Attitudes towards designed landscapes in two desert cities : Medina, Saudi Arabia and Tucson, Arizona
In the past, knowledge about desert was the most dominant knowledge among the public in Medina-Saudi Arabia. This knowledge was informed and inspired by a firm embrace of and commitment to religious rules, traditions, and advice. Medina historic landscapes (e.g. palm garden) were evidence of a sustainable natural-cultural relationship that developed over long history. Many designs have their roots in Quranic verses and/or Prophetic Hadith revealed or narrated 14 centuries ago. Meanwhile, the western culture that accompanied imported technology in Saudi Arabia has brought huge changes to most aspects of urban life. Western technology might has brought convenience to city life, but the paradoxical reliance on this technology has caused the historic natural-cultural relationship to decline. One of the most severely distorted aspect of this relationship is the societies cultural and aesthetical perception and preference of natural desert and traditional urban and suburban landscapes. Ironically Saudis became alienated from desert at a time the westerners living in dry environments, e.g. Arizona, abandoned their historically negative relationship with desert and began to create nature-like desert landscapes in cities, (e.g. Tucson-Arizona). This study utilised an ethnographic approach to research the first part of the study to unfold the history behind this phenomenal alteration in perception of desert landscape in the two different cultures, American and Saudi, at two different times in history, (before and after 1960). The second part of the study utilised a quantitative research methodology for the purpose of investigating the effect of factors, that were identified as important in the first part of the study (and in particular knowledge and familiarity), on perception of desert landscapes on both cultures. The results demonstrated clear trends among both cultures and their interpretation bear clear testimony to the strong contrasts between American and Saudi contemporary perception of desert landscapes. At the same time, the study demonstrates some rewarding opportunities in the suburban part of the city of Medina by which desert landscape can be re-established successfully.