The colourful mud homes of Asir, Saudi Arabia.


Pictured right is the home of Bin Hamsan just outside Khamis Mushayt in the Asir province of Saudi Arabia. It's a modern version of the traditional Asir clay and silt homes (below) with an inner courtyard. The province of Asir forms part of the Arabian Highlands about 2,000 meters above sea level.






The climate is moderate ranging from 12oC (54oF) to 21oC (70oF) leaving no month without rain and an east wind that carries dust from the desert. Centuries of living in these conditions gave birth to stone homes in the hills and mud homes in the valleys. The mud (clay) walls, about 50cm (20 inches) thick, rest on a stone layer. They are built upwards in stages allowing each layer to dry, each capped with protruding stone slabs. The clay walls slope inwards and reduce in thickness as they get higher. This reduces the materials and the pressure of the lower walls. The clay walls rise higher at the corners mimicking the architecture of the stone buildings, but the most striking feature are the slates protruding from the walls which cascade the rain away from the vulnerable clay. For more detail download the notes on the Vernacular Architecture of the Asir.

What makes the homes of Asir so special are the colourful decorations that are spread throughout the house, inside and out (see below left). Men are responsible for building the houses while women take the task of decorating. Frescoes are not seen as works of art but as a reflection of the skills of the women who express their public personality in a masculine culture that requires them to withdraw from the public eye.