RAHAT - Planning the Largest Bedouin City in the World

Rahat's project demonstrates a comprehensive urban plan, made for and with the Bedouin community, a desert population in transition from nomadic to permanent dwellers, in a city of 50,000 people with projection to double by 2020. The prime challenges met in this project were developing a spatial urban development strategy, led to a liveable city, for indigenous people in a semi-arid climate, with high quality built environment in an urbanizing world. The plan reinforces co-existence among Jews and Muslims, reduces conflicts and provides housing solutions in equal standards.

Over 10 years, a methodic and integrative planning process with the collaboration of dozens stakeholders, was carried out, from the structural-urban level (scale 1:10,000) for 12,000 housing units, through outline schemes in the new and existing fabric for about 9,000 housing units, up to detailed construction plans (scale 1:10). Through constant public participation process the peoples trust was gained, the unique needs and desires of different tribes and age groups were studied and the plans addressed them. The community developed pride of the place, ownership and belonging.

The plans emphasized the creation of one unified city, in its core the general public facilities, and "Green fingers" connecting to the depth of the residential fabric. While previous plans were tribal based, the new plan creates a complex urban network of streets, addressing the need of various extended family size, desires of different age groups and allowing flexibility. 9 house models were outlined to address the different needs and economical capabilities.

The plan responds to the unique cultural and social values, e.g. joint public institutions outside the neighborhoods; maintaining woman modesty; facilitating women employment; creating "Shig"s (social clubs); housing units that can accommodate polygamy.

On the 10th of August 2004, PM Arik Sharon, came to set the corner stone for this project. He promised to visit the site every few weeks, to make sure everything goes right. Unfortunately, a few months later, he fell into a coma.

A total amount of 100 million Euros were dedicated for the first stage of developing infrastructures, while more than half were already invested in the project. The first houses in the new neighborhoods started being built by the Bedouins in 2011. Site visits proved how thrilled the Bedouins were in building their new homes.

The project won the ISOCARP Awards for excellence 2011 - First Prize in the "Strategic Planning" Category.
This is a project that makes a difference. It demonstrates how powerful planning can act as a tool to promote co-existence of communities, working in mutual trust and collaboration with indigenous people, and developing hope and better life for them. I believe that if it can be done in the Middle East, it can even be done in some other places.

Planning the Largest Bedouin City in the World
Coexistence in the Middle East.
ISOCARP Awards for excellence 2011 - First Prize in the "Strategic Planning" Category.
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Amos Brandeis explains President Shimon Peres the project (9.1.12).  Credit: Mr. Jossef Avi-Yair Engel (Jucha) - Advisor to the President
Before - 2004
After -2011
Models of residential buildings
Models of residential buildings
Compilation of plans for Southern Rahat Compilation of plans for Southern Rahat PM Arik Sharon sets the corner stone (10.8.04)