Accepted Paper:

Creating a balance: how Bedouin villagers in Dubai respond to challenges of urban expansion  

Author:

Anne Kathrine Larsen (Norwegian University of Science and Technology)

Paper short abstract:

The Bedouin villagers on the outskirts of Dubai have clear notions of desert versus build-up areas. Still they transcend the borders between them in creative ways which question the nature/culture dichotomy. New challenges emerge as recreational projects are developed in the village surroundings.

Paper long abstract:

This presentation will focus on how Bedouin villagers in Dubai relate to their surroundings. When they decided to settle four decades ago, they opted for a location in the desert rather than on the outskirts of the city, but still close enough to reach it within half an hour by car. In this way they sought the best of two worlds, the city with job opportunities, various services and entertainments, and the desert which they truly cherish and where they keep livestock on nearby farms tended to by immigrant workers.

The borders between the built-up area and the desert are changeable, but may also be transcended. The villagers build their houses so as to shield the family from outside view. They have moreover arranged desert sand along the sidewalks and inside compounds for decoration and as seating pads, often in conjunction with a tent or tent-like structures. These are areas where women meet. A favourite pastime is to travel to the nearby desert - usually near the farms - for barbeque or camping, and the health conscious women readily point out the sand's healing properties. Young men will go further into the desert for motor sports, hunting etc.

The built-up area, however, gradually expands towards the village, and various public recreation projects are developed in the vicinity. This alters the surroundings and further challenges the villagers' perception and use of the environment. It is questioned whether the nature/culture dichotomy may be deceptive in the understanding of their creative interaction with the desert.

Panel P100
Revisiting the culture/nature divide under the conditions of global forces