Our Madina, Our City… The Need for Revival


Dr. Abdurrahman Mohamed
Asst. Prof. Urban Design and Planning
Department of Civil Engineering and Architecture
University of Bahrain

Our madina, our city, is our place. It is the space of our life with all its achievements and shortcomings, with all its sadness and happiness, with all the joy and fun of our relations and friendships. It is the domain for our work and folk, it is the road for our present and the future of our ancestors. It is also the place of our history and dignity. In its traditional core our fathers and grandfathers fought hard to leave some of their expertise and wisdom for us.  Despite all the deviations we made to escape their recommendations and forget their testimonials, we remain connected to its narrow allays; dump walls and dark rooms with all the flavors of history and echoes of time.  The city is the machine of history. Many cities are known in history for their power and wealth for which they were called city states. They remain until our recent times and continue also to play incredible roles in art and culture, in commerce and industry, and in innovations and creativity. It is at the same time, our serious continuous dilemma. We still feel tired despite all the relaxations of our civilization, we still feel lost despite all the technology of navigation and communication, and we still feel sad despite all the jokes of our modern actors and actresses and the sparkling soft drinks in the shades of modern urban squares. We feel that we are heading two fast to the urban unknown, we lost the sense of place and time. We hope if we could have a pause at least, if we can not make a click to cancel the operation as a whole. We feel more than any previous moment the need to look backwards for something that we know, something we feel, we smell and hear, something to which we belong and adhere. It is our traditional city with all its beauty and calmness, with all its humane and passions, with its rules, norms, habits and cohesion. It is the beauty of the stones, clays and aging wood, natural building materials which conserve the essence of nature and the continuity and diversity of resources. It is the marvelous domes, vaults, arches, and delicate details and the shining stained glass decorations. We feel that we already have lost much of these jewels for modern building materials and built forms which represent the capitalism control over our cities. These building materials are recently considered one of the most important drives for keeping high rates of industrial production. For this production to continue, consumption rates should be kept as high as possible. Here the job of the architects, engineers and contractors begin for inventing and marketing new fashioned building forms ignoring all the consequences of their impact on our environments and societies. It is exactly like the weapon industry where wars are necessary to keep up consumption of weapons. But here it is the war over our cities, buildings, streets and yards. New sky scrapers every where rise over the remains of our traditional buildings to commemorate the victory of deconstructivism over dignity and the victory of globalization over identity. It is also like the black coalition between drug industries and corrupted doctors who bargain the health of their patients in order to keep consumption of medicines. This is why our cities are seriously sick and their environments are full of hazards, congestion, pollution and noise.

Our city nowadays cries in despair for warriors who can fight to prevent wars over what remains of their history and character, and for practitioners who can fight to prevent epidemics in their environments, societies and culture. Sincere philanthropist efforts are needed not only to water tears over the remains of our historical cities and keep some of them in taxidermy like pieces in a museum. What our cities really need are caring hands that can feel the details of their history and innovative minds that can use that glory for fusing our present and future with the creativity of our predecessors. They need the revival for their past in order to keep the continuity between our generations and remedy the serious excision imposed by recent architecture and planning movements. They need an urgent resuscitation through comprehensive operations of urban anatomy with the wisdom and safety homeopathy remedies. They need overall urban metabolic control for the real benefit of their inhabitants not the benefit of economic giants and industrial gigantics. They need the implantation of authentic architectural forms with their genius originality in terms of concepts, materials, philosophy and construction. The superficial application of decorative elements would never bring life to architectural histories and neither would it project their innovativity into our present and future.

For al these aspirations MADINANET was established, to bring reality for the dreams of a group of philanthropists devoted to the revival of city glorious past for the creation of more humane, pleasurable and sustainable built environments. It is now one year after the beginning of MDINANET, a dream came true after hard times of prolonged discussions and consultations. Difficult moments threatened the idea which in several times it was almost abandoned. But nothing is impossible with determination and devotion for such a sacred aim. Little has already been done but a lot is waiting to be realized with greater enthusiasm and energy. A strategic plan is underway to be approved and network of scholars is being built. But still the most important to our mission …. you support and participation.

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