In Babil province, which is roughly 100 kilometers south of Baghdad, Sheikh Majid Kallabi spoke to Al-Monitor about “the popularity of this method in the construction of houses, despite Babil being far from the marshes where reeds grow.”
He said, “This method of building houses became widespread in the 1980s when the region's population emigrated to Babil after the marshes were dried out due to the Iran-Iraq War [1980-88], and they brought this new method of construction with them.”
In Babil, Mohamed Hassan, a farmer, gave up his clay house and built a house of reeds, palm fronds and trunks. He told Al-Monitor, “This kind of house is adequate for the hot Iraqi weather because it provides a cool environment due to air currents that come in through the perforated walls of the house. In winter we insulate it well to avoid rain leakage.”
In 1824, military commander George Keppel described these structures as “lined-up yellow houses [across the Tigris River], ranging in length from 50 to 60 feet and resembling the structure of a capsized ship.”
To preserve this heritage in eco-friendly houses, the marsh environment — suffering from limited water resources — needs help. Water issues are pushing people to migrate and killing reeds and papyrus plants that provide the raw materials for the construction of these houses.