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Boutique hotel made using ancient materials and techniques features remarkable sustainability efforts: 'Steeped in the past yet embracing progress'

"The world's first earth-built hotel."

"The world's first earth-built hotel."

Photo Credit: iStock

The ancient Saudi Arabian city of AlUla only really began its tourism industry when the country started issuing tourist visas for non-religious travel in 2019

Now, visitors to this fascinating locale can stay in a 30-room boutique hotel called Dar Tantora, or The House Hotel, which was built using the same materials and techniques as the 900 or so 12th-century mud-and-brick structures that still survive in the town.

Fact Magazine called Dar Tantora "the world's first earth-built hotel." It also described the design as "steeped in the past yet embracing progress," which means, in short, that it still has all the luxury hotel amenities that modern travelers have come to expect — infinity pool, gym, yoga and meditation studio, spa, hotel restaurant, and more.

However, several elements of the hotel are less common. The entire building is lit by candlelight. It also uses century-old irrigation and ventilation systems, minimizing its energy usage and environmental impact (though it's worth noting that candlelight is generally worse for the environment than light bulbs).

Architect Shahira Fahmy worked with specialist restoration teams and traditional local craftsmen to restore and construct the hotel as accurately as possible to make it fit its 12th-century surroundings.

Adobe-style homes are, of course, common in other parts of the world as well, such as in the American Southwest. In New Mexico, one 200-year-old adobe mansion was put on the market for $12.5 million. As with the Dar Tantora hotel, the advantage of such a design is that it was developed, pre-air conditioning, to naturally heat and cool itself without expending any energy.

The energy expended by air conditioners, as well as the fact that they essentially push more heat outdoors, is a massive contributor to the overheating of our planet. While it is not feasible for everyone on Earth to move into an adobe-style house, these structures remind us that there are options for heating and cooling our homes efficiently, beyond just pumping up a window AC unit.

Currently, the best, most energy-efficient option for most homeowners is a heat pump, which uses energy from the ground and atmosphere instead of drawing it all from the grid.

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