The City in the Middle East from Late Antiquity to the Ottoman Period


Fall 2009


2nd Floor Classroom


Islam is an urban religion. The most striking features for a modern visitor of the old towns in the Middle East are the centrality of the congregational mosque surrounded by the suq/bazaar as the city’s economic heart. The discussion of the theoretical frame will commence with Max Weber in comparison to definitions provided by medieval Islamic jurists and Ibn Khaldun. Western European and the Middle Eastern cities were built on the same Hellenistic foundations, and even the newly planned garrison cities of the conquest period and later, large residential metropolises, such as Baghdad and Samarra, followed the classical model in certain ways. The 11th and 12th centuries brought the final Islamization of the cityscapes, while the cities had to be protected by fortifications. Typical buildings, institutions, and spatial organization of the pre-modern Middle Eastern city will be explored. The course will emphasize that the Islamic city answered to similar needs quite unlike those of Europe. The urban structure, like a palimpsest, can be read as a narrative of its history and legal conditions, and this will be illuminated by case studies of major cities in the Middle East. 3 credits.