Where the sidewalk ends: Informal street corner encounters in Dubai

Yasser Elsheshtawy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


Research on Dubai has typically focused on the spectacular and the city's rapid urban transformation. This study seeks to go beyond the city as spectacle by offering a detailed, empirical account of a street in one of its low-income districts, Hor Al Anz. The neighborhood is a locale for South-Asian migrant workers, for whom the street is the only recourse for public interaction. The street-corner in particular becomes a site for social gatherings, and thus provides a microcosm for the lives of these migrant workers. The study is set within a larger context of informal urbanism where city residents take matters into their own hand and begin to subvert established planning practices. Moreover, I am also providing a brief overview of Dubai's urban development to contextualize the case study, in particular looking at immigration laws and the place accorded to such migrants. Census data and content analysis of media reports have been used in that regard. The study adopts a unique mapping methodology utilizing GIS technologies, behavioral mapping and videography. The result is a detailed portrayal of the street's inner life. Through this, policy makers and urban planners would have at their disposal a much more nuanced and richer depictions of the lives of these migrant workers. Findings should lead to a more empathetic understanding of inhabitants' lives and accordingly spaces and neighborhoods would be planned which are more responsive to their needs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)382-393
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013


  • Behavioral mapping
  • Dubai
  • GIS
  • Informal urbanism
  • Urban design
  • Urban planning
  • Urban studies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Urban Studies
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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