Report: West Bank Sees Revival of Mud Houses in Palestinian Villages

Facing concrete shortages and price hikes as well as demolitions, Palestinians turn to more traditional method of building homes.

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Palestinians building a clay house, after their house was destroyed in Israel's military operation in Gaza, in the Rafah refugee camp, April 28, 2009.
Palestinians building a clay house, after their house was destroyed in Israel's military operation in Gaza, in the Rafah refugee camp, April 28, 2009.Credit: AP

Palestinians in the West Bank are adapting to the building realities of occupation by turning to traditional materials such as clay, sand and gravel, Al Jazeera reported over the weekend.

The local population faces two challenges: demolitions by the Israeli government and the unreliability or high prices of cement.

"My neighbors perceived building from mud at first as a step backward," Ahmed Dawud, 45, told Al Jazeera about his recent project in Jericho. "They found the shape of the domes strange and didn't take the project seriously. Even the workers were suspicious about the capacity of the house to be habitable."

His neighbors became believers a few months later when Nesher stopped exporting cement to the Palestinian territories for several weeks and the price of cement shot up thereafter.

In 2010, UNRWA launched a project to build dozens of mud brick homes in the Gaza Strip for about $10,000 each, but according to a 2009 report by the Inter Press Service, Gazans were already building homes made of mud and straw for as little as $3,000.

Between Israeli restrictions on the import of construction materials and the difficulty in obtaining building permits from the authorities, West Bankers are increasingly turning to the traditional form of building, which was replaced by cement in the 20th century.

"A big advantage of mud over cement is that it's not only cheaper, but you can also easily rebuild with it. If [a home] was demolished, you just need to add water and mix it," Alberto Alcalde, an architect at ARCO, an Italian architects' cooperative working in the West Bank, told Al Jazeera.

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