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Cultural Traces Around the World

Saudi Arabian Architecture, Part 1 of 2



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Visitors who come to Saudi Arabia are often fascinated by the incredibly diverse architectural landscape. These include the traditional rustic mud houses to grand mosques representing the Islamic faith, along with magnificent modern skyscrapers. Because of the immense diversity of weather conditions, nature imposes tough criteria for the architect when it comes to designing buildings. The Arabian people manage these challenging weather conditions by blending traditional and modern techniques to create safe, comfortable, and impressive architectural spaces.

One of the oldest building materials known to humans in the Arabian Peninsula, that has been used for thousands of years, is mud. This is perhaps the most environmentally sustainable material to use for construction, as it truly shows the ability of how people adapt to their surroundings. As of 2011, around 230 ancient mud houses could be found in Najran, a southwestern Arabian city near the border with Yemen. The Emarah Palace, which is located in the center of the city, was built on the site of an ancient well in 1944. The Al Sadran Palace, located in Al Sadran village, is over 1,800 years old and stands at seven stories tall.

The construction style for the typical Saudi Arabian household is mostly influenced by the scorching temperatures during the day, cooler temperatures at night, and the importance of Islamic culture. Both houses and large structural buildings in Saudi Arabia feature many unique, highly decorative elements, outside and inside, to attract viewers and enhance the mental state for those who enter. One of the foundational elements seen across Saudi Arabian architecture is the mashrabiya. This is a wooden screen window enclosed with latticework, carved with careful detail in a symmetrical fashion, with crisscross patterns to form a grid or weave.

The desire for enlightenment can be seen all around the living space. The interior of the buildings represents the spiritual realm itself, exemplifying how Arabian traditional architecture relates to the Islamic religion. This underlines the ideal that if we harmonize with nature, which is a representation of God, as humanity is, then we can enjoy the spiritual space both within and around us.

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