World Architecture Galleries

Arbore Huts of Reed

Southern Ethiopia
Visited 2012 and 2014 

Dorze, Chencha

Southern Ethiopia
High in the Rift Valley Mountains in Southern Ethiopia, the Dorze people have developed a technique of splitting and weaving bamboo. They use it to make fences and baskets, coat it with clay to make storage pots, even make bee hives out of it, but most importantly, they make whole houses from it. Even the scaffolding and the ladders are made from bamboo?

It takes a lot of preparation, the bamboo is not used in the round, as for many Malaysian houses, but split, flattened out, and then the pith is removed. This makes the pieces flexible enough to be woven between uprights, set into the ground and then gradually added to as the height rises. Eventually the builder will start to pull the pieces in and weave rings of decreasing size until they are finally closed with a crown, woven separately on the ground.

Berber Cave Dwellings

Atlas Mountains of Morocco
Caves may, or may not, represent the earliest of human dwellings, and there is evidence that many formed permanent homes for more settled communities. They are not usually the realm of nomads, for once a group has left a cave empty, it becomes available for another group to occupy. However, the peaceful Atlas Mountain Berber nomads keep a time honoured respect for each family's different caves, while at the same time maintining that no-one owns, or even has rights of occupation to, any particular cave. This is a very healthy response to questions of land ownership. While you need it, it is yours, when you no onger need it, it is free for someone else.

The caves are occupied typically during the colder months, when the nomads will bring their flocks down from the peaks to lowland areas closer to local villages and away from the snows. In the summer months they slowly climb the heights, occupying a series of small caves as the months go by, until in summer they use small black tents to pitch in the highest areas. Of course, this brings the families closer together, and summer is a time also for meetings and marriages.

Nenet Reindeer Herders

Yamal Peninsular


Sinai Desert
The Arab black tent holds almost mythical status in the realm of nomadic architecture, and there are dozens of different variants. Possibly the best known is the nine-pole tent used by many Bedouin people, which achieves a balance between economy of timber use, a scarce resource in these desert regions, and the maximisation of useable floor area achieved by raising the whole of the tent off the ground (compare with the Tekna tent, for example where the sides almost touch the sand). 
One side of the tent is traditionally the makhad, a place for meeting and receiving guests, the other is for family occupation.

Today, the tent is undergoing rapid change and many Bedouin are settling into small shelters mostly made from concrete block at tin. The region has become increasingly arid, rainfall is diminished and water tables are dropping, and the population is increasing rapidly. Many old tents are to be seen piled by these shelters. The nomads are unwilling to dispose of them, 'just in case' they should one day want to return to nomadic life. 

Hamer Conical Huts

A very rare example

Southern Ethiopia
Visited 2012 and 2014


c/o Gordon Clarke
Sigford Hall,
Devon TQ12 6LD