Middle Easterners have been beating the heat without air conditioning for centuries. Made from mud, dirt, straw, and stones, beehive houses have been keeping Syrians cool since 3,700 BC! The structures are not only eco-friendly, but eye-catching, and are still in use today.
Beehive homes can be found in the thick of hot deserts and cities. Most are found in rural farming communities, but there are even villages of them located in Aleppo, the largest city in Syria, which has been continually inhabited since the 6th millennium BC. The Aleppo beehive homes are used for both storage and residences.
Built of all natural local materials, the thick walls act as thick insulation, helping to cool the interior by keeping out the sun. The walls are made from mud bricks and stacked in a giant circle. Building height, they close in to a conical shape and are capped off by domes. The interior and exterior walls are packed with straw and mud: in the arid desert, the mud walls dry to a hard and durable finish.
The top of the beehive dwellings have an oculus—a hole that provides light to the interior and sucks hot air up and out. Even though there is an opening at the top of the dwelling, the conical shape keeps the interior dry during the rare rainy season. The shape also enables rain to quickly drain off of the façade, meaning minimal mud erosion on the exterior of the homes.
The interiors of the beehive homes are very dark, as most are built without windows. Although the darkness can be inconvenient, the windowless walls protect residents from the harsh desert winds, and block out the sun. With these natural heat-beating factors in place, the interior of each home remains around 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit, while the outside desert can blaze up to a blistery 140 degrees!