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  1. 1. THE TRANSFORMATION OF TRADITIONAL RURAL SETTLEMENTS IN EGYPT Second International Symposium TRADITIONAL ENVIRONMENTS IN A NEW MILLENNIUM: Defining Principles and Professional Practice Amasya - TURKEY, 20-23 June 2001 Dr. Yasser Mahgoub Assistant Professor of Architecture Department of Architecture, College of Engineering and Petroleum Kuwait university
  2. 2. Introduction <ul><li>T raditional rural settlements in the Egyptian countryside, the peasants' villages, have been undergoing dramatic physical changes since the beginning of the 20 th century. The formation of traditional settlements in the Egyptian countryside was influenced by the natural environment that surrounded them. The Nile had a great influence on shaping the traditional Egyptian settlements. The yearly summer flooding forced the villages away from its banks to higher elevations away from the Nile, occupying the tops of the hills. This condition lasted for thousands of years, until the beginning of the 19 th century when Mohamed Ali started the first efforts to control the Nile and its waters. Subsequently more efforts were made to control the Nile ending with the construction of the Aswan High Dam in 1961, which ended the yearly summer floodings and freed the village from the control of the Nile. It also allowed for drastic transformations in the traditional settlements morphology to take place. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Introduction <ul><li>T his paper will focus on the process of transformation and change taking place in Egyptian villages and its impact on the health and life of its inhabitants and the surrounding environment. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Introduction <ul><li>T he village of El-Baraguil , located N-W of Cairo is used as a case study to illustrate the dramatic changes taking place in many Egyptian villages. The maps of the village since 1900 were studied along with site visits and anthropological documentation of environmental pollution taking place in the village. Other villages were also visited and the same pattern of change was evident in all of them. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Introduction <ul><li>T his paper attempts to raise questions of theoretical implications: </li></ul><ul><li>Should the transformation of the Egyptian village be considered a &quot;normal&quot; evolution of a traditional settlement? </li></ul><ul><li>Are other traditional settlements in other parts of the world evolving in a similar way? </li></ul><ul><li>Is it appropriate to apply building codes and regulations on traditional settlements to control their growth and development? </li></ul><ul><li>Is this transformation the result of an impact of local-regional trends and global change? </li></ul>
  6. 6. The Egyptian Village Until the Beginning of the 19 th Century <ul><li>The Egyptian village is the oldest form of human settlement in Egypt's history. It’s the basic unit that adheres to a social system with all its customs, traditions, and institutions that are inherited from ancient time. The form of the traditional Egyptian village was tightly linked to the surrounding economic and political circumstances. </li></ul>
  7. 7. The Egyptian Village Until the Beginning of the 19 th Century <ul><li>The For thousands of years, the Egyptian villager was denied the right of ownership of his agricultural land. Throughout history, the agricultural land, and not the house, was the center of life and socio-cultural interactions in the Egyptian village. Irrigation of cultivated land depended on the Nile River, which required a high level of control, systemization, and other means of economic control. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Early Settlements on the Nile banks <ul><li>The variety of factors which influence man's settlements are, in indigenous contexts, unique to their specific circumstances. </li></ul><ul><li>Paul Oliver, Dwellings: The house across the world (Phaidon. Oxford, 1987), p. 48 </li></ul>Early settlement efforts on the Nile banks required a huge collaborative effort to build and maintain the bridges and irrigation dams above the yearly flood levels. The summer flooding of the Nile used to cover large areas and create lakes and swamps. This need for collaborative work was one of the most important reasons for the early development of the Ancient Egyptian civilization.
  9. 9. Early Settlements on the Nile banks The term &quot; al-koum &quot; or &quot; al-tal &quot; - meaning hill or highland - is one of the best terms used to describe the location of the village above the flood levels. Many Egyptian villages still retain this term as part of their name. On the other hand, the term &quot; nazlet &quot; - meaning downhill - describes the settlements of the Bedouins by the hilly sides away from the Nile valley and delta. The well known Nazlet Al Siman by the Pyramids of Giza is a famous example.
  10. 10. Early Settlements on the Nile banks <ul><li>The settlement or the village starts by selecting an appropriate hill and safeguarding it from the flooding of the Nile. The village starts from the top of the hill where the land value is high. </li></ul><ul><li>The planning of alkoum village contains three main elements: </li></ul><ul><li>The religious building on the top of the hill </li></ul><ul><li>A ring road, dayer al nahya street </li></ul><ul><li>Street networks </li></ul>
  11. 11. Early Settlements on the Nile banks Several activities occupied the peripherals of the village. The cemeteries were located at the edge of the residential area and were moved from one place to another in order to avoid having them in the middle of the village. The grain silos were also located on the peripherals of the village between the farms and the residential area. The weekly markets were held outside the residential area because of their need for large areas not available inside the residential area.
