The Muslim Street is Everywhere (and soon coming to a theater near you)

Simone, AbdouMaliq. 2007. The Muslim Street is Everywhere (and soon coming to a theater near you). Geoforum, 38(4), pp. 593-596. [Article]

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Bangkok….Soi Sukhumvit 3 is at the heart of the Middle East quarter in Bangkok. With its restaurants and shish cafes, its mosques lodged across apartment buildings and profligate telephone bureaus, the quarter anchors the intersection of Arabs and Africans from all over the world. From young men filling the 550 rooms at the Grace Hotel, in both temporary and prolonged respites from the sexual constrictions of home to the black clad niqabi sisters with a passion for shopping, the area harbors a plethora of agendas and proclivities. The quarter is firmly ensconced in the Sukhumvit district—a large area of tourists, multistory condominium developments, upscale and nondescript hotels, commercial sex zones and a vibrant street economy which shifts character daily depending on the time of day. While retaining some basic segmentation according to commercial activity and residential capacity, the main thoroughfares are a mélange of diversities, of the covered and the uncovered, the religious and the hedonistic, families and singles.

Historically, small Arab commerçants specializing in jewelry, textiles, and leather goods were able to consolidate territory in a district that largely grew without systematic planning or regulation, a process facilitated by the gaps created through competing trajectories of infrastructural developments, wildly fluctuating land valuation, and political expediency. The close proximity of the Middle East quarter to the sex and tourist businesses provided it both a measure of stability and invisibility. Muslims have been an intrinsic part of the city for a long time, constituting the bulk of the crews that built the major canals eastward from the royal center under Rama III in the mid-19th century. In return, Muslims were ceded land along the banks of the canals, where to this day are lined scores of mosques. The present Middle East quarter is located just below a major node in this canal system along which runs Petchaburi Road, which at the time of the quarter’s initial settlement, was a rambunctious avenue of various illicit trades.

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Date Deposited:

23 Apr 2010 07:24

Last Modified:

07 Dec 2012 12:52

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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