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The Guardian Cities From Scratch Series

New cities are finally getting some attention.

The Guardian Wade Shepard article
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BROOKLYN, New York- After mentioning, pitching, BEGGING an array of publications to do a series on new cities, it’s finally happened. Earlier this month, the Guardian did it:

Cities from Scratch.

New cities is one of the topics that I’ve been covering over the past decade or so. I got into it as a result of simple travel intrigue: I stumbled into some new cities in China in 2006 and asked what’s going on? I didn’t know then that I would eventually discover the answers.

Travelers go to places — should not a completely new place be irresistible? A completely new place that has scarcely been visited, that has never thoroughly been described? What traveler wouldn’t want to go to such a place?

As I wrote in the introduction to Ghost Cities:

China’s ghost cities also presented me with another intrigue. I’ve been moving through the world since 1999, visiting and living in fifty or so countries before finding myself netted within the giant expanse of China a few years ago. There is often a subdued, archaic thirst in the traveller to be the first to make it to a place, to be the first one to chart out a new dot on the map and then return home to tell everyone about it. Though the age of discovery has long been over and done, the explorer’s conceit is still with us. While most of the places in this world are known globally, their locations marked by GPS, their terrains photographed via satellite, and their streets crawling with tourists, China has presented the passé wanderer with a loophole: new cities – hundreds of them. While it’s safe to assume that more or less every new large-scale development in China has already attracted teams of foreign planners, designers and builders, not many outside of this professional realm have actually visited these places, let alone have written about them. I have to admit here that I found it appealing to research places that have not yet been thoroughly described, photographed and conceptually nailed down. Rather than racing to be the first to discover locales lost, forgotten and obscured, the new game was to witness and describe places that were just being created.

My story in The Guardian’s new cities series is called Should We Build Cities From Scratch? and features an wide gamut of my findings over the past decade as well as an interview that I did with a Nobel prize winning economist.

Duqm new city

The new city of Duqm rising out of the desert of Oman.

With this series — and after my Silk Road book comes out — I think I may actually be about finished with new cities and be ready to add on another topic.

Wait … I still haven’t made a proper full-length documentary on this subject.

Maybe after that …

Read my other stories on The Guardian.


Filed under: In Other Media, New Cities

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3691 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: Trenton, Maine

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  • Trevor July 24, 2019, 2:13 pm

    good job Wade….. read the full Guardian post… very interesting…

    hope u find some where soon in Queens..

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    • Wade Shepard July 25, 2019, 10:01 am

      Thanks, man, very much appreciated!

      Link Reply