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Mud, mud, glorious mud. Nothing quite like it for beating the Israeli blockade - Middle East, World - The Independent

Mud, mud, glorious mud. Nothing quite like it for beating the Israeli blockade - Middle East, World - The IndependentMr Al Shaer, 36, first became interested in the multi-millennium-old technique of building mud houses when he visited Bangladesh during a religious trip in the 1990s. "This was what our ancestors did before us," he says. "But I never thought I would be doing it myself." Last year, when his parental home, in a town whose chronic housing shortage is compounded by the relentless demolitions along the border with Egypt during nine years of conflict, became too overcrowded, he realised he needed somewhere else to live. Money was in short supply and cement, which Israel has not allowed into Gaza since Hamas seized full control by force in June 2007, unaffordable. But thanks to the multiplication of smuggling tunnels under the border, mud was abundant. It was also free apart from the £32 a truckload it cost to transport it to his 300 square metres of land on what was, until 2005, the Israeli settlement of Morag. Using a shoe box to mould mud, sand and water bricks strengthened with corn husk straw, leaving them to dry for three days, and making a timber roof frame, allowed him to install his wife, his four daughters and infant son in a new house for around $3,000 (£1,877) compared with the $25,000 for conventional construction. Pausing only for the three weeks of war, when bombing made it too dangerous to make the four- kilometre journey from his home, he completed the job in just two months.

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