The rammed earth and adobe city of Ghadamès, Libya.


What would it take to cool your house to 20C/68F if it was 50C/122F outside? In Ghadamès, Libya it costs nothing. Ghadamès keeps itself cool with thick adobe and rammed earth whitewashed walls and date trees planted around the city.






The Libyan oasis city of Ghadamès known as the 'pearl of the desert', because of its bright white lime washed walls. It is one of the oldest pre-Saharan cities and a living example of the vernacular architecture for the region, its climate and natural resources. The city is roughly circular in layout, a cluster of houses with defensive outer walls. [see video above]

The basic units of the city are its houses which have at least two main floors. Access to a home is by a single entrance door which opens onto a narrow hallway leading to a rectangular shaped room where provisions are stored. At the back of the room a staircase leads to the spacious family living area. The ground-level living space is surrounded by the city's many covered passageways which open onto the city forming arcades rather than open streets.

The first floor generally includes a raised attic and bedrooms, and sometimes a sitting-room. The terraces have projecting towers formed by the raised attics in the roof. The open-air terraces are reserved for women allowing communication between terraces to make friends with neighbours and move about the city. The covered arcades at ground level are generally reserved for men.

The entire city is made from either rammed earth or adobe with limestone, woodwork and palm-wood forming a labyrinth of enclosed lime washed streets with ventilation holes that maintain a cool space in the summer and warm in the freezing winters. Lime-washing of the walls inside and in the large outdoor areas brightens the rooms and highlights the colourful windows and niches. Ghadames is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.