Working Group Historic Towns

Team: Anton Escher, Gregor Arnold, Sandra PetermannEva Riempp, Julia van Lessen

The focus of the working group on historic towns is the theoretical and empirical research of historic city centers. The regional focus is on the Arab-Islamic towns of North Africa and the Middle East. One central research project is a long-term study on the historic towns of Marrakech, Fez and Essaouira in Morocco.
We are observing the processes of gentrification and revaluation of originally traditional Arab-Islamic houses and we are interested in the change of use to guest houses and restaurants. The political, economic and social conditions which are reflected in social tensions and which were partially triggered by these processes are part of the research. The theoretical perspectives of Transnationalism, Cosmopolitanism, Neo-Colonialism, Lifestyle Migration and Hedonism help to understand the “invasion-succession cycle” of the gentrification process. As a result of international tourism and the influx of European homeowners, the images of the old cities in Morocco have changed fundamentally. The fragmentation of society in Morocco and the neoliberal urban development are caused partly by the liberal globalization.

In addition, members of the working group collect data on the development of other old towns like Tripoli/Libya, Tunis/Tunisia, Jbail/Lebanon and Damascus/Syria.


Within the framework of the working group not only the old towns of North Africa and the Middle East are explored. Other projects include comparative studies of old towns such as Venice/Italy and Salvador de Bahia/Brazil.

Another study deals with historic towns and sites along the east coast of the United States of America. Central questions of this project relate to the perception of these places in terms of (colonial) history, urban planning and "authenticity".

© Fotos: Tobias Boos, Christina Kerz & Eva Riempp