Informal Encounters: Mapping Abu Dhabi's urban public spaces

Yasser Elsheshtawy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


The paper explores the extent to which inhabitants of Abu Dhabi find ways to circumvent official notions of order as it pertains to the use of open public spaces in the city. To that effect, the study focuses on informal modes of urbanity by examining and mapping various forms of informal activities that still persist in the city. The study relies on field research carried out in Abu Dhabi's central area, content analysis of media reports, and interviews with officials and city residents. This will be contextualized and situated within the overall urban development of Abu Dhabi. These contemporary modes of informal urbanism will be mapped through a survey of the city's public spaces. A series of vignettes offers a portrayal of the diverse ways in which residents have constructed an alternative order. The overall aim is to construct a 'narrative of informality' - a view from below offering a more substantive assessment of people's interaction with, and relation to, the built environment. The paper begins with a theoretical framework aiming at situating the study within the overall discourse known as 'informal urbanism' and the study of the everyday which, while prevalent to various degrees within urban theory, has been receiving renewed emphasis. The overall value for mapping such activities both at the level of urban theory and for the urban development of Abu Dhabi is discussed in the conclusion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)92-113
Number of pages22
JournalBuilt Environment
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Urban Studies


Dive into the research topics of 'Informal Encounters: Mapping Abu Dhabi's urban public spaces'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this