MUD – It is a resourceful and versatile building material known to humans since ages. For thousands of years, mud has been the popular material used for construction due to its :

  • Easy Availability
  • Cost-Effectiveness
  • Durability

Ancient history is profuse with architectural marvels constructed with “Mud” and “Mudbricks“. These examples range from all over the globe. Easy availability is the most remarkable thing about mud or clay soil which made it really popular as a construction material in past ages.


The earliest “Mud” construction is commonly known as “Facal“, where the temporary shelters were made of wood and finally finished with mud for waterproofing. In later periods, with the advancement in permanent settlements, MUD-ADOBE or MUD-BRICKS came in reference –

  • Egyptian structures from 2500 BC indicate the production techniques of adobe bricks.
  • The Middle Eastern settlements combating arid harsh climate developed their buildings entirely using mud brick. The masonry vaulted forms, presumably developed in the Middle East before the Egyptian Dynastic Period.
  • In South-West Spain, explorers found mud villages dated back to 1540.
New, unlaid mudbricks in the Jordan ValleyWest Bank (2011)


1. Shibam Hadramawt (Yemen)

Shibam Hadramawt (Arabic: شِبَام حَضْرَمَوْت) is an ancient town of Yemen located in Wadi Hadramawt, at an important caravan halt on the spice and incense route across the Southern Arabian plateau. The place is famous as “the oldest skyscraper city in the world” as it has some of the tallest mud buildings in the world, with some of them over 30 m (98 feet) high.

Old Town of Shibam

This 16th-century architectural city features tower houses that rise 5 to 11 storey high in order to protect residents from Bedouin attacks. The mud walls are routinely maintained by the inhabitants by applying fresh layers of mud to protect the buildings from rain and erosion. The city is surrounded by a fortified wall, giving it the name “the walled city of Shibam“. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

2. Taos Pueblo (New Mexico)

Taos Pueblo or Pueblo de Taos is the only living Native American community designated both a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and a National Historic Landmark. It belongs to the tribe of Puebloan people for over 1,000 years. 

The main part of the present buildings was most likely constructed between 1000 and 1450 A.D. These ancient homes are entirely made of mud mixed with water and straw, then either used directly or made into sun-dried bricks. The exteriors of the Pueblo are continuously maintained by replastering with thin layers of mud.

3. Arg-e bam (South Eastern Iran)

The magnificient Arg-e Bam (Persian: ارگ بم‎) region of southeastern Iran, is probably the largest adobe structures in the world. The fortifications and walls were constructed between 224 and 637 AD during the Sassanid empire. The name “Bam” is mentioned for the first time by Islamic writers in the 10th century. According to these authors, Bam was then a well-established market place famous for its elegant and tasteful cotton fabrics, its impregnable fortress, bazaars, and its palm trees.

All buildings are made of non-baked clay bricks, i.e. adobe and palm tree trunks. The place served as a trading center for silk and cotton garments, as a crossroad along the  Silk Road from the seventh to eleventh centuries.

Unfortunately, the 2003 earthquake in Bam destroyed more than half the city’s houses and the historic mud-brick citadel. However, it is reconstructed in 2016 and listed as the World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

4. Siwa Oasis (Western Egypt)

The Siwa Oasis or the Oasis of Amun Ra, is one of Egypt’s most isolated settlements and top attractions in Egypt with about 33,000 people, mostly Berbers.

The ancient fortress of Siwa was built on natural rock (an inselberg) and other fortified buildings were made of kershif (a mixture of salt and local mud). The salt is obtained from the lake shore high in salt content. Siwa once flourished with natural springs and water, was an important oasis on the ancient trade route in the western Egyptian desert.

5. Djinguereber Mosque (Timbuktu, Mali)

The Djinguereber Mosque in Timbuktu, Mali is a famous learning center of Mali built in 1327. Its design is accredited to Abu Es Haq es Saheli who was paid 200 kg of gold by Musa I of Mali, emperor of the Mali Empire. 

The Djingareyber Mosque is made entirely of earth and organic materials such as fibre, straw and wood. It has three inner courts, two minarets and twenty-five rows of pillars aligned in an east-west direction and a prayer space for 2,000 people. As are many of the world’s mud buildings, this one once sat on a busy camel-traveled gold and salt route.

6. Aït Benhaddou (Morocco)

Aït Benhaddou is an 11th-century old ksar (fortified village) in the Ounila Valley which was one of the main trans-Saharan trade routes between the Sahara and Marrakech in present-day Morocco. It is considered a great example of Moroccan earthen clay architecture and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987.

Grand Kasbah of Aït Benhaddou, Morocco

The beautiful ksar’s are made entirely out of rammed earthpisétabia, or al luh), adobe, clay bricks, and wood. At Ait Benhaddou, taller structures were made of rammed earth up to their first floor while the upper floors were made of lighter adobe so as to reduce the load of the walls. The structures employed a mixture of earth and straw, which can be easily eroded and begin to crumble only a few decades after being abandoned.

Ait Zineb, Ksar of Aït Benhaddou

The place has been a part of many movies like Lawrence of Arabia, Star Wars and Gladiator. It is a top tourist attractions in Morroco. Today, the ksar itself is sparsely inhabited housing roughly 8 families.

7. Khiva Wall (Uzbekistan)

Khiva is one of the cities of the ancient Khorezm, the pearl of eastern middle age architecture. According to the archeologists Khiva was founded in the 5th or 4th centuries B.C. The city was divided into two parts – The outer town (Dichan Kala) and The inner town ( Itchan Kala), which collectively comprise of long city walls with huge gates, summer residences and gardens, 79 mosques, 120 Quran schools and 64 madrassahs in the city.

City Walls of Itchan Kala, the Old City of Khiva, Uzbekistan

Khiva was located on the crossroad of The Great Silk Road that connected two powerful lands, China And Rome. The city was recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1990. There are 54 historical and architectural monuments in the city.

8. Kasbah of Sfax (Tunisia)

Kasbah of Sfax is a kasbah, an Islamic desert fortress, located in the southwestern corner of the ancient city of Sfax. In the Maghreb and in Iberia, the Arabic word form of kasbah frequently refers to multiple buildings and official fortified residence behind a defensive wall, often defended by armed guards.

Kasbah of Sfax, (converted into a museum)

It served different purposes in different times, as a control tower built by the Aghlabids on the coast, the seat of the municipal government, and the main army barracks. Its construction was preceded by the deployment of the wall and the medina quarter. Today it is served as a museum of traditional architecture.

9. Great Mosque of Djenne (City of Djenné, Mali)

The Great Mosque of Djenné is considered as the finest example of Sudano-Sahelian architectural style. The original mosque was built around the 13th century, which was the most important Islamic learning centers in Africa during the Middle Ages. The historic areas of Djenné, including the Great Mosque, were designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988.

Great Mosque of Djenné, Mali

The current structure of the mosque, however a decade old. The walls of the Great Mosque are made of sun-baked earth bricks (called ferey), and sand and earth-based mortar, and are coated with plaster which gives the building its smooth, sculpted look. The Mosque is seen in the 2005 film Sahara.

This building, completed in 1907, is the third construction of the Great Mosque of Djenné.

10. Chan Chan (South America)

Chan Chan is an archaeological site located in the Moche Valley of Peru. Chan Chan is particularly an arid section in the coastal deserts of northern Peru believed to have been constructed around 850 AD by the king Chimú.

The city has well-preserved structures of ceremonial rooms, burial chambers, temples, reservoirs, and residences for the Chimú kings. These massive architectural features indicate that there was a large labor force available at Chan Chan. The walls are adobe brick covered with an intricately carved smooth surface.




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