Mohammad al-Asad



Water Scarcity and Landscaping in the Islamic World: Contemporary Solutions to Historical Problems

The problems of water scarcity historically constituted a major challenge for the sustainability of human settlements in numerous parts of the Islamic world. In response, many Muslim communities developed creative and effective systems for collecting, storing, and distributing water for the purposes of drinking, personal hygiene, general household use, irrigating food crops, and landscaping.

New challenges relating to water scarcity have appeared today. Even though modern technological advances have brought about new methods for acquiring water that is fit for supporting human needs, such as desalinization and the construction of massive dams, there are concerns regarding the excessive energy consumption and the potentially negative environmental impacts connected to such methods. Also, massive population growth and increases in ground pollution levels have meant that while demand for fresh water is increasing rapidly, supply sources are falling under the threats of serious environmental degradation.

Integrated sets of solutions – and even an ethic – have emerged over the past few decades to address the challenges of water scarcity. A few of these relate to landscaping and comprise the practices of Water Conserving Landscapes. Even though such practices have been systemized and documented only since the 1980s, and primarily in parts of the Western world affected by water scarcity such as Australia and the southwestern United States, they in fact incorporate age-old practices that date to the pre-modern era, many of which had been developed and used regularly in the Islamic world.

This paper presents a contemporary Water Conserving Landscapes project that is being carried out in the Islamic world, in Jordan. The paper addresses the project’s research components, which include gathering, processing, developing, and disseminating information on Water Conserving Landscapes, as well as its practical components, which involve the design and implementation of landscaping solutions.


Editor with Majd Musa: Architectural Criticism and Journalism: Global Perspectives (Turin: Allemandi for the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, 2006)

Co-author with Sahel Al Hiyari: Sahel Al Hiyari Projects (Amman: Center for the Study of the Built Environment, 2005)

Co-author with Ghazi Bisheh, Fawzi Zayadine, Ina Kehrberg, and Lara Tohme: Jordan: The Umayyads and the Rise of Islamic Art (Brussels: Museum With No Frontiers; and Madrid: Electa, 2000). Also available in Arabic, French, Italian, and Spanish translation.
Old Houses of Jordan: Amman, 1920 – 1950 (Amman: TURAB, 1997)

Download the audio only here