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The missing link in the sustainability chain: Gulf women

Shareefa Fadhel (School of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK)


ISSN: 2631-6862

Article publication date: 22 February 2024




This paper offers a unique perspective on the urbanisation process in developing cities, with a particular focus on the region of the Gulf States. Beyond economic considerations, the analysis sheds light on the complex interplay of socio-cultural factors, gender dynamics and urban development. Based on the calls for human-centred approaches to rethinking urban design and management of cities require the integration of these cities’ inhabitants’ lived experiences, that impact residents’ daily lives. The focus is on the importance of women’s perspectives in the development process.


The paper uses a systematic literature review that builds on existing knowledge relating to urbanisation, modernisation, sustainable cities, gender and the Arabian Gulf. It uses Lefebvre’s 'right to the city' theory to understand the evolution of the Gulf Cities which is a novel approach. This adaptation offers a unique perspective on the transformations and challenges that these urban spaces face. Furthermore, it offers a firm foundation for developing advanced knowledge on the interdisciplinary nature of the topic discussed and assists in integrating empirical findings and perspectives from different resources.


The extreme levels of transformation in urbanisation in the Gulf States built cities that are no longer solely places for settlement, production and services but operate as significant influencers on the social, economic and political relations that produced design and cultural challenges. These cities became epicentres of power and politics that shaped the national visions and influenced policy. The process of inclusive and considerate urban development that the Arabian Gulf region is aiming to embark on is not a new exclusive strategy. But a process that has been implemented and tested in other urbanised areas globally.

Research limitations/implications

Very little historical urban research on the Arabian Gulf countries exists, hence, the difficulty in researching the Gulf urbanisation process or providing historical encounters of the change.


This paper delves into the gendered aspects of urban planning, an aspect that is frequently overlooked. It contributes to the discourse on gender inclusivity in urban spaces by focussing on Khaleeji women’s experiences, offering insights that go beyond economic considerations. The use of Lefebvre’s “right to the city” theory to understand the evolution of the Gulf Cities is a unique approach. It investigates the interaction of various factors such as economic, cultural and political influences on Gulf urban development. This adaptation offers a distinctive perspective on the transformations and challenges that these urban spaces face.



Fadhel, S. (2024), "The missing link in the sustainability chain: Gulf women", Archnet-IJAR, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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