exhibition on “Arab Stereotypes”

The Arab American National Museum presents an online exhibit titled, “Reclaiming Identity: Dismantling Arab Stereotypes.” The exhibit fits well as part of an undergraduate curriculum, and includes video and audio interviews with scholars and students on issues of Orientalism, stereotyping, and profiling. The site also features a blog populated by guest commentators on issues relevant to stereotyping of Arab and Muslim Americans.  www.arabstereotypes.org.

La Turquie Kémaliste

Issues 1-49 are available online at http://www.boyut.com.tr/kemalizm/

New Look for Mecca

December 29, 2010

New Look for Mecca: Gargantuan and Gaudy

Nicolai Ouroussoff, New York Times

JIDDA, Saudi Arabia — It is an architectural absurdity. Just south of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the Muslim world’s holiest site, a kitsch rendition of London’s Big Ben is nearing completion. Called the Royal Mecca Clock Tower, it will be one of the tallest buildings in the world, the centerpiece of a complex that is housing a gargantuan shopping mall, an 800-room hotel and a prayer hall for several thousand people. Its muscular form, an unabashed knockoff of the original, blown up to a grotesque scale, will be decorated with Arabic inscriptions and topped by a crescent-shape spire in what feels like a cynical nod to Islam’s architectural past. To make room for it, the Saudi government bulldozed an 18th-century Ottoman fortress and the hill it stood on.

The tower is just one of many construction projects in the very center of Mecca, from train lines to numerous luxury high-rises and hotels and a huge expansion of the Grand Mosque. The historic core of Mecca is being reshaped in ways that many here find appalling, sparking unusually heated criticism of the authoritarian Saudi government.

to read more, go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/30/arts/design/30mecca.html?scp=1&sq=new%20look%20for%20mecca&st=cse

Aleppo in the NYTimes







December 26, 2010

Preserving Heritage, and the Fabric of Life, in Syria

Nicolai Ouroussoff, New York Times

ALEPPO, Syria — At first glance it seems an unremarkable scene: a quiet plaza shaded by date palms in the shadow of this city’s immense medieval Citadel, newly restored to its looming power. Foreign tourists sit side by side with people whose families have lived here for generations; women, both veiled and unveiled, walk arm in arm past a laborer hauling tools into an old government building being converted into a hotel.

But this quiet plaza is the centerpiece of one of the most far-thinking preservation projects in the Middle East, one that places as much importance on people as it does on the buildings they live in. The project encompasses the rebuilding of crumbling streets and the upgrading of city services, the restoration of hundreds of houses in the historic Old City, plans for a 42-acre park in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods and the near-decade-long restoration of the Citadel itself, whose massive walls dominate the skyline of Aleppo, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, and a gem of Islamic architecture.

The effort, led by a German nonprofit group and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture working with local government, is the culmination of a major philosophical shift among preservationists in the region. It seeks to reverse a 50-year history during which preservation, by myopically focusing on restoring major architectural artifacts, sometimes destroyed the communities around them. Other restoration efforts have also sparked gentrification, driving the poor from their homes and, at their worst, fostering rage that plays into the hands of militants.

By offering an array of financial and zoning incentives to homeowners and shopkeepers, this approach has already helped stabilize impoverished communities in a part of the world where the most effective social programs for the poor are often still run by extremist organizations like Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood.

to read more,  go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/27/arts/design/27preserve.html?ref=design


New Arab Museums

November 26, 2010

Building Museums, and a Fresh Arab Identity

Nicolai Ouroussoff, New York Times

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — It is an audacious experiment: two small, oil-rich countries in the Middle East are using architecture and art to reshape their national identities virtually overnight, and in the process to redeem the tarnished image of Arabs abroad while showing the way toward a modern society within the boundaries of Islam.

Here, on a barren island on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, workers have dug the foundations for three colossal museums: an $800 million Frank Gehry-designed branch of the Guggenheim 12 times the size of its New York flagship; a half-billion-dollar outpost of the Louvre by Jean Nouvel ; and a showcase for national history by Foster & Partners, the design for which was unveiled on Thursday. And plans are moving ahead for yet another museum, about maritime history, to be designed by Tadao Ando .

Nearly 200 miles across the Persian Gulf, Doha, the capital of Qatar, has been mapping out its own extravagant cultural vision. A Museum of Islamic Art, a bone-white I.M Pei-designed temple, opened in 2008 and dazzled the international museum establishment. In December the government will open a museum of modern Arab art with a collection that spans the mid-19th-century to the present. Construction has just begun on a museum of Qatari history, also by Mr. Nouvel, and the design for a museum of Orientalist art by the Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron is to be made public next year.

To a critic traveling through the region, the speed at which museums are being built in Abu Dhabi — and the international brand names attached to some of them — conjured culture-flavored versions of the overwrought real-estate spectacles that famously shaped its fellow emirate, Dubai. By contrast, Doha’s vision seemed a more calculated attempt to find a balance between modernization and Islam.

to read more, go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/27/arts/design/27museums.html?ref=design


September 25, 2010

In Arabian Desert, a Sustainable City Rises

Nicolai Ouroussoff, New York Times

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Back in 2007, when the government here announced its plan for “the world’s first zero-carbon city” on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, many Westerners dismissed it as a gimmick — a faddish follow-up to neighboring Dubai’s half-mile-high tower in the desert and archipelago of man-made islands in the shape of palm trees.

Designed by Foster & Partners, a firm known for feats of technological wizardry, the city, called Masdar, would be a perfect square, nearly a mile on each side, raised on a 23-foot-high base to capture desert breezes. Beneath its labyrinth of pedestrian streets, a fleet of driverless  electric cars would navigate silently through dimly lit tunnels. The project conjured both a walled medieval fortress and an upgraded version of the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland.

Well, those early assessments turned out to be wrong. By this past week, as people began moving into the first section of the project to be completed — a 3 ½-acre zone surrounding a sustainability-oriented research institute — it was clear that Masdar is something more daring and more noxious.

..to read more go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/26/arts/design/26masdar.html?_r=1&ref=design&pagewanted

“franchised” museums in Doha and Abu Dhabi

National Museum of Qatar

Nicolai Ouroussoff , “Celebrating the Delicate Beauty of the Desert Landscape,” New York Times (March 22, 2010)

… typical of  New York Times architectural critics, speaking with the binary lingo of “the gap between the high-tech aesthetics of the West and the traditions of the Middle East”…

New Beirut Art Center

Patrick Healy, “Face of War Pervades New Beirut Art Center,” New York Times (July 6, 2009 )

“The Beirut Art Center, a 16,000-square-foot space occupying two floors of a former factory, opened on Jan. 15 with a gala that drew a thousand people, and it has quickly emerged as a popular destination for Beirutis, tourists and art critics at the city’s newspapers and across Lebanon.

Through next Tuesday it is housing a provocative exhibition of work by 20 Lebanese artists titled “The Road to Peace: Paintings in Times of War, 1975-1991,” a collection of pieces that portray the trauma of the Lebanese civil war. Most of the work has not been shown publicly before, the exhibition organizers say, and reflects the art center’s ambitions to become a major cultural player in a modern, peaceful Lebanon.”

Crumbling of the Casbah

The Crumbling of the Casbah

by Craig S. Smith in the New York Times (July 23, 2006)

“UNESCO has declared it a World Heritage site, and the Algerian government has designated it a protected landmark, to no avail. Closed in on itself, symbolizing the local population’s long isolation from French colonial rulers — and more recently, radical Islam’s retreat from modernity — this seemingly impenetrable agglomeration of houses is falling down.”