Around the World in Five Houses (1)


From freezing icy, to melting sandy environments, humans inhabit most of the terrestrial spots on Earth. The diversity of climatic conditions and naturally-available resources has allowed unique lifestyles to flourish across the world. One aspect of this human legacy is vernacular architecture; the common domestic architecture of a specific region. Vernacular architecture is best reflected in houses that are tailored to address the local community needs and depend on the available construction materials. Let us take a tour around the world to examine some examples of these seemingly simple, yet science‐based, houses.

Harsh Deserts

Not so far away from us, across the Sahara and Arabian Deserts, we can find nomadic or Bedouin tents that are quite popular in our culture. If you have not visited a nomadic tent in some safari trip, you must have seen many in Arabic movies, or read about them in Arabic literature or adventure books.

As the name suggests, nomadic lifestyle implies moving frequently from one spot to another. Hence, Bedouin tribes need portable shelters that could be set up and taken down easily; flexible, lightweight, and strong textiles meet these requirements perfectly. Bedouins weave architectural materials from the locally available animal hair, and use them to create floors, walls, and ceilings for their tents.

Bedouin dwellings have to also provide protection against the Desert’s harsh climatic conditions. Traditional tent fabrics are hand-woven by Bedouin women, using ground looms from sheep, goat, or camel hair. These natural textiles have malleable properties that allow stretching them into different shapes. Typically, tents are built in rectangular structures supported by poles in a manner that allows air to circulate within them.

Dark animal hair fabrics have high insulating properties that allow the absorption of the harsh desert heat during the day and releasing it at night when temperatures drop below zero degrees Celsius. On rainy days, the woven fibers absorb the water and swell, the tiny holes in the fabric close, and the tent becomes waterproof. Last but not least, the coarse weave diffuses sunlight, creating an illuminated interior in daytime.

Stay tuned for a new journey and a new house!

*Read "Around the World in Five Houses” 2, 3, and 4.

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SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
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