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Cisterns of Old Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

or, If You Pray for Rain – Harvest It

By Brad Lancaster,, ©2010

Number 2 in a series of Drops in a Bucket blog entries on Brad Lancaster’s and David Eisenberg’s U.S. State Department-sponsored adventures and gleanings in the Middle East

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, April 2009

Most of the water people now drink in Saudi Arabia is desalinated seawater. And there are great costs, among them air pollution from the power plants which burn oil to run the desalination plants. We read articles daily on the many people falling ill from the pollution.

The new Saudi Arabia is very dependent on this oil, not only for water, but the mechanical heating and cooling of the new modern buildings of imported concrete, steel, and glass. New stand-alone modern high-rise and its conceptual “courtyard” (vertical space in the glass wall) referencing the functional traditional courtyards where people gathered in a passively protected microclimate

But the traditional dynamic Saudi culture was borne from surviving and thriving in this hot, dry climate — without oil, imported building materials, and appliances. We wanted to see the old practices of harvesting water, building with local materials, and passive cooling and heating. So, we headed for old Jeddah. Traditional old-Jeddah courtyard created by the shelter of clustered buildings

Old Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, is a gem, and as our guide Sami promised, it is replete with a rich tradition of harvesting rainwater, life, and vernacular architecture. Sami Nawwar was our lively host. He is caretaker of the grand Nasseif House/Al Balad at the core of old Jeddah. Sami is hugely excited about old Jeddah and has been fighting to save it for over 40 years. To join Brad, David, and Sami on the rest of their tour of old Jeddah, click here.

Brad Lancaster is a dynamic teacher, consultant, and designer of regenerative systems. He is the author of the award-winning, best-selling books Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, the information-packed website, and the Drops in a Bucket Blog. He lives his talk on an oasis-like eighth of an acre in downtown Tucson, Arizona, by harvesting over 100,000 gallons of rainwater a year where just 12 inches per year falls from the sky.

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