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サウジアラビア、経済都市を建設
CRITIC’S NOTEBOOK
Saudi Urban Projects Are a Window to Modernity
By NICOLAI OUROUSSOFF
Published: December 12, 2010
JIDDA, Saudi Arabia
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/13/arts/design/13desert.html
サウジアラビアは首都リヤドに経済特区、そのほか国内4箇所に経済都市の建設を計画
・これらは国内若年層の雇用確保を狙っているとともに、西側諸国からの投資を求めている
・地区内ではアラムコルールにのっとって宗教的に寛容な生活を営めるようになっている
・また、初の男女共学制の大学がサウジアラビアに開校している


サウジの20歳以下人口は1300万人で、全人口の半分に達する
・雇用百万超と住居四百万を十年から十五年間で作り出す
・経済の石油依存からの脱却
・このため、西側流の近代化を進め、厳格な宗教慣行を緩和した都市を建設し保守派の反発を招かずに徐々に影響を広がらせる
・成功すれば、サウジを宗教的には現在よりもわずかながら寛容な専制社会となる

アラムコルール
・サウジ国内では男女の別が厳格、女性の社会参加に制限があるがこれを緩和する取り決め
・女性の自動車運転、公共の場での男女同席などを職員居住地内に限って認めている


経済都市
・各都市は2030年までに完成の予定

King Abdullah Economic City 
・紅海に面する港湾ジッダから北へ車で1時間に位置する
・建設に着手している
・計画面積65平方マイル、計画人口2百万
・付近に2009年に開校した男女共学制大学あり

プリンストン大学の中東専門家でサウジについて書いているBernard Haykel教授
“Someone telling you to go pray ― that in-your-face religion ― that’s not going to be permitted in these cities. It’s a more ecumenical Islam. But it’s a slippery slope. Once you start, you’ve basically opened up the door to a certain degree of diversity and tolerance.”

Urban Fortresses

In many ways Saudi Arabia looks like a modern country. Riyadh was laid out on a rationalist urban grid in the 1960s by Constantinos Doxiadis, a postwar Modernist planner. King Fahd Road, its main axis, is a multilane highway that cuts the city in two and is dotted with recognizable landmarks: Kingdom Center, a skyscraper known as “the bottle opener” because of a triangular hole at the top, designed by the American firm Ellerbe Becket; Norman Foster’s pointy Al Faisaliah tower; and the headquarters of the Interior Ministry, a menacing upside-down concrete pyramid that looms just off the main strip.

Underneath the modern gloss, however, the city’s architecture reflects the strictures of the Saudis’ severe Wahhabi brand of Islam. Public parks ― where men and women might mingle ― are few; restaurants have separate dining areas for men and women; banks have separate entrances; and cinemas are banned. Many windows are covered by modern versions of mashrabiyas, traditional latticework screens, to ensure privacy. Men and women avoid riding elevators together. The most open public spaces are hotel lobbies, where women sometimes show their faces.

When I visited recently, the steel frames of the financial district’s first towers could be seen rising at the city’s northern edge, just beyond a ring road. According to the government, this will one day be the financial center of the entire Middle East, and the design blends elements of Wall Street, La Défense in Paris, and Canary Wharf in London into a kind of generic financial theme park.

At the heart of the plan is Financial Plaza, a sterile limestone square framed by a stock exchange and several bank towers. (One of the tallest is named the World Trade Center.) These will be surrounded by more corporate towers, nearly 50 in all, that will stand at irregular angles to one another and rise out of a two-story retail base linked by skywalks. A monorail will loop through the site, with stops at a planned children’s museum, a science exhibition center and the country’s first aquarium.

The public spaces are closer in spirit to Las Vegas than to Riyadh. An elaborate pedestrian promenade will zigzag through the site, flanked by a narrow reflecting pool intended to conjure a traditional wadi, the mostly dry riverbed that runs through desert valleys. Branches of the “wadi” will connect to small public squares that the architects envision as social meeting places.

