has often borne witness to destruction through civil wars, foreign invasion and religious conflict. Old customs and architectures have been erased; in their place, a new landscape of globalization has emerged.

Disappearing Cities of the Arab World explores issues of architecture, post-colonialism, globalisation and psycho-geography. It brings together writers, artists, historians, architects and urbanists to explore the complex space that is the contemporary Arab city. Following short presentations, the speakers will be in conversation and there will be opportunities for audience questions.

Session One: 11am-12.30pm

The opening session examines the urban fabric of the contemporary Arab city from a variety of persepectives, featuring Ziauddin Sardar on how consumerism and commercialism have transformed the spirit of Mecca, Eyal Weizman on architecture and space in the Occupied Territories, Shadia Touqan on the restoration of Jerusalem’s ancient buildings and Salma Samar Damluji on continuing the centuries-old tradition of mud brick architecture in the Yemen. The event will be chaired by Guy Mannes-Abbott, a writer and critic on literary and visual culture from the Middle East.

Session Two: 12.45pm-1.45pm

Leading writers, including Hassan Abdulrazzak, whose play Love, Bombs & Apples will be staged at the Arcola Theatre (21-25 July), Nihad Sirees, focusing on Damascus, and Mo Mesrati, writing about Tripoli, discuss how their work reflects the changing urban experience, the creative license that fiction allows in the representation of place. The session will be chaired by Paul Blezard, writer and co-judge 2014 Saif Ghobash Banipal Arabic Literary Translation Prize.

Lunch: 1.45pm-2.30pm

Session Three: 2.30pm-3.45pm

Artists and curators explore visual representations of Arab cities, in still and moving images. Ali Cherri will present extracts from a current film depicting Sharjah and Abu Dhabi juxtaposed with the past. Mohamed Elshashed edits the Cairobserver, founded in 2011 to provoke conversation about urban life in the city. He discusses revolutionary modernism in Egypt and its legacy on the present day. Jananne Al-Ani works in photography and film, to explore the aesthetics of disappearance on Arab landscapes. Hrair Sarkissian uses photography to re-evaluate larger historical, religious or socio-political narratives. Tala Worrell is based in Beirut. Her paintings are the products a series of transitions and transformations in the search for a new aesthetic language. Her work involves the constant processing of the world, and the effect of its politics, people, and environments upon her consciousness. The session will be chaired by Sheyma Buali, a programmer and researcher focusing on urbanism and visual culture in the Middle East.

Keynote: 4pm-5pm

Sharon Rotbard, architect and author of White City, Black City: Architecture and War in Tel Aviv and Jaffa gives the keynote talk, focusing on modernist architecture and colonisation in Israel. The event is chaired by architect and curator Sam Jacob, former director of FAT, curator of the British Pavilion at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale.

Presented by The Mosaic Rooms