Hummus - East Mediterranean City Belt 2050


East Mediterranean City Belt 2050 is an alliance of about 20 cities which form a corridor of urbanization along the Mediterranean Coast from Turkey to Egypt, and include the corresponding desert hinterland. A high concentration of people, money, service and production will create a strong backbone for the area. By 2050, the belt's population will approach or exceed 200 million inhabitants.

At the outset, we detected Jerusalem as being a symptom of the region, and therefore consider Jerusalem as the region and the region as our field of imagery. Second, we estimated 40 years as enough to enable a massive structural change in the region, and were thus encouraged to picture a completely new defined geographical figure. Finally, we reflected on the way of representation: searching for an adequate narrative, we chose drawing the predictable huge agglomeration in the form of a map.

Jerusalem in the region - the region in Jerusalem

Jerusalem has very specific problems which cannot be solved in a micro or macro scale separately. As a symptom of the whole region, we consider it necessary to think of Jerusalem in the region and the region in Jerusalem: without a peaceful and economically thriving East Mediterranean region, there can be no vital city. As a result we extended our field of imagery to the East Mediterranean Coast and the corresponding hinterland.

Jerusalem takes a special position in the metropolitan alliance we have drawn. It has several unique characteristics: it is the only large city in the region which is situated in between the Mediterranean coastal strip and the desert hinterland. Unlike most other major cities, it is not a business and financial center; its significance stems from its historical and symbolic status. Due to its charged religious and symbolic presence, the city is subject to eternal conflicts and political strife. We propose to release tension by scaling down Jerusalem to a symbolic and religious capital. As a city that refers to a context that is much larger than the region and the adjacent states, we propose visualizing Jerusalem as an ideational, religious, symbolic and spiritual world capital. This 'belonging to the world' ought to be the sustainable sense of Jerusalem and will lead to its conceptualization in relation to its externality (the larger world).

New definition of geographical figure

The new defined geographical figure implies a tight focus on developing existing and "new" cities, as well as their close alliance and cooperation. This metropolitan governance can be understood as the development of historical precedents (such as the "fertile crescent" of 3000 years ago and the "Dekapolis" of 2000 years ago), or as the consequence of the existing accumulation and connecting of economic capital.

The area is already a partly dense agglomeration with an economic concentration (Beirut, Tel Aviv /Jaffa, Adana, Alexandria, Cairo, Damascus and Amman) which just needs freeing from political and religious ties. By developing the cities, the region will automatically follow.

The new defined geographical figure also incorporates the major trend of urbanization and urban concentration, and stresses the importance of metropolitan regions on state policies. The region's cities are growing rapidly: the area included only two one-million-cities in 1970, and had 15 of them in 2002. In 2007, the population living in urban areas reached over 90 % in Israel and 87 % in Lebanon (from The Economist, Pocket World in figures, 2008).

In 2050 about 20 cities and their population will work as pacemakers and engines for the region and create a new geo-economic space. East Mediterranean City Belt is by the way not a discovery, but something easily predictable to anyone with an interest in the region and a feel for spatial properties. Successful European metropolitan regions constitute a living model for this type of governance.

As national borders gradually lose their importance and global governance takes over national policies, the East Mediterranean City Belt can fully develop and cities will take their visionary and innovative roles in economic and social concerns. Regions and cities will cooperate and work together in cross-national affiliations. As consequence cities and meanwhile generated institutions of the EMCB will participate and shape national policies and agendas.

Special attention has to be attributed to the development of a specific economic profile: sustainable tourism from both the western countries (religious and cultural tourism) and the Middle Eastern gulf states (entertainment tourism) makes use of what the region has to offer (history and religion in Jerusalem, Cairo, Damascus,... entertainment in Beirut, Alexandria and Tel Aviv) and of its natural resources (Mediterranean Sea, desert, Red Sea, Dead Sea). The states of the EMCB have a wide range of touristic potentials and complement each other in an almost perfect way.

Action that need to be taken for the development of tourism: raising the level of existing attractions, development of infrastructure such as roads, trains, airports and public transport in general. Three main North-South corridors seem consistent with natural and historical movements: a scenic highway along the coast, a highway in the desert hinterland and finally a culture road along the rift valley. As a touristic attraction and also as an object for regional identification, the creation of cross-national natural parks and long distance tracks makes sense. An island offshore Gaza City could be built with the demolition material of the separation wall. Multilevel governance (cities, regions, nations, companies, NGO's, etc) will lead to metropolitan power and a new awareness for urban situations and problems. These "heavyweight challenges" need to be deliberated and tackled together. Coordinated acting - creating economic and political interdependence - fosters not only sustainable growth but also peace. New forms of government and working together are probably the only possibility for coping with problems of the 21 century. Especially in the East Mediterranean region, these alliances are essential for avoiding stagnation or even regression.

The diagram of road distances in the East Mediterranean City Belt demonstrates the short distances between the several nodal points. Open national borders would allow – like in Europe – one to drive, within a few hours, from Beirut to Jerusalem or from Cairo to Tel Aviv. In fact, the region is only as large as Western Europe and a five-hour trip from Paris to Frankfurt could approximate a trip from Cairo to Jerusalem (through Israel, of course, by train).

Constructing an image - collective imagination

Currently, the Middle East - and therefore Jerusalem - lacks positive connotation and confidence.

What the region definitely also lacks is an overall image of the future; an almost emblematic visualization, easy to communicate and robust enough not to lose its message through different interpretations. The East Mediterranean City Belt map intends to create such an image of the far future, which will allow orientation and collective identification.

Thought as Leitbild (overall concept), the map offers, in a universal language, a new vision and new terms, thus becoming far more than a description: in reciprocal action, complex coherences are communicated to a wide public. Our role is consecutively a contemporary witness, a cartographer, a geographer, a demographer… hence a scientist but no less an artist and an actor or player! Archeology of the future!

One potential of thinking four decades ahead is to skip the close future. Particularly in a sensitive region like the Middle East, looking ahead produces an instant headache.

Drawing a map of 2050 means drawing the history of the future. The map of the East Mediterranean City Belt comprehends elapsed developments and further future scenarios. Such anticipating offers also the unique opportunity to "roll the whole thing up from behind" or, in other words, to think the remote future backwards. We can start from a reality and work back, asking questions such as "What do we have to do to achieve this?"

Geography and cartography are disciplines of strategists and conquerors. They are also the art of disclosing the world, of make latent tendencies apparent and hidden changes comprehensible. East Mediterranean City Belt Map addresses itself to the population of its region and consequently tries to change the perception of their own area. "Official" maps are taken as "real" and not as representations, and do interplay with the very personal mental maps. The new "image" and "wording" of the region have a restructuring effect and influence on (collective) thinking and experiencing.

East Mediterranean City Belt 2050 is a tool with which the city-region is reified as a single tangible place in the collective imagination: in its collective nature lies also its constitutive power.