Even more striking is that the design guidelines say nothing about the separation of the sexes. Jacob Kurek, a partner at Henning Larsen, architects of the master plan, showed me apartment layouts no different from those in a standard residential high rise in New York or London. Many have floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing people to stare directly into them.

Meanwhile the seven mosques that were part of the original master plan have been reduced by more than half, and most of the daily worship will take place in public prayer rooms tucked into buildings.

“None of the religious issues came into the design in any way,” Mr. Kurek said. “They want to attract a bit of both Westerners and young Saudis who have traveled abroad, in order to integrate them.”

But this integration stops at the district’s edge. Highways surround the site, isolating it within rivers of traffic. Many of the meandering streets created by the wadi dead-end in cul-de-sacs, adding to the feeling of disconnection from the street grid of Riyadh. Most people will enter by car, parking on one of four underground levels and riding elevators to street level. Once inside they will walk among buildings through more than two miles of air-conditioned skywalks, a vision that seems to have been airlifted from cold-war-era Houston.

In part the district’s isolation stems from the Saudis’ security concerns. The master plan lays out the advantages of an “island site” that would allow authorities to restrict comings and goings as well as to shut down the entire district if there is a security alert. (A similar plan is being designed for ground zero in Manhattan.)

As important, however, is that the isolation of the site will keep its vision of modernity from close contact with Riyadh’s strictly monitored society, at least too soon. When it is completed, sometime in 2012, the Financial District will be its own world. Over the next decade, as the city grows around it, and the country continues to modernize, the two would become more closely integrated. Eventually, they expect, it will be linked to central Riyadh by a tram system.

A Test for Integration

King Abdullah Economic City ― KAEC (pronounced “cake”), as the Saudi government calls it ― is envisioned as another island of relative liberalism within Saudi Arabia. For now, just beyond the gate, a roadway flanked by shrubs, palm trees and the occasional billboard of King Abdullah extends through miles of empty desert. At its far end the first stages of development rise: some tinted glass corporate office buildings, a long row of town houses and a pedestrian boardwalk overlooking the turquoise waters of the Red Sea.

According to the agency in charge of developing the economic cities, this cluster of buildings will blossom into a walled city with 400,000 apartments, town houses and villas; a central business district; an industrial zone; a 250-acre university campus; and one of the world’s largest and most technologically advanced ports.

“The whole objective is job creation,” said Amr al-Dabbagh, the agency’s governor. “The biggest oil refinery produces at most 1,500 jobs. We will produce a million.”

Despite the occasional Islamic-style embellishments ― a villa with an arched entryway, a trellised porch ― the developments bring to mind the camps built here by Aramco, the American oil conglomerate, for its executives and workers in the 1950s and ’60s. Like this new city those camps were sealed enclaves, re-creations of American-style subdivisions complete with front lawns, backyard barbecues and baseball diamonds. And they followed what were known as “Aramco rules”: women were allowed to walk around unveiled, drive cars and mingle with men.

But KAEC is Aramco with a twist. Conceived on a larger scale, economically and socially more diverse, it aims to draw a range of Western corporations and their employees, as well as their expertise, to create a social mixing chamber. The core of the city will be a business district much like the one on the outskirts of Riyadh. Residential areas will be interlaced with the kind of open public spaces ― parks, plazas and the waterfront promenades ― that are generic in large Western-style developments but almost impossible to find in Saudi Arabia.

Artists’ renderings of the project show couples happily strolling around the city dressed in an ambiguous mix of Islamic and Western styles. A video of the future university has women, their heads covered but otherwise in Western-looking dress, mingling with men on campus. To encourage more foreign companies and their employees to come here, the government will allow foreign ownership for the first time. And officials say the city will have a streamlined bureaucracy, so that unlike in other Saudi cities, where delays can make even the simplest transactions stretch out for days, action on visas or customs documents will take just an hour.

