Urban heritage in the Middle East

Heritage, tourism and the shaping of new identities

Authored by: Aylin Orbaşlı

Routledge Handbook on Tourism in the Middle East and North Africa

Print publication date:  December  2018
Online publication date:  December  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138651920
eBook ISBN: 9781315624525
Adobe ISBN:


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The MENA region enjoys a rich urban heritage from modest rural settlements to the historic centres of bustling major cities that compliment a wealth of major Islamic monuments. As many historic settlements are threatened by the forces of globalisation, development pressures and urban growth, they are also becoming recognised as distinct tourism destinations that offer visitors not only a historic-town experience, but one with a sense of the exotic and an orientalist allure. Through an evaluation of different scenarios prevalent in urban heritage tourism in the region, this chapter examines the nature of the tourist experience and the ways in which tourism informs cultural heritage protection and impacts on local community well-being. The chapter also examines the link between urban heritage as a commodity that is marketed as a tourism product and its role in local or national identity formation. More specifically it considers the inherent conflict arising from notions of privacy embedded in the urban form of the Islamic city and the tourism-driven priorities of access, visibility and commercial opportunity.

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