In offering reflections on key themes affecting sustainability in the Middle East, this paper explores how an imprecise concept such as sustainability can, co-constituted with other powerful political and economic systems, such as nation building, drive forward new agendas for urban development. Rather than focus on specific empirical findings, the paper reflects instead on some of the assumptions underpinning competing approaches to sustainability highlighting multiple alternate visions of urban sustainability. In doing so, the paper engages with the literature on sustainability, master-planning and real estate development inviting the reader in the process to think about and ponder on the role of vision in the process. The reader is therefore invited to consider the aggregate impact of individual master planned projects on the urban fabric of fast growing cities and to think about how projects such as Masdar City in Abu Dhabi and the Msheireb downtown redevelopment in Doha demonstrate how sustainability and nationalist discourses are intertwined offering competing visions of what a sustainable city might become while at the same time hiding urban inequalities in plain sight with the help of the ‘forward looking’ facade of sustainability.
Keywords: Middle East, Sustainability, Sustainable Urbanism, Master Planning, Mega-Projects
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