By Eva Bartlett
RAFAH, May 7 (IPS) – Jihad el-Shaar is pleased with his mud-brick house in the Moraj district of Gaza. The 80-square metre home is a basic one-storey, two-bedroom design, with a small kitchen, bathroom and sitting room, made mostly with mud and straw.
“My wife and our four daughters and I were living with family, but it was overcrowded, impossible. We knew we had to build a home of our own,” Shaar said. “We waited over two years for cement but because of the siege there is none available. What could we do, wait forever?”
So he decided to do it with mud.
Building earthen structures like bread ovens and small animal pens is a technique many Palestinians are familiar with, but extending the method to houses isn’t a notion that has taken hold in Gaza.
Jihad el-Shaar got the idea from his travels in Asia and the Middle East. “I travelled in Bangladesh, India, Yemen, Turkey…they all use some similar technique of building houses from earth. All you need is clay, sand and some straw.” These he mixed with water, and poured into brick moulds that were left in the sun to dry for three days. Good enough to build a fine house with.
While some Gaza residents speak of shame at the way life has ‘gone backwards’ with the siege – using cooking oil in cars, wood fires for cooking, and horse and donkey carts for transportation – Shaar is proud of his clay home.