Little is known to the world about Iraq’s Tigris-Euphrates marshlands – an area that, at one time, covered over 9,000 square miles – bigger than Venice’s lagoon and Florida’s Everglades combined. The marshland was inhabited continuously for over 5,000 years and at its peak, it was home to half-a-million ‘Marsh Arabs’ or ‘Ma’dan’.
The Ma’dan consisted of several tribes that had developed a beautiful, eco-friendly culture that centered on the marshes’ natural resources. One of the truly admirable aspects of their lifestyle was their beautifully elaborate dwellings – floating houses made entirely out of reeds that were harvested from the open water.
These architectural wonders, strongly reminiscent of the ‘casoni’ of the Venetian fishermen, were called ‘mudhif’. They were temporary structures built of reeds in only three days, without the use of nails or wood. Even the islands that the houses would rest on were made of complicated arrangements of mud and rushes.