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Volume 62, Number 5September/October 2011

In This Issue

Classroom Guide

For students: We hope this guide will help sharpen your reading skills and deepen your understanding of this issue’s articles.

For teachers: We encourage reproduction and adaptation of these ideas, freely and without further permission from Saudi Aramco World, by teachers at any level, whether working in a classroom or through home study.


Jump to McRel Standards


Cities are population centers—areas where a lot of people live. They are usually centers of economic and cultural activities, places where people of diverse backgrounds live, work and play. This issue’s Classroom Guide focuses on two aspects of cities: their physical space and their residents—both newcomers and natives. In the activities that follow, students have a chance to evaluate the interactions between urban dwellers and the cities they live in.

Theme: Cities

Start your work on this theme by finding several definitions of city. Read them and list the characteristics of cities that you think are most important in identifying them. Then write a one-paragraph definition of city. Your definition can include a dictionary definition, but it should be more complete. It might include, for example, descriptions of a city, activities that happen there, people who live there, what the bustle of life is like there. In other words, write a paragraph that lets a reader know more about what a city is than he or she can find out from a dictionary.

The Physical Space

Location: Geographers have two ways to describe the location of a place: “absolute” location and “relative” location. Absolute location refers to a place’s latitude and longitude. Relative location refers to where a place is in relation to other places, as in “My house is the third one on the left once you cross High Street.” With a small group, look at maps that show the location of these five cities: Cairo, Chicago, Paris, Riyadh and Tromsø. With your group, find the absolute location of each city. Discuss what, if anything, surprises you about what you’ve found. Why does it surprise you? Then consider each of the cities’ relative locations. What physical features is it near? What human-made features, if any, connect it to other places? What, if anything, surprises you about its relative location? Why do you think the city formed and grew where it did? List characteristics of the cities’ relative locations that all five cities have in common. What generalizations can you make about the physical location of cities?

The Composition of a City: Now that you’ve seen where some cities are located, switch your focus to consider what a city is like on the inside. Read “A Wadi Runs Through It.” Look at Wadi Hanifah on a map of Riyadh. How would you describe its location relative to the rest of the city? With your group, use information from “A Wadi Runs Through It” to write the story of what happened to Wadi Hanifah before its recent remake. Include an explanation of why it happened. For your story, think about the causes of the situation as they relate to your definition of city. Do you think cities, by their very existence, have to experience these kinds of problems? If so, why? If not, why not?

Now think about the big environmental engineering project that has taken place at Wadi Hanifah. Write a description of it that can follow your description of the problems that the project addressed. Include in your description how the wadi was improved and the purposes for which the area is now used.

How might these purposes be useful in other cities? To help you think about that question, consider one of the United States’ oldest urban parks: Central Park in New York City. With your group, do some research about Central Park. What did park planners say about the purposes that the park would serve for city residents? Have those purposes been met? Which of these purposes is the revamped Wadi Hanifah serving? Are there some purposes of Central Park that Wadi Hanifah is not serving? If so, what are they, and why do you think they are not being served?

Pull together your work on Wadi Hanifah by creating a presentation with your group that answers the question: Has the Wadi Hanifah restoration project helped Riyadh? If so, how? If not, why not? You can make your presentation as a PowerPoint (including pictures), a poster, a Web page, or any other medium and format that work.

Newcomers and Natives

As you know from defining city, one of the key features of cities is that they are population centers. Often in cities, some of the population is composed of immigrants—that is, people who have moved there from another country. In this part of the Classroom Guide, you’re going to look at the immigrants and native-born people of Tromsø, Norway. (If you want to say it like a local, pronounce it “TRAHM-sue.”)

Read “Ramadan in the Farthest North.” Take a few minutes to imagine what it might be like to leave a place like Somalia to live in a place like Tromsø. Look at maps, climate data, visual images and any other information that you think will give you a general sense of the two places. Make a class list of similarities (surely there must be some) and differences between the two places that your quick exploration has uncovered. Share ideas about experiences that you can imagine Somali immigrants to Tromsø having. Then broaden your discussion to immigration in general. Are you an immigrant? If so, share an experience you had soon after your arrival, if you feel comfortable doing so. If your parents, grandparents, friends or neighbors immigrated, share an experience they have told you about regarding their move to a new country.

Of course, when immigrants come to a new country, their lives change dramatically. At the same time, their presence can also change the cities where they settle. Hang two signs at the front of the classroom, one that says, “Ways that Immigrants Changed”; the other that says, “Ways that Tromsø Changed.” Give each student at least two sticky notes. On one sticky note, write a way that immigrants changed in order to live in Tromsø. On the other, write a way that Tromsø (including its people) changed as a result of immigration to the city. Put your sticky notes under the appropriate signs. (You can write more than one note for each category if you want to.)

