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Historic Taif fortresses were built to last

In this photo is one of the fortresses of the village of Maysan in southern Taif, which is built atop a high mountain. (Wikimedia Commons/Fawaz Alsharif)
JEDDAH: Taif city is rich with antique fortresses and castles that have withstood the test of time over many historical periods. These fortresses and castles, considered very interesting touristic landmarks, have always attracted visitors.

The architecture of these castles and fortresses relied on designs that focused on providing protection from battles, and were also used as control towers, in addition to their strategic importance of being a residential building, making them one of Islamic culture’s best architectural systems.

Saad Al-Joudi, a modern history teacher, told Arab News: “The forts in the south of Taif are known to be the biggest buildings not only for residence. They were built by a group of skilled constructors to protect residents from any interior or exterior assault.”

Al-Joudi also indicated that “the people of Taif built their forts in a special architectural way, benefitting from the richness of the mountain belts in their regions, creating cone-shaped buildings of different scales.”

He added that strong men would push the heavy stones; then the constructors would build the forts using the stones (reaching sometimes 15 meters high). They would use the thick stones first and the less-thick later, as the height increased in order to create a strong and stable defensive base ready to face the enemy.

Mona Osairy, a history scholar, told Arab News that the forts have the capacity to handle the low temperatures in winter and the high heat of summer since the thickness of stones blocks wind, storms, cold temperatures and strong sun rays.

Osairy also said that during wars, forts were used as control towers, stressing that one of the most important architectural designs of the forts is a surveillance chamber on the upper floor, allowing the owner to monitor any possible assault.

She indicated that on the inside of these houses, there is wood paneling that reflects the cultural period, which is something that attracts many European visitors.

Osairy concluded: “What makes Taif stone houses very special is the colored decoration everywhere on the inside and outside of these houses. While men were responsible for the construction, women handled the decoration, and thus the pictures on the forts’ walls reflect the skills of women who expressed themselves by carving in wood.”

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