Mudhif Houses – Al-Chibayish, Iraq - Atlas Obscura

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Mudhif Houses

Al-Chibayish, Iraq

Giant reed houses made in the marshes of Southern Iraq. 


Pictures of Iraq that you see in the news might show a vast desert, scorching temperatures, or images of warfare. The rest of the country is often lost in the scramble and written off, which keeps the rest of the world from a 5,000-year-old culture that includes the majestic Mudhif houses of the Marsh Arabs of Southern Iraq.

With a population just under 500,000, it is understandable that the Madan people, also called Marsh Arabs, often get lost in the fracas. However, a glance into their world reveals a type of architecture that is unique and awe-inspiring. Mudhif houses are slightly curved communal spaces constructed out of reeds and adobe. They are typically maintained by the village sheikh through a taxation system.

Mudhif houses act as the main center of society for the Madan. Visitors are hosted in the house, and religious and cultural life are also centered there. Today, a rebirth of the ancient Mudhif style has been spurred by the United States Army, who have worked with local populations to rebuild modern houses with a Madan twist. In an effort to aid refugees, many of these marsh homes have been constructed as housing projects to accommodate the deluge of people returning to Southern Iraq after being displaced by the war.

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December 7, 2011

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