RECONSIDERING THE WAQF: Traditional Mechanism of Urban Regeneration in Historic Muslim Cities

Haysam Nour



Through the last century, historic Muslim Cities witnessed significant decay. The level of decay, while a number of those cities were inscribed in the WHL, created an international urge to intervene. With very limited exceptions, modern interventions did not create an obvious impact due to common factors: inefficient management, fragmented responsibilities on administrative levels, weak legislations, and lack of community awareness, participation, and absence of integrated mechanisms. However, those factors are mostly of operational nature. This paper sheds light on a socio-cultural aspect of deterioration through inquiring about a basic issue: “How was the historic Muslim city maintained for centuries?”

The key answer refers always to “the Waqf”. Although its nature and role are quite different now, the Waqf institution was the main player in urban regeneration in Muslim cities until early 1900. How did it use to work? Within which value reference? In addition, what was the position of the local community in the process? Those are the key issues discussed in the paper arguing that reconsidering this traditional mechanism might add another layer to the understanding of the complexity of Muslim cities and accordingly, might lead to different approaches in future interventions.


Waqf; urban regeneration; Muslim cities; context-conscious approach.

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