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December 15, 2007

Living underground

During my recent trip to Libya I learned that some parts of the country are so hot and dry that living on the surface is definitely inadvisable. I suppose it is a demonstration of human ingenuity that for centuries the inhabitants of these areas have built elaborate dwellings below the surface. And, far from being primitive or even uncomfortable, many of these dwellings are far more luxurious than their inhabitants would enjoy in a normal house built above ground.

The courtyard of a subteranean dwelling. The earth above insulates the rooms against the intense heat and even the courtyard is cooled by channeling breezes through tunnels to ensure it doesn't overheat.

The rooms are arranged to open off the central "courtyard", and though they lack windows, the shaft of the courtyard provides plenty of light and air. Airshafts and the means for directing breezes and even cooling the air by means of passing it through tunnels and small chambers in which there is a water cistern, all help to regulate the temperatures and maintain them at an even and very liveable level.

The entrance door to a subterranean house. Beyond lies a large vestibule and short tunnel into the central court.

The other advantage of being below ground is that the stored warmth in the earth above you keeps the temperature at night a constant and pleasant warmth, even when the surface temperature at ground level is below freezing - which it can easily be in the desert!

All the comfort of a normal desert house.

And just for the record - these houses were used in the filming of Star Wars but they are still in use as the homes of quite a large group who have lived here for centuries ...

Posted by The Gray Monk at December 15, 2007 09:55 PM

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