|Life in the times before air-conditioning
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Cooling the house
With houses built as they were, much of the heat of the sun was left outside, but in the hottest months, it would still have been terribly warm inside.
The answer to this problem was the badqeer, or wind tower.
These are tower structures rising several metres above the house. They have large openings on all four sides for channeling down even the slightest breeze there is.
If you stand under a wind tower on a hot summer day, you will notice a clear drop in the temperature as the air flows down.
The living room, leagood, was situated just below the wind tower to give some relief from the heat and humidity. The openings of the wind tower had doors which would be closed during the winter months.
Even today, despite the air-conditioning, one can find new buildings with wind towers.
While the modern wind towers are not primarily built for cooling the air in the room, they still serve as important architectural elements reminding of the not so distant past.
The entrance and the windows
The main entrance was often large, even monumental. The door was decorated with detailed carvings. If there were any windows facing the outside of the building, they were usually on the second floor and screened.
Any ground level windows were smaller and grilled; they were also placed near the ceiling-level to secure the privacy of the family.
Most openings were small and towards the inner courtyard. The windows had shutters to keep both the direct sunshine as well as the cooler winter air out.
Given the fact that there arent many trees growing in the area, the quality and detail of the woodwork is amazing. This can be seen especially in the old doors and windows and window shutters, where beautiful geometric patterns have been used.
(A small sidepath to the naval architecture here: much of the old woodcrafting skills are still in use when they build the dhows, the wooden boats used in the same form for centuries to ship merchandise overseas and still going strong).
The same applies also to the walls of the buildings, which were richly decorated with these delicate patterns.
The use of old Islamic motifs has been on the rise recently, as can be seen from the walls of some new, beautiful mosques and also in some new shopping complexes.