Are garden cities in the desert sustainable? The oasis city of al ain in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi
Amrousi, Mohamed El
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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has embarked on an ambitious plan of nation-building transforming the landscape of the country. Whereas Abu Dhabi and Dubai with their modern architecture promote an international urban lifestyle, the third largest city in UAE, Al-Ain offers a relaxed, Oasis/villa experience a form of revival to Andrea Palladio's mansions during the Renaissance era. Recent housing developments segregate around the city's mountain, and consist of about 11,000 large Mediterranean-styled villas with extensive green landscaping and an artificial canal in the desert. Although these developments are not culturally foreign, since they emulate decisions of Islamic/Arab palatial complexes such as Alhambra in Spain the scarcity of water resources and the growing interest in Western/Renaissance-styled landscaping question the notion of sustainability of a city in a desert environment. We examine urban expansion of Al Ain city in light of the constraints imposed by scarce water resources. As a case study, we investigate the water requirements for the central oasis area in Al Ain and simulate the flow condition in the falaj complex channel system using the 2D-hydrodynamic Finite Element Surface Water Modelling System (FESWMS). Today reviving ideas such as integration of nature into cities, green infrastructure constitutes the fundamentals of sustainable urbanism. Developing awareness of the importance of traditional landscape and reviving the falaj irrigation system offers a hybridization between societal needs for upscale Mediterranean styled villas and retention of Emirati cultural values and traditions. Our study offers alternative landscapes to open lawns irrigated by sprinkler systems and recommendations in line with the Estidama guidelines-the UAE's Sustainability Design and Construction regulations guidelines.