One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and a
major cultural and religious center, Damascus is a repository of
numerous civilizations, ancient and modern, that embody the
collective national as well as Arab/Islamic memory. Although a
protected UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, the Old City only
attracted the interest of investors toward the end of the last
century. The historic neighborhoods of greater Damascus became the
focus of private investment when the government encouraged a more
market-based national economy. Distinguished from other
neighborhoods by the large number of religious buildings, historic
monuments, and a wall with foundations in the Roman period, the Old
City is important for government efforts to promote heritage
tourism as part of their entry into the global economy. In
Preserving the Old City of Damascus, Totah examines the recent
gentrification of the historic urban core of the Syrian capital and
the ways in which urban space becomes the site for negotiating new
economic and social realities. The book illustrates how long-term
inhabitants of the historic quarter, developers, and government
officials offer at times competing interpretations of urban space
and its use as they vie for control over the representation of the
historic neighborhoods. Based on over two years of ethnographic and
archival research, this book expands our understanding of
neoliberal urbanism in non-Western cities.
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