Resources for (Levantine) mappers

A list of useful links to technical tools, data repositories, and learning material for people interested in critical mapping in the Levant and beyond.

This is a list that I started compiling for my peers in the masters in urban planning program at the American University of Beirut, back in 2018. I use it to consolidate resources that I use for reference in my every day research and mapping work. I wanted to share it with my class and my communities at large, so here it is.

I need to…

Make maps

  • - scratch pad for maps
  • uMap - More advanced map editing tools with good sharing options
  • QGIS - Serious map making an analysis, free open source alternative to ArcGIS/ArcMap. It’s free now, and it’ll stay free forever.
  • MapHub - quick map making and sharing
  • OpenRouteService - Generate route, isochrone , and isodistance maps from OpenStreetMap road network, and export into geoJSON and other formats
  • Felt - for making (actually really nice) maps collaboratively.

Get data

Access historical map archives (and other spatial data)

  • Old Maps Online - searches a bunch of historical map collections, searches by location, maps are georeferenced

  • David Rumsey Map Collection - more georeferenced historical maps

  • Archnet - by the Agha Khan Foundation: “An open-access resource on architecture, urbanism, environmental and landscape design, visual culture, and conservation issues”, with a ton of material on the region

  • Palestine Open Maps - historical maps of Palestine, with all the data extracted (my project!)

  • Al-Madaq - historical maps of Cairo, going back to 1809

Get data from OpenStreetMap

Add data to OSM

Collect data privately

  • Open Data Kit - the most comprehensive mobile data collection tool set out there. All open source, but requires lots of setup.
  • Field Papers - create atlases for printing, that you can then upload to OpenStreetMap or OSM-seed
  • OSM Seed - create your own private version of OpenStreetMap

Style maps

  • Stadia Maps - a great set of FOSS tools for map making with a very good transparent pricing scheme.
  • Mapbox Studio - style and serve very highly customized geographic data. There’s a free version, but gets very expensive very quickly.
  • Maputnik - Free and open source map styler, but it doesn’t serve the files for you.
  • Kartotherian - same thing but made by Wikimedia (the people behind Wikipedia)
  • Color Brewer - color advice for cartography

Learn GIS and get help

Problematize GIS as a form of knowledge

License my data openly

I also want to…

Make pretty visualizations

  • RAWgraphs - Make complex visualizations of complex data
  • - Understand complex systems by understanding the relations between their components. They also have a fantastic newsletter that you should subscribe to.

Learn more about information design

But I’m a programmer…


  • Shapely - Python package for analyzing vector geographic datasets
  • Rasterio - Python package for analyzing raster geographic datasets
  • OSMnx -  Python for Street Networks from OpenStreetMap
  • OpenRouteService - an open source package for route management


  • D3 - Data Driven Documents in Javascript
  • Prettymaps - a nice Python package for creating maps from OpenStreetMap data and style them beautifully.
  • Pretymapp - very similar funcationality to prettymaps, but with more efficient implementation. Demo here.

Learning resources

I want to see some cool applications

  1. Use the following URL\_Imagery/MapServer ↩︎

  2. Thanks to the wonderful people at Lyndhurst STEM for telling me about how useful this list is for them, and pointing me to this resource! ↩︎

Majd Al-Shihabi // مجد الشهابي
Majd Al-Shihabi // مجد الشهابي
PhD Student

A technologist, turned urban planner, turned technologisturbanplanner. Also PhD student, in geography, at University of Toronto. I think about climate change, urbanism, epistemic communities, (computational) models and their ontologies, and building them in participatory ways.