The majority of Middle Easterners live in cities, and the proportion is sure to grow due both to natural increases and to migration from rural areas. Several of those cities have more than ten million inhabitants—Cairo, Tehran, Istanbul—and more than a dozen are in the multi-million category. The cities concentrate not only the Middle East's population but also, as this book's title indicates, its poverty and its politics.
The fifteen essays are more interesting for the problems they discuss (veiling, abortion, marriage, health and nutrition, illegal settlements, street merchants) than for the insights they bring. Originally presented at a 1993 conference, most draw heavily on secondary sources; only about a dozen of the many hundred footnotes are to materials in Arabic, though to be fair, some are based on field research. The essays too much reflect the politics of the academy, exaggerating problems of market societies and sympathetic to outdated leftist approaches. Thus, Bonine suggests that the solution to urban malnutrition is to grow more food locally, even though imported food is often cheaper. These reservations aside, the essays deal with issues important both for the well-being of the region and its politics, and so are well worth reading.