Mohamed Hassan, a madeef constructor from al-Shamiya, told Al-Monitor about the construction materials that are used in building madeefs. “Reeds and papyrus plants that grow in lakes and on river shores are dried and the sticks are made into bundles that serve as pillars for the madeef.”
He said, “Reeds are characterized by being flexible and they can be bent once fixed on the ground. They take on a curved shape that can handle the weight of the ceiling, which consists of palm fronds and papyrus. These materials are characterized by their thermal insulation and resilience to various weather conditions.”
Hassan added, “The materials used for the construction of madeefs are natural, easily obtained from the surrounding environment and cheap.”
He pointed out that the madeef construction involves all tribal members, particularly young people, on a voluntary and unpaid basis.
Al-Monitor met with Sabah Shaker, head sheikh of the Ghourra tribe and professor at the University of Mustansiriyah. Shaker talked about the political role of madeefs, which he described as established. “The madeefs were the starting point of the people’s revolution against English colonialism,” he said.
But Shaker said he was against “having the madeefs and tribes replace the state in regulating societal affairs.”
He explained, “In some cases, madeefs go beyond the law, and this is wrong. For instance, if a patient dies in the hospital, doctors are threatened by clans based on a decision emanating from the madeef.”