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The everyday urban environment of migrant labourers in Gulf Cities : the case of the old centre of Doha, Qatar

Salama, Ashraf M. and Azzali, Simona and Wiedmann, Florian (2017) The everyday urban environment of migrant labourers in Gulf Cities : the case of the old centre of Doha, Qatar. City, Territory and Architecture, 4. ISSN 2195-2701

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Abstract

Preventing the complete social restructuring and the relocation of migrant communities from traditional cores in Gulf cities to newly urbanized areas is a rising urban and social challenge. The Al Asmakh district in the old centre of Doha is an important example that manifests the current encounter between rising investment pressures and preserving the local identity including the particular urban life and spatial settings that have evolved over several decades. This paper presents key research findings with respect to the lived urban spaces of the Al Asmakh in order to exemplify the potential loss of very distinctive neighbourhoods and to introduce particular characteristics of urban spaces and the way migrant communities appropriate them. As part of a learning experiment undertaken at Qatar University in 2014, structured field surveys, systematic observations as well as behavioural mapping techniques were adopted as important approaches to investigation. The outcomes reveal stimulating dynamics between migrant communities and their environments. It also postulates that city residents have the capacity to recover swiftly from difficulties and resilience in spite of an impeding and hampering context. The paper concludes with projections of how contemporary transformation processes in Gulf cities will have to be based on diversity and social inclusion. Such a transformation should stem from the recognition that migrant communities need to have access to develop their own settings that relate to their routine spatial practices while securing the economic basis of many migrant labourers.