01 September 2009

Why are Arabic streets so narrow?

...asks Tyler Cowen. He isn't convinced by Chris Wickham's answer: 
"the Arab states did not use processions as a major part of their political legitimization; the assembly in the mosque courtyard was sufficient for that. The need for wide boulevards ended" 
Ryszard Kapuscinski in "The Shadow of the Sun" inadvertently offers an alternative hypothesis: 
"...one enters the narrow streets typical of old Arab towns. I cannot say why these people built in such a cramped and crowded fashion, why they pressed together this way, practically one atop another. Was it so that they would never have far to walk? Or to be better able to defend the town? I don't know. But one thing is certain: this mass of piled stone, this accretion of walls, this layering of balconies, recesses, eaves, and rooftops, somehow secured, as though in an icy treasury, a corner of shade, a tiny breeze, and a bit of coolness during the most terrifying noontime heat." 
Maybe Arab streets are designed for this bit of coolness?

Update: Philip Blue also weighs in.

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