February 02, 2012

Travels with Hubbie Part III

In the mist

Yes, still in that northern region of the Beqaa Valley. So we are driving around, and suddenly in the mist, we see all these shapes popping up all over the plain. The area around el Qaa is teeming with ancient mud dwellings.

In the old days, mud was the only building material, since there is very little rock in the valley, and wood, well, that was hauled off eons ago. The rich built in stone. The rest used mud, because mud brick was the only building material around that didn’t cost (much), and everyone was living in little mud brick dwellings.

All these mud brick dwellings have since been abandoned and fallen to ruins, but here in el Qaa, you can see that at one point in time, this region must have been teeming with these little houses, each one on its own little plot of land. The mud bricks were prepared in wooden forms from a mixture of loamy earth, chaff and water. (source) . This type of housing has been in use since Neolithic times, and our mud is pretty famous, I found out while surfing the web.

The Israelis – while occupying the southern part of it - apparently referred to Lebanon as ‘the mud’; Once you get struck into it, there’s just no way to get out. (source).
Mud houses are environmental friendly, isolate well against the winter’s cold (and boy, does it get cold over there) and the summer’s heat, and are made from local products. It is a pity when you see all these ruins, that the knowledge of how to build these houses is gone.

They have totally disappeared from the valley landscape since the introduction of cement, and if you do want to see an original house from those days, you will have to go to the Terbol Museum, where Bedouin women have constructed an original mud brick farm house.

You can also sleep in one in Taanayel, where the NGO Arc-en-Ciel has one fixed as an eco-lodge. It seems you can participate in the making of the mud bricks and children can learn how to build mini mud houses.

We also ran into this bizarre project. Although it looks good and very romantic, I think it might be better for the local economy if we’d give mud bricks a try.


joseph said...

Good post!

Arcenciel is a great organisation and their workshop in Beirut is well worth a visit.

Terbol is also a great place. The people there are very warm and friendly. Also worth visiting.

Anonymous said...

Waw what an amazing idea! Romantic and it must be very warm inside:) great for economy:)Did they say how much these mud bricks cost? There is no price information at their site..