Al-Mudhif welcomes new guests to Philadelphia

There's a new labor of love standing tall at the Schuykill Center for Environmental Education in Roxborough, Philadelphia, known as Al-Mudhif. It's an Iraqi guesthouse that was recently built out of all-natural materials, a first of its kind in North America. 

The construction goes back to 5,000 years ago in Southern Iraq. "Usually seniors, people of the tribe this is their office to welcome people to solve problems," Iraqi Artist Yaroub Al-Obaidi described. Al-Obaidi is also an Iraqi refugee since 2016. 

Many of the volunteers who built Al-Mudhif were U.S. military who had served in Iraq, and since Memorial Day people from all walks of life worked side by side to create the home, made out of all-natural materials known as phragmites. The invasive plant is abundant in the Delaware River watershed. 

Along with the outdoor Mudhif structure, there’s also an exhibition in the Schuylkill Centre's gallery

"I think it's a story about relationships, not just human relationships to plants but our relationships to each other," lead artist Sarah Kavage said. The building process involved tying bundles of reeds into 20-foot-long columns. The welcome space is expected to be around indefinitely. "I like to say now we will start with this because social activities are the most important part of this project," Al-Obaidi said. 

People can come and enjoy Al-Mudhif, Monday through to Saturday's from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Schuylkill Center will be hosting events throughout the summer, but organizers encourage people to bring a coffee and meet a new friend. 

By Ashley Johnson

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