The idea of the ‘Islamic city’
Two approaches to understanding space have been developed in the body of discourse and knowledge on cities in the Middle East and North Africa. Most scholarly conceptualisations of the city and space are based on cognitive interpretations in which the city is understood through rational relations, producing a model which is very close to what de Certeau calls 'the concept city.' The other approach lies in the realm of immediate perception and sensual experience represented by the accounts of both scholars and visitors. This chapter deals with theories of the city, and then addresses descriptions of the immediate perceptions of both scholars and travellers. Each approach has developed a set of vocabulary, terms and prototypes, many of which have become keywords and key concepts in the body of knowledge connected to the notion of Islamic city. Aerial representations and maps have been among the main sources of conceptions in Islamic cities studies.