Ahmed Osilan, Mr. Dabbagh’s chief of staff, explained the difference between King Abdullah Economic City and the old Aramco camps this way: It is “not an Aramco town ― it will have a mix of foreigners and nationals ― but Aramco rules.” He added, “The coeducation, the mixing ― they’re tools for bringing about various changes the king wants.”

Eventually KAEC is supposed to be joined by three other cities: Knowledge Economic City on the outskirts of Medina, the burial place of Muhammad and one of the Arab world’s holiest cities; Prince Abdulaziz bin Mousaed Economic City, 450 miles north of Riyadh, which will focus on agribusiness; and Jazan Economic City, intended to provide industrial jobs to Saudis living near the border of Yemen, a stronghold of Al Qaeda that has become one of the most volatile areas in the Middle East.

“The economic cities are unique,” Mr. Osilan said, explaining the government’s thinking. “They are contained developments. Should they succeed they will be contagious to the neighboring region. Should they fail it is still contained.”

A Fine Line

But that kind of containment may be difficult in the age of Facebook and Twitter. Only a year ago the king attended the opening of Saudi Arabia’s first coeducational graduate school, the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, a 10-minute drive from the King Abdullah site. From the desert outside, the campus looks like a military encampment: 800 acres surrounded by a ring road and a concrete and steel wall.

Inside, I was told, the development is organized around a town square that links the university buildings to a residential area for up to 25,000 people. There are no strict religious dress codes ― women can walk around in shorts if they choose ― and anyone can drive. Aramco rules.

Yet soon after the campus opened, a two-minute video showing men and women dancing in the school’s cafeteria made its way to YouTube, outraging religious hard-liners. When a member of the Saudi Council of Senior Scholars, Sheik Saad al-Shathry, openly criticized the university, calling it evil, the king promptly fired him. Security was beefed up, and people involved in the project were forbidden to speak to the news media about “social issues” regarding the university ― meaning women. Trying to visit, I drove through an obstacle course of security bollards before being turned away at the front gate.

The clampdown underscores the delicate game the government is playing. “There has been resistance since the 1960s to any innovations that are deemed too Western ― to television, to girls’ education,” said F. Gregory Gause III, a specialist in Middle Eastern politics at the University of Vermont. “But that hasn’t stopped them from happening. Even the most conservative sheik drives an S.U.V. and has a nice house. He’s not living in the desert in a tent.” At the same time, he went on to say, a thirst for the material luxuries that the modern world can provide can’t be equated with demands for political rights ― something that he doesn’t see happening here soon.

“Even lots of women are afraid of change,” said Eman al-Najaf, a 31-year-old Saudi who blogs about women’s issues here. “Women who have been educated have been educated to stay the same. They’ve been brainwashed and prefer to live in their comfort zone.”

Several people here expressed outrage that the government was pouring billions of dollars into the creation of entire new cities while large areas of existing ones had deteriorated into slums. Jidda, for example, already has a port in desperate need of upgrading. Its historic center is a medieval slum inhabited by foreign laborers. The city has no sewer system, only septic tanks that regularly spill into the streets. And people who live there will have to continue living by the old rules.

“Here you have a long historical pattern of settlement,” said a local architect, Tariq Alireza, expressing a frustration I encountered again and again here. “There is an inordinate amount of vacant land. Why not solve our problems? Why not fix the port in Jidda? We’re not Saudi Arabia? What law will apply here?”

If the government’s vision fails ― if it cannot manage the forces of liberalism within its planned developments ― it could set off more intense clashes with militant forces that could ripple across the Middle East and the West. A more likely outcome is that, as resistance from the country’s conservative religious establishment grows, the government will ratchet up its mechanisms of oppression.

But an even bigger danger, some say, may be that the government won’t move forward at all.

“You’re looking at decades,” Mr. Haykel said. “If these cities don’t work, and they can’t produce jobs and, say, the price of oil drops, you could have masses of people mobilizing against the government, and it could take the form of religious extremism. But in the long run if they don’t produce an economy that’s not dependent on oil, the country itself becomes unviable. I don’t know how they would be able to sustain life there. It’s an end-of-the-world scenario.”




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