12 February – 11 March 2022 ~ Al Ain, United Arab Emirates

Getty Institute Conservation of Earthen Architecture course

Getty Institute Conservation of Earthen Architecture

The International Course on the Conservation of Earthen Architecture (EAC) is a one-month training initiative held in the World Heritage city of Al Ain, United Arab Emirates, organized in partnership with Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT)-Abu Dhabi. The course aims to improve the practice of earthen heritage conservation by providing practical training for mid-career professionals from the Middle Eastern, North African, and South Asian regions.


In many regions of the world, including in the Arabian Gulf, earth has been used as a construction material for millennia. In the World Heritage Site of Al Ain in Abu Dhabi, UAE, for example, there are numerous earthen archaeological sites dating from the Bronze and Iron ages (ca. 3000–1000 BCE), as well as late-Islamic period houses, forts, and mosques built in mud brick. While these significant sites are being protected and preserved, earthen structures around the world are rapidly disappearing due to abandonment, demolition, and replacement with modern materials.

Although the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia hold the majority of the world’s earthen architecture, there are few targeted training opportunities on the conservation of earthen heritage for professionals working in the region.

We chose Al Ain as the location for the course for its central location in the region, rich earthen heritage, and for the variety of conservation approaches and examples implemented by DCT over the last decade.


  • Train mid-career professionals (architects, engineers, archaeologists, conservators) from centers of earthen architecture in the region including North Africa, Middle East, and South Asia
  • Provide a biennial training opportunity that balances a theoretical foundation in earthen heritage conservation and management with emphasis on practical methods and hands-on experience
  • Build a regional professional network of course alumni dedicated to the conservation of earthen architecture
  • Disseminate didactic materials for earthen architecture conservation that reflect advances in conservation practice and can be adapted to other languages and formats, including online learning
  • Promote best practice in the conservation of earthen architecture

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The first International Course on the Conservation of Earthen Architecture took place in Al-Ain and Manah, Oman from October 27 to November 22, 2018 and was attended by twenty-two professionals in conservation of earthen heritage from North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. The course covered practical methods and theoretical foundations for the conservation of earthen historic buildings and archaeological sites including conservation theory, material analysis, documentation and diagnosis, as well as preventive conservation, structural interventions and rehabilitation. The course was taught by a total of fifteen professors and instructors, all experts in the conservation of earthen materials.

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Building on the successful model of the 2018 course, a second course will be offered in 2022.

Course Content

Led by local and international experts, the course will use Al Ain as an open-air laboratory for participants to learn practical, hands-on methods for preserving earthen buildings and archaeological sites. Through lectures, discussions, laboratory sessions, demonstrations, site visits and field exercises, participants will learn fundamental theories of conservation as well as advances in technology and research that have influenced practical approaches to earthen architecture conservation. Group fieldwork at a worksite will provide participants with the opportunity to address actual work scenarios where multidisciplinary solutions and collaboration are required.

Course topics include:

  • Conservation theory and principles
  • Laboratory and field analysis of earthen materials
  • Earth as a building material—use and construction techniques
  • Mechanisms of decay—material and structural
  • Methods of recording for documentation and analysis
  • Conservation methodology—Planning of conservation and rehabilitation interventions
  • Practical conservation methods—structural and non-structural
  • Conservation of earthen archaeological sites and decorative surfaces
  • Maintenance and preventive conservation
  • Developing rehabilitation and adaptive re-use projects for earthen buildings
  • A study trip to Oman where participants will carry out an exercise on the conservation of urban settlements made of earth (Manah village, near Nizwa, Oman)


The course is designed for a maximum of 20 participants.

It is open to archaeologists, architects, conservator-restorers, conservation scientists, engineers and other professionals working with earthen heritage from the Middle Eastern, North African and south Asian regions.


The course will be conducted in English. Candidates must have a thorough technical knowledge and command of English. A certificate of language proficiency is required.


A course certificate will be awarded to participants who complete the course and have attended all course activities.

Course fee


Travel, accommodations, and living expenses

Participants will be responsible for their travel costs to and from Abu Dhabi. Lodgings will be provided by the organizers, participants should plan for a minimum allowance of US$500 to cover living expenses.

Candidates are strongly encouraged to seek financial support from sources such as governmental institutions, employers and funding agencies. Depending on the availability of funding, the course organizers may be able to offer a limited number of scholarships to selected candidates who have been unable to secure funding.


All participants will be required to have health and accident insurance for the duration of the course.


The course will take place in Al-Ain, Abu Dhabi, UAE and in Oman. All selected course participants who are citizens of foreign countries will need to obtain the required visas. The Department of Culture and Tourism-Abu Dhabi will facilitate the visa process.


In light of the current uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak and the resulting logistical challenges of organizing and hosting the course in February 2021, the course on the conservation of earthen architecture has been postponed for one year until February 12–March 11, 2022.

Applications for the 2022 course are currently delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and international travel and visa restrictions.

For more information on the course, or to be notified when the course application becomes available, please email EAC@getty.edu.

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