Have someone read aloud the items under the first sign. After each item, decide whether it is an example of the immigrants changing radically (e.g., speaking a new language) or an example of adapting or mixing their native traditions with new ones (e.g., eating waffles and dates together). Separate the sticky notes (disposing of duplicates) into these two subcategories. Which subcategory has more items? What does this suggest about how immigrants to Tromsø have retained and altered their way of life?

Have someone else read aloud the items under “Ways that Tromsø Changed.” How has Tromsø changed as a result of having newcomers settle in the city, and how well do you think the native people of Tromsø adapted to the changes? Overall, would you say that Tromsø is or is not a hospitable place for immigrants? Why do you think so?

Think back to the immigrant experiences you discussed earlier. In those instances, how much did the immigrants change? How much did their new communities change? Think, too, about experiences in your current community that involve immigrants, whether or not you yourself have immigrated to the area. How have immigrants changed your community? How has your community changed as a result of immigration? Would you say your community is or is not a hospitable place for immigrants? Why?

Putting It Together: Umm Kulthum

So far you’ve defined city, studied the physical landscape of Riyadh, and learned about the newcomers and natives of Tromsø. For the final part of the Classroom Guide, consider the renowned singer Umm Kulthum. (Egyptians pronounce her name “oom kul-THOOM.”) Looking at her experiences, her city and her art will give you a chance to put together the themes you’ve explored so far.

Read “The Lady’s Cairo,” which tells the story of Umm Kulthum. Umm Kulthum was born in the countryside, but moved to the city. (That made her a migrant, but not an immigrant.) According to the article, Umm Kulthum changed dramatically when she got to Cairo. Make a list of the ways she changed. Think about Umm Kulthum’s experiences in the same way you evaluated the experiences of Tromsø’s immigrants. How much did she change? How much did she adapt from her earlier way of life? Then, how much did Cairo change because of her presence? How was her experience, as an Egyptian moving within Egypt, similar to, and different from, the experiences you have read about the immigrants to Tromsø? Would you rather move within your native country, or move to a new country? What might affect your answer?

As you’ve seen, people’s lives can be deeply rooted in their cities. “The Lady’s Cairo” says that “one can easily make a walking tour of sites in the city’s downtown where important moments of her life took place.” On a map of Cairo, find and mark these places. Use the article and additional research to create the text for an Umm Kulthum walking tour of Cairo.

Or, if you prefer, make a walking tour of a city closer to home. Choose the city you live in, or the city you live nearest to, and identify someone who spent much of his or her life there. It might be someone famous, or it might be someone you know—a parent or grandparent. Research how that person’s life was connected to that city. On a map, mark the important places in that person’s life in the city. Then make an itinerary for a tour. Where would you start the tour? What would you tell people about that place and why it was important in that person’s life? Then draw the tour’s route on the map. For each stop, write an informative script of what you would tell people at that stop. Illustrate your guide. You might put pictures on the map itself, or you might make a brochure that includes a map and a numbered itinerary with descriptions and visual images. Post the tour guides in the classroom and look at other students’ work. Then as a class, discuss this question: How important in a person’s life is the place where he or she lives? Use evidence from the tours to support your answer.

Seeds of High Asia


Standard 4. Understands the physical and human characteristics of place

Standard 13. Understands the forces of cooperation and conflict that shape the divisions of Earth's surface

Standard 16. Understands the changes that occur in the meaning, use, distribution and importance of resources

Visual Arts

Standard 4. Understands the principles of heredity and related concepts

Standard 6. Understands relationships among organisms and their physical environment

A Wadi Runs Through It


Standard 3. Understands the characteristics and uses of spatial organization of Earth's surface

Standard 4. Understands the physical and human characteristics of place

Standard 12. Understands the patterns of human settlement and their causes

Standard 14. Understands how human actions modify the physical environment

An “Extremely Civile” Diplomacy


Standard 9. Understands the nature, distribution and migration of human populations on Earth's surface

Standard 17. Understands how geography is used to interpret the past

World History

Standard 26. Understands how the transoceanic interlinking of all major regions of the world between 1450 and 1600 led to global transformations

Standard 29. Understands the economic, political, and cultural interrelations among peoples of Africa, Europe, and the Americas between 1500 and 1750

Waffles, Dates, & Ramadan


Standard 6. Understands that culture and experience influence people's perceptions of places and regions

Standard 10. Understands the nature and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics

Standard 12. Understands the patterns of human settlement and their causes

The Enduring Craft of Yemeni Silver


Standard 3. Understands the concept of prices and the interaction of supply and demand in a market economy


Standard 10. Understands the nature and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics

“The Lady” and Her Cairo


Standard 7. Understands the relationship between music and history and culture

World History

Standard 40. Understands the search for peace and stability throughout the world in the 1920s and 1930s

Standard 45. Understands major global trends since World War II


Standard 10. Understands the nature and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics

Julie Weiss is an education consultant based in Eliot, Maine. She holds a Ph.D. in American studies. Her company, Unlimited Horizons, develops social studies, media literacy, and English as a Second Language curricula,and produces textbook materials.