Traditional Architecture in the Arabian Gulf Countries

Dating back to the 1600s, architecture in the Gulf was built with the demands of family, religion and the social aspects of life in mind. Construction was influenced by culture, status at times but climate played a major role in determining what was to be constructed and where. Although the Gulf consists of many different nations, many of the buildings were relatively similar due to the fact that the materials and climate used, ended up being primarily the same. In western Saudi Arabia for instance, they preferred to use stone and red bricks, while in the central areas of Saudi Arabia, adobe was preferred because it is easy to sculpture without breaking. Jeddah builders on the other hand used coral, from the sea.

On the website mentioned above, John Lockerbie, an urban designer, architect and planner by profession provides compelling and profound evidence on traditional architecture in the gulf. Traditional construction in Qatar, for example, involved the use of naturally sourced materials. These included desert stones (basa), limestone mortar (juss), limewash (nuwra), earth (tuurab), date palm fronds (sa’af) and timber. The first buildings would probably have been mud buildings. A material called rawdha was used. This was a type of soil that once transformed to mud, was known as teen. Most of these mud homes had little or no protection from rain, but some would have stones placed on top of the mud roof to offer some protection, if any.

Almost all homes that were built along the coastal lines were constructed in a way that made use of the coastal breeze. The strong winds known as shamal offered plenty of ventilation for some of the homes which did not have windows. Rooftops on these homes were utilized in a number of ways. Inhabitants would use this area for storage as well as housing of animals, and then during the hotter months of the year, they would take to sleeping on the rooftops to avoid the heat indoors. Many of the earlier traditional homes didn’t have rooftops. On the contrary, they were one big room, with an entrance that was to double as ventilation seeing as there were no windows. If for some reason the home was built with an orientation that left the prevailing winds hitting the walls rather than entering the doorway, the inhabitants would live a very uncomfortable life. These pre-historic homesteads had a hand-dug well known as a ‘bir´ that was paramount to their livelihood because they used the water not only for themselves but their animals too.