Dwelling with the feet of clay, trials and tribulations of construction materials and techniques in Siwa (Egypt)
De l’habitation aux pieds d’argile, Les vicissitudes des matériaux et techniques de construction à Siwa (Égypte), Journal des Africanistes, Sahara: identités et mutations sociales en objets (Tatiana Benfoughal et Sébastien Boulay dirs), 2006, Tome 76, fascicule 1, p. 165-185.
ISBN : 2908948206
In two decades, Siwa, a Saharan and Egyptian oasis of the Libyan borders, witnessed significant changes of the organization of its habitat and its architecture. While a radical change of the space distribution of the domestic units took place, the materials massively passed from a salty mud clay mortar, tlaght in siwi, the Berber language of Siwa, to the squared calcareous gypsum, inducing an also fast evolution of the techniques of construction. Although these two materials are of local origin and production, the shift from one to the other is not without incidence on the design of the habitat and the social uses of the dwelling.
The argillaceous material seems to be taken back in affection by new promoters of the ‘tradition’ (political and commercial). These actors thus invent the traditional style of Siwa by posing clay as object of reconsideration; the ‘salty mud’ has been chosen to give a visual identity to Siwa, as a marker of the ‘traditional’ for tourism purposes, with a quite coercive action of the Governorate by the way. For “that remains like before”, said without irony an inhabitant. In a few years, the status of the tlaght is better shared between the various actors: this clay is said and thought to be local-and-natural in the same movement
oasis, construction, habitat, dwelling, Egypt, Berber, Siwa, clay
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