  12. 12. Early Settlements on the Nile banks The yearly summer flooding
  13. 13. Early Settlements on the Nile banks As the need for houses grows, the only options to provide more houses were: - Extension within house forming extended family housing of higher crowdednss levels. - Replacement of old small house with new large houses at the expense of open public spaces and streets. - Construction of temporary and poor houses outside the safe flood level or dayer el nahia. - A very limited attempts to enlarge al koum by adding new soil to the existing hill because of the large effort required for this operation. - Migration of families from one village to another where suitable areas to build houses or to construct a new village are available. - Division of housing lots into smaller units due to inheritance.
  14. 14. The transformation of Egyptian villages during the 19 th century The efforts to control the Nile, which Muhamad Ali started in the beginning of the Nineteenth century, had a great impact on the morphology of the Egyptian village. The development of the Egyptian village during the beginning of the Nineteenth century acquired two distinctive approaches: <ul><li>The expansion of old al koum villages below the flood levels, denoted by the traditional dayer al nahiya street, to the lower ground levels of the vast horizontal agricultural land. </li></ul><ul><li>The construction of totally new villages on the lower grounds of the agricultural land without the limitations imposed by the yearly flooding threats. </li></ul>
  15. 15. The Egyptian village at the end of the 19 th century The agricultural expansion during the Nineteenth century resulted in the spread of the new village form called al izbah made of houses on the flat agricultural land. The construction of the railroads during the second half of the 19 th century enforced the linear development of rural areas because they followed the path of the Nile river and its branches. The construction of modern asphalt roads, instead of the rock paved roads, during the end of the 19 th century and the introduction of the automobile during the beginning of the 20 th century, and its heavy use during the Second World War by the British troops, had a great impact on the development of the Egyptian villages; old and new villages alike.
  16. 16. Houses of the Traditional Village The house was located across from the agricultural land close to the kin or larger family. This proximity to kinship and family provided safety and protection to the family. The villagers depended on local materials in the construction of their houses. Most of the houses were built using mud brick made of excess mud from agricultural land or the cleaning up of water canals. Dried straws ( tibn ) were added to the mud and formed as blocks. They were then left to dry in the sun during non-cultivating seasons. The wood used in roofs and doors was taken from date palm trees or casurina trees found along the Nile banks. The wooden roofs were not necessarily straight but they had to cover the width of the rooms. The roof was then covered by bamboo or straws and then with a mud layer.
  17. 17. Houses of the Traditional Village The house was rectangular and attached from 2 or 3 sides to other houses in the alley. In the middle there was a multipurpose area called wasat al dar, or the middle of the house, surrounded by rooms used for sleeping, storage, and sitting. The animals' cage was located at the end of the house to provide it with maximum protection from theft. The animals were considered very valuable because the farmer depended on them in farming the land, turning the water wheel and the production of dairy products.
  18. 18. Houses of the Traditional Village The poorest house was made of one room called mandarah used for sleeping and receiving guests. The roof was used for storing corn (maize) and cotton stalks, as well as dung cakes used for fuel. Roofs were also favorite sleeping places on hot summer nights. Small cone-shaped silos of plastered mud were also used for grain storing. The rich house was larger in size and occupied a better location on an intersection of major roads. It had two entrances: one for people from the main road and one for animals from the side road. The house was made of separate parts, the front used by the residents and the back for animals and chicken.
  19. 19. Rural settlements in Egypt at the end of the 20 th century During the 20 th century, the villages started to expand on adjacent agricultural land producing more houses for the rapidly growing populations. The political transformation at the middle of the century produced social, economic, and cultural changes that influenced the distribution of agricultural land in the countryside. The 1952 revolution distributed the agricultural land among the peasants allowing peasants ownership of land for the first time in Egypt's history. The village dwellers imitated the planning and construction methods found in informal housing expansions around the capital city of Cairo and other major cities.
