Wednesday, September 12, 2007

High-Rise Mud Houses of Yemen

There is a Yemeni proverb:
"However tall the mountains are, that is how tall the houses will be."


Indeed Yemen is famous for its high rise towers. Here the height of their homes was an indication of the owner's wealth and power. Land there is also scarce and expensive. Besides the towers served a defensive purpose in troubled times. Each houses a family. In this typical example, the ground floor is for the animals and storage; the first floor for the living rooms and bedrooms; above that would be the kitchen. The top floor contains a the mafrai: This is the large room where the owner of the house meets his friends, and it is usually the only decorated room in the house. At night the man of the house invites friends to come to his mafrai and chew qat leaves, which contain mild stimulants.

Construction workers dig deep into the ground to find firm soil and, at the bottom of the trench, place a layer of animal droppings covered by a layer of salt. On this course they place timbers parallel to the walls, with stones packed in the interstices. In this manner, the builders construct a masonry wall of stone and lime up to street level. Then they pile sun-dried mud bricks up to the sixth floor, reducing the thickness of the walls as the building rises so that the internal dimensions seem to be constant and the external profile tapers slightly from ground to roof.The houses are topped by flat roofs surrounded by parapets to form terraces. These terraces are waterproofed with an application of ramad - a plaster of lime, wood ashes and sand.

It usually takes between half a year to 5 years to build a house. Some houses have been under construction for decades. People have moved in already, yet the construction is still proceeding.

Reference: By Chen Chih-hung and translated by Teresa Chang

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Kyle and Svet Keeton said...

Modern looking city built out of mud, who would know. It looks so concrete and block.

They are tall buildings.

"Construction workers dig deep into the ground to find firm soil and, at the bottom of the trench, place a layer of animal droppings covered by a layer of salt."

The salt I assume is for curtailing rotting, but animal droppings? and what type of animal.


Roberto said...

Hello Mazlin,

Just wondering if these high rise edifices have some kind of earthquake protection? Perhaps they don't need it in that part of the world.

By the way, I like your new look.

Mazlin Ghazali said...

Why animal droppings? I really don't know.
There was an earthquake in Sumatra yesterday, so the question of earthquakes is timely. I suppose that they don't have any in Yemen.
I expanded the blogger "sand dollar" template to 3 columns, then changed the colours and added in a tag cloud.
I had a tense time working through the steps again and again before the new look could be published.
So I'm happy I have 2, sorry, 3 thumbs up.

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