Traditional toilets

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It might seem strange to dedicate an entire page to the toilets of Shibam; on the other hand they kind of epitomise the wonderful vernacular architecture, its functionality and integration with nature as well as its aesthetic subtlety.  Alongside the ugly modern soil stacks, draining away to sewage treatment (or maybe just a stinking hole in the ground), you can see the traditional long-drops, where sewage is unceremoniously dumped down long chutes against the walls to land on lipped platforms where the liquid drains off and evaporates, whilst the solid waste dries out in the searing heat of the desert sun, eventually becoming innocuous fertiliser.

That together with the canyon-like streets and the massive mud-brick walls with their phenomenal thermal inertia (the ultimate passive solar heating!) demonstrates how easily man can adapt to his environment with a little thought...and several centuries practice.  Sadly, just as we in the West are rediscovering the benefits of harmony rather than conflict with nature, you can see cheap and nasty window-rattler air-conditioning units popping up all over the place, defacing the walls and squandering their limited and very costly electricity...because they can!


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Jeremy Harrison 2005-2013