The House of Al-Madina Al-Monawarah

(An Expression of Place Identity in Saudi Arabia)
Dr. Khairy, Amin

Short Lead

The research aims to study how the house of Al-Madina Al-Monawarah , in Saudi Arabia, expresses the socio/economic changes in new forms and patterns. The research clarified the contradiction between the traditional and modern approach of house design in Al-Madina, and indicated some indigenous components, which still required. It emphasis the need to reconstruct the educational system for both the society and architectural designers.


The city of Al-Madina Al-Monawarah Ė the second religious Islamic center represents one of Moslem cities that have been affected by socio/economic changes that took place during last decades. These changes had direct impact on the urban form of Al-Madina, and itís social structure as well.

Research Objective

This research aims to study how the house of Al-Madina Al-Monawarah expresses the socio/economic changes in new forms and patterns. The house will be used as a tool to have answers to the question: Does the information society bring a new pattern of segregation, and new  methods of peopleís communication .

1. General Background of Al-Madina Al-Monawarah

Basic information about Al-Madina such as geographic on itís location, housing population and climate data on itís may be essential to understand the context within which the study lies.

1-1 Site:

Located on the west of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 150 kilometres from the Red Sea, is Al-Madina Al-Monawarah city, on almost 600 meters above the sea level (Figure 1).

It includes a spacious area from vertical lines 36.30˚ to 42.15˚ east, and horizontal lines from 22.30˚ to 27.30˚ north. (1) From three sides, North, West North, and West, mountains surround Al-Madina, which give it a dry desert climate (Figure 1) .

1-2 Population:

The population of Al-Madina Al-Monawarah has been increased specially in the last 30 years to reach 839000 people in 1999 (1). This increase in population was also accompanied by a growth in the number of Al-Madina visitors (Pilgrims and Omra visitors). Statistics show that in 1977, the number of Pilgrims at Al-Madina during the period before and after Haj (about two months) reached 1,073,061 people, while the number of Omra visitors reached 1,720, 868 around the year. (4)

1-3 Urban Evolution:

The city of Al-Madina Al-Monawarah has traditionally centred around the Mosque of Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him. In the early days, shops were also located nearby the homes, in a homogeneous urban fabric. The Madina pilgrims and visitors service represent the major part of the peopleís economic base.. During recent decades, a series of dramatic change have taken place, and accelerated the expansion of Al-Madinaís urban settlement. These changes are:

- The economic growth that happened are due to the oil exploration, in addition to the rapid acceleration of oil price especially after the October war in 1973.

- The development of all means of communication, and transportation: automobiles, air plane, telephones and now space satellites and computer networks have made nearly everywhere accessible to anywhere else.

- The expansion of the Mosque of Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him). It was enlarged from 10 000 m2 in the year 1951 to be about 370 000 m2 in the year 1993.

- The huge housing project in the center of Al-Madina, which aims, to generate housing units for 300 000 persons (Figure 2). To achieve this goal; the whole old city has been demolished (Figure 3).



1-4) New Social and Urban Pattern:

As consequence of these changes, new suburban centers have emerged from the old city. New  patterns of social life has begun. Madinians have missed the coherent relationship with their old city. This also includes their participation in daily commercial activities  which were left in most cases to cheap foreign nationals. As the economic status of most residents of these new sub-centers has improved, the new prestigious physical and spatial requirements have appeared. Correspondingly, the house as the unit of these new housing settlements has expressed itself through new forms and facets.