The Unspoken Narratives of the Empty Quarter
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CitationMhmood, Fatma. 2021. The Unspoken Narratives of the Empty Quarter. Master's thesis, Harvard Graduate School of Design.
AbstractThe desert, commonly understood as a barren and infertile landscape, is not empty. This thesis reads the desert landscape as an archive full of social, economic, and political narratives using the Empty Quarter as a case study. The Empty Quarter, in Arabic Rub al-Khali, stretches across the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula including Oman, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. The overarching understanding of deserts as a void has obscured the Empty Quarter’s image as a home to Bedouin tribes and a site of natural resource extraction, agricultural land, and a testing ground for scientific research. Furthermore, the inability to understand the desert ecology is causing current urban processes to be resource intensive as the adjacent cities expand.
By providing a new reading of the desert ecology, this thesis speculates how design and planning in arid regions can mediate between social values, aesthetics, and environmental challenges to arrive at ecological urban development. This thesis draws from multiple sources, including the analysis of archival materials, historic maps, artworks, field observation, myths, and tribal poetry, in order to arrive at a novel understanding of the Empty Quarter’s ecosystem. It is not a void, but rather a space that adjacent cities depend upon to meet the social and material needs of their inhabitants.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37367854