Marsh Arabs Learn To Mix Adobe And Reeds In Construction


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Categories: Homes / Dwellings
Local contractors construct the inner walls of a marsh Arab mudhif. The reeds are gathered from marshlands near the Euphrates River. The house is a blend of adobe and reed building materials used frequently by marsh Arabs in southeast Iraq.

Local contractors construct the inner walls of a marsh Arab mudhif. The reeds are gathered from marshlands near the Euphrates River. The house is a blend of adobe and reed building materials used frequently by marsh Arabs in southeast Iraq.

Local architecture plays an important role in the culture of the marsh Arabs of southern Iraq, and no structure captures the lifestyle and traditions of the region more than the ‘mudhif.’

Now, with a little outside help, the traditional structures are making a comeback in modern construction.


First constructed in the marshes of what is now southern Iraq over 5,000 years ago, the mudhif is a unique local meeting place constructed entirely of reeds, straw and other natural materials. Over time, the building process hasn’t changed greatly.

Lengths of reed about 10 meters long are bunched into columns, tied together, and then shaped into huge parabolic arches. Hand-woven mats are then tied over and between the columns, forming a roof. Finally, reed lattice panels are attached to the sides, allowing for both sunlight and airflow into the interior and enclosing the entire hut.

The design of the mudhif reflects local traditions. For instance, there are always an odd number of reed pillars in the mudhif, allowing the host of a meeting to sit along one side wall with an equal number of guests to his right and left. This ensures that the tribal sheikh remains at the center of decision-making when conducting business, and reinforces his position of prestige in the area.

Building on this traditional form of construction, U.S. Soldiers with Task Force Pathfinder embarked on a program to incorporate local building materials and techniques into present-day construction projects.

In a military-sponsored training program entitled “The Modernization of the Traditional Marsh Arab Mudhif,” local builders used readily available – and generally free – raw materials along with ancient building techniques to construct a model adobe house in Chubayish City in southern Iraq.

The ancient and the modern meet in this single location–a marsh reed home outfitted with electricity, running water and conveniences that usher in an architectural concept found throughout the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division’s operating environment.

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