  20. 20. Rural settlements in Egypt at the end of the 20 th century Influences <ul><li>The Egyptian rural settlements were influenced by: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Population explosion. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Political changes resulting from the 1952 revolution </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The distribution of large agricultural estates to the peasants after 1961. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Economic changes from agricultural economy to an industry based economy. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The open market economy adopted during the 70's </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The development of construction methods and materials. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Social changes resulting from internal migration from rural to urban areas. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Urbanization of rural areas especially those close to major cities and towns. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The construction of new asphalt roads and the pavement of existing ones. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Educational and social reforms in the Egyptian countryside. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The migration of agricultural workers to oil producing countries in the Gulf area after the 1973 war and the sudden rise in oil prices. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cultural changes encouraged people to abandon their traditional village-lifestyle and look forward to living a more urban city-lifestyle. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The development of new income sources for peasants by introducing new production activities and governmental jobs. </li></ul></ul>
  21. 21. Rural settlements in Egypt at the end of the 20 th century Five main stages of development <ul><li>There are five main stages that the development of the Egyptian rural areas have gone through during the 20 th century: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>1. A short period of prosperity in the beginning of the century reflecting the 19 th century economic and political developments. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2. A period of stagnation during the first half of the 20 th century due to political unrest and World Wars. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>3. A period of development between 1952 and 1967 reflecting political and social changes initiated by the 1952 revolution. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>4. A period of major recession and deterioration in the quality of life in the rural areas due to 1967 and 1973 Wars that diverted all economic resources and efforts towards the army. This encouraged the migration of peasants and farmers to oil producing countries. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>5. A period of major economic and social changes following the 1978 peace agreements and the implementation of open market economy. Many peasants who did not own enough land to support their living migrated to oil producing countries in the gulf area and returned with enough money to build and own houses in their old villages. </li></ul></ul>
  22. 22. Rural settlements in Egypt at the end of the 20 th century Impact on the quality of life and the environment <ul><li>This transformation had a drastic impact on the quality of life and the environment in these fragile traditional settlements. It resulted in polluted and health hazardous environments and degraded living conditions. Major problems found in contemporary Egyptian villages include: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Population overcrowdedness. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Pollution of water sources with house wastes and garbage. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Inadequate sanitary, sewerage and fresh water supply networks. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Absence of garbage collection systems. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Visual pollution resulting from absence of planning and harmony. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Cramped and inadequately ventilated or lit houses and streets. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  23. 23. Case study: El-Baraguil village, Giza Location The village of El-Baraguil is located within Osim district in the governorate of Giza north west of Cairo. The population of the village is 13591 inhabitants, and the area of the village is 1400 feddans: 1176 feddans agricultural land and 224 feddans built-up area. The village is surrounded by agricultural land and other villages from all sides. The geographic location of the village, which is in close proximity to several cities, especially Cairo and Giza, attracted many residents who were looking for affordable housing close to work opportunities. It also attracted small and medium size businesses looking for cheap land to construct their factories.
  24. 24. Case study: El-Baraguil village, Giza Description The old village was surrounded by Dayer Al Nahia street, which connects the village with other adjacent villages. The street was paved in 1985 to allow for the passage of trucks and vehicles. One 4-meters wide street, called Al-Sharee Al-Kabeer , penetrates the village and is considered the main street of the village. Several narrow and irregular alleys, covered with dirt, branch out from the main street. The village is surrounded by several factories that were constructed during the seventies on agricultural land. The existence of the factories raised the price of land needed to build houses for the workers of these factories. Many peasants selected to turn their agricultural land into a wasteland in order to sell it for those interested in building new factories and houses. Also, the air became polluted with the exhaust and fumes from the factories. Map of El-Baraguil Village in 1986
  25. 25. Case study: El-Baraguil village, Giza A study of the village maps since 1900 revealed the pattern of growth and transformation of the village. In 1900 the village was contained inside Dayer Al Nahia street. A few ezba 's started to appear on the outskirts of the village. In 1942 the village expanded on adjacent agricultural land and was almost doubled in size. In 1986 - the latest official map of the village - the village expanded to cover more large areas of agricultural land. Maps of El-Baraguil 1900 1942 1986
  26. 26. Discussion: Cultural and Environmental Transformation The expansion of El-Baraguil village during the 20th century 1900 1942 1986 The village went through the following transformation stages. 1. The core inside dayer al nahia street, the major ring road, was the only land available for expansion on alkoum , the hill that the village occupied for centuries. 2. After the control of the river, the village started to expand outside the ring road. 3. The informal housing sector is an imitation of the informal housing found around Cairo and other major cities in Egypt.
  27. 27. Discussion: Cultural and Environmental Transformation The impact on the physical environment El-Baraguil Village - Old houses - 1999
  28. 28. Discussion: Cultural and Environmental Transformation The impact on the physical environment El-Baraguil Village - Rented houses The housing shortage in Cairo and Giza encouraged many housing seekers to the villages looking for affordable houses. The concept of renting houses emerged at the time when the village was suffering from limited economic resources and agricultural land destruction. Many villagers divided their houses or added one or two floors to their existing houses and offered them for rent. Some demolished their houses completely and rebuild them using a new design suitable for renting. This trend resulted in the abandonment of the traditional house design that contained large open space in the middle and the adoption of housing design similar to what is found in unauthorized and informal housing extensions outside major cities especially Cairo.
