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City Identity—The Curious Case of Muscat

Aasia Muneer


Identity of cities references a multi-sensory experience of the urban space, across tangible and intangible elements, involving building, history and memories. It is also spread across scale - local, city, national and regional. It develops over time and is influenced by several factors. The easiest way to identify the identity of a city is through its buildings, or architecture. Buildings, in turn, represent the legacy and culture of a place. But, the image of a city is a mental analysis of the way a city is experienced and navigated and not just a physical or visual element. This paper will introduce identity in the Arab world, 24 countries which share the main identities of Religion (Islam) and culture (Arab). Among these, a number have seen rapid growth and development post the discovery of oil around the 1970s. Modern planning and building practices have threatened loss of heritage, giving an impression of them being random cities. This paper will focus on the city of Muscat, Oman, a city which is visually dissimilar to other Arabian cities, where the authorities have been moderately successful in achieving a balance between tradition and modernity. They have also carefully cultivated an enhanced identity for the city through several initiatives, especially relying on traditional Omani architecture and roundabout sculpture.

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