Syria’s Urban Warfare

A few weeks ago I noticed an odd trope turning up in discussion of the Syrian Civil War: an assertion, without much context, that the country is highly urbanised.  I’ve certainly come across this idea before, and given the imbalance between the virtually uninhabited badiya (the Syrian desert out towards Iraq) and the Aleppo-Hama-Homs-Damascus line of cities in the country’s greener portions, it seems plausible.  But if you examine the facts, it turns out that Syria’s rural-urban split is remarkably tilted towards the rural side. (All of these data come from before the civil war, of course; I’m not even … Continue reading Syria’s Urban Warfare

Albania, Bahrain, and Autocratic Popular Geography

The Black Hole of Tirana The Albanian capital of Tirana will never be able to fully purge itself of totalitarian urban planning.  The city centre was designed by the Fascists during the Italian occupation of Albania in the 1930s, and they installed wide streets and open squares, perfect venues for holding military parades.  After the war, during the Communist period, this design was augmented with angular Stalinist constructions (the Palace of Culture and the National Museum) in the centre and high-rise concrete residence blocks in the outskirts.  Enver Hoxha [pronuncation] was a man who understood the propagandist potential of space: … Continue reading Albania, Bahrain, and Autocratic Popular Geography