  29. 29. Discussion: Cultural and Environmental Transformation The impact on the physical environment The traditional dwellings were mainly found within the old sector of the village inside the ring road ( dayer al nahia ). Their thick walls were made of mud layers using the rammed earth technique or mud blocks dried in the sun. The roofs were made of wood logs, straws, and clay cover. The openings were very small and covered with pieces of cloth during the winter time.
  30. 30. Discussion: Cultural and Environmental Transformation The impact on the physical environment Dayer Al Nahia street new buildings- 1999
  31. 31. Discussion: Cultural and Environmental Transformation The impact on the physical environment: Visual and physical pollution Dayer Al Nahia street new buildings The environment of the village is polluted both physically and visually. Garbage and house waste fill many water canals and ditches. The absence of a garbage collection system is forcing the villagers to dump their house wastes in water canals and ditches. This produces a polluted environment both physically and visually. The phenomenon has social and economic reasons, and it cannot be understood unless analyzed historically and environmentally. The first impression might suggest that the old traditional settlements were primitive, unplanned, and physically polluted with dirt and mud. However, an examination of current examples of Egyptian villages reveals that the village at the end of the 20 th century is more polluted than the village at the end of the 19 th century.
  32. 32. Discussion: Cultural and Environmental Transformation The impact on the natural environment (the agricultural land) The erosion of the agricultural land is evident around many villages in Egypt, especially villages close to urban areas. The process of transformation was evident from the study of Al-Baraguil village maps since 1900 AD. The process of transformation starts with the construction of one house on a small lot that is part of an agricultural land. Other houses start to be built adjacent to the first house within the same lot. The expansion follows the boundary lines of the agricultural land forming a street in the center of the land.
  33. 33. Discussion: Cultural and Environmental Transformation The impact on the natural environment (the agricultural land) 1 3 2 4
  34. 34. Discussion: Cultural and Environmental Transformation The impact on the natural environment (the agricultural land) Houses found in the informal housing sector are imitations of the informal housing found around Cairo and other major cities in Egypt. The houses are made of three or four floors lined up in straight rows. The designs are simple and usually done by local contractors. The exterior is usually left unfinished exposing the concrete skeleton and red brick layers, which became a common character of all unauthorized, informal housing developments in Egypt. No building codes or regulations are applied on these buildings. The houses overlook a narrow street and are attached to other houses from three sides. The only source of lighting and ventilation is small light wells that are left at the edges. Windows open to the edges even though they are expected to be closed in the future. The result is very crowded alleys and poor naturally ventilated or lit houses.
  35. 35. Conclusions <ul><li>This study illustrated the differences between patterns of settlement in traditional and 20 th century rural settlements in Egypt. </li></ul><ul><li>The impact of recent changes in the society affected the development of traditional rural settlements into more urban-fringe informal housing settlement patterns. The government of Egypt is trying to improve the living conditions in the villages by forcing building codes and installing or improving infrastructure systems in more than 4000 Egyptian villages nationwide. </li></ul><ul><li>There is doubt by many observers that this informal pattern of expansion can be controlled within the village limits. It is a process of transformation that requires more than governmental control and policing. </li></ul><ul><li>The change and transformation taking place in Egypt's rural settlements is a result of the impact of regional trends and global culture on traditional settlements. </li></ul><ul><li>The historical contrast between rural and urban settlements is gradually vanishing. A new form of settlement that incorporates both rural and urban characteristics is found in both rural and urban areas. </li></ul><ul><li>The socio-ecological implications of current patterns of land settlements in the Egyptian countryside is very alarming. Erosion of agricultural land and environmental pollution are among the most serious consequences of this change. </li></ul>
  36. 36. Recommendations <ul><li>This study recommends the initiation of systematic comparative studies focusing on the process of transformation and change taking place in different parts of the world. </li></ul><ul><li>This study raised several questions related to rural settlements in other parts of the world: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>How does vernacular rural architecture develop in other parts of the world? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Is the process of transformation taking place in the Egyptian village occurring in other parts of the world? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>What should be the role of the government? Should the government apply urban control measures on the villages? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Should we consider the product by such a process &quot;vernacular architecture&quot;? </li></ul></ul></ul>