In Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Marlowe spoke the language of the colonizer; he mused that as “…a little chap I had a passion for maps. I would look for hours at South America, or Africa, or Australia, and lose myself in all the glories of exploration. At that time there were many blank spaces on the earth…”. These blank spaces, or uncolonized, non modernized spaces were depicted as spaces to be filled; to construct. Heart of Darkness was written at the end of the 19th century, but the same attitude still exists even today.
In December 2006 The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan announced their plans of transforming Aqaba “into a commercial, residential and tourism powerhouse”. Such a plan could be seen as based upon Ibn Khaldun's concept of omran; which linguistically comes from the Arabic word amr, which means to fill an empty space. As used by Ibn Kahldun, it refers to the social process of occupying a territory; the social aspects and mechanisms of urbanization. De Slane (1927) defines Ibn Khaldun's concept of omran as bringing together "an inhabited area, then a culture, the population of a country, prosperity, and finally civilization". Omran was a dynamic process for creating cities.
This movement towards ‘prosperity’ and ‘civilization’ marks an important moment in the relationship Jordan has with the wider world. Its attempts to market itself to a global audience suggests an attempt to alter the way non-Arabs view the Middle East. For Jordan this may be more important as it borders Israel, Syria and Iraq; countries that are in ‘conflict’ internally and externally.
This body of work documents the way that these ‘blank spaces’ on ‘maps’ have been, and are being ‘filled’ with new developments designed for international corporations and western tourists in mind. However, the global financial crisis of 2008 and the on-going crisis in the region has led to places such as Aqaba, (proclaimed once by Imad Fakhoury; CEO and Chairman of The Aqaba Development Corporation (ADC) as “one of the most sought after parcels of real estate in the world”), now becoming less than ‘desirable’ and in some respects potential ghost towns.
These images of various locations in Aqaba shows an area in transition. It is a photographic map of imagined landscapes only half realized, which through photography shows how the political and social reality of the new Arab world is unfolding.