[13/March/2004] Sana`a, (Saba)- Yemen is famous for its great history and ancient civilization. Hence, it has a wide variety of historical sites and monuments distributed all over the country.
Yemen’s historical heritage of antiquities can be classified into the following categories:
· Ruins of Ancient Cities
· Old Historical Cities
· Old Dams, and Water Reservoirs
· Historical Mosques and Ruins of Old Temples.
Ruins of the Old cities
There are a lot of historical sites in Yemen attributed to ancient Yemeni cities. The most famous old cities which their ruins are still seen are: Marib, Shabwa and the old city of Amran
· Marib: the most famous old city in Yemen. It was well known as the capital of Sheba Kingdom. Its history dates back to the10th century BC. And it is located around 165 km eastern the capital Sana’a. The city contains a large variety of antiquities and historical sites.
· Serwah: another famous ancient city its history attributed to the reign of Sheba and it was the capital of Sheba before Marib as historians said.
· Quernow: it is a very well known old city. It was the capital of Maeen state, one of the old Yemeni states had flourished in the 4th century BC.
The ruins of the city are still seen in the governorate of Al-Gouf some 140 km away northern the capital Sana’a.
· Barakish: it is a very important old city in Yemen, situated around 125 km away from Sana’a. the fence of the city came up to 8 meter high in some facets, it has 57 towers and two gates-eastern and western. It is said that the fence was restarted in 450 BC. It is worthwhile, mentioning that the Romanian leader Eloise Gallous arrived in Barakish in 24 BC.
· Temna: It was the capital of Kataban kingdom which had flourished in the 4th century BC. Currently it is called Huger Kahlan , sets in the mid of the distance between the old city of Shabwa, capital of Hadhramout kingdom and Marib capital of Sheba kingdom.
The American foundation mission carried out an excavation activity in the site in 1951 and found out large number of antiquities , scriptures and statues.
· Shabwa the capital of Hadhramout kingdom and the largest of its cities. There is a controversial argument on the history of the city. Some historian attribute the beginning of Hadhramout kingdom’s booming to the 11th century BC. And the mid of the 4th century BC.
It is worth mentioning that Shabwa was a religious center in the old Hadhramout and the city contained more than 60 temples.
Conservation of the Old Walled City of Sana'a Republic of Yemen
T. Luke Young
"Viewed for the first time the old walled city of Sana'a creates an unforgettable impression, a vision of a childhood dream world of fantasy castles."1
Sana'a has been continuously inhabited for over 2,500 years. Its religious and cultural heritage is reflected in its 106 mosques, 12 hammams (bath houses) and 6,500 houses built before the 11th century.2 The city's architecture has been damaged, demolished and rebuilt through flooding, wars and prosperity. Yet, it wasn't until the modernization in the 1970s that the city's architectural fabric was truly in danger of disappearing. In the early 1980s, at the request of the Yemeni government, UNESCO launched an international campaign to conserve the city, which has been lauded world wide as a success. After considerable preservation and rehabilitation efforts, the city was designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 and given an Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1995. While conservation efforts have been successful, little has been written to analyze the impact of the resulting tourism and development.
Sana'a is one of the most ancient surviving cities in Arabia and arguably the longest continually inhabited city in the world. By the first century BC Sana'a emerged as a center of the inland trade route. After the withdrawal of the Turks in 1630, Sana'a became the seat of an independent Imam. This ushered in a period of prosperity for the city, which lasted for nearly two centuries and can still be seen in the quality and quantity of buildings from that time. Most of the domestic architecture still standing in the city dates from this period and later, while the extant mosques reach back well over one thousand years and fragments of towers are as old as four centuries before the rise of Islam.
Sana'a's architectural vocabulary was already well formed by the tenth century when Ibn Rustah wrote that most of the houses "are adorned with gypsum, baked bricks, and symmetrical stones."3 The architectural heritage of Sana'a consists of multi-story buildings decorated with geometric shapes and horizontal bands rendered in gypsum, narrow streets, urban gardens, elegant minarets and imposing monuments (Fig. 2).
The streets of the city are flanked by towering houses five to nine stories high. The houses are constructed of ashlar stonework from six to ten meters above street level where exposed brickwork then takes over.4 In Sana'a the space between buildings is just wide enough for pedestrians and mule-drawn carts.
Timber is in short supply since trees are relatively rare and small and so the traditional architecture of Sana'a relies on stone and clay bricks decorated with gypsum plaster. Symmetrical balance is clearly a desirable characteristic in the houses of Sana'a and facades have strong ingredients of conventional formality.
Impacts of Modernization
Sana'a has been an important center in southwestern Arabia for nearly 2000 years. Until the end of the Yemeni civil war in 1969 the city was closed to outsiders for two centuries, its unique multi-story buildings protected behind mud walls. A traditional way of life was preserved in a society that values looking after poor people and old animals. The city, though in need of maintenance, was clean and sanitary.
The two is situated in the very heart of Yemen’s green region (Ibb). In the 11th century AC Djibla was the capital of Queen Arwa. The town is known for its mosques, ruins and religious buildings.
Al-Khokha is a fishermen’s village which boats one of the most beautiful beaches on the Red Sea. Here you will find palm tree forests. Even more interesting in al-Khokha is the fact that wherever you dig a hole in the sand, you will find fresh water. Many tourists prefer to stay in al-Khokha for onwe or two nights. Sleeping outside under the palm trees with the starts as your roof definitely is an experience.
Zabid was founded in the 9th century AC and was the center of an influential Islamic school and the famed University of Zabid. Named after its first governor and founder,, Zabid was one of the oldest towns in Yemen and one of the first to convert to Islam during the lifetime of Mohammed (PBUH). It boats several families whole lineage can be traced to the great prophet.
during the Abbasid rule. It became the capital of the Najahya, Zaydiah and Rasulia states in the latter days. Zabid was a famous center of Islam and a major stop for caravans. In fact, Zabid still is a city renowned for its Islamic schools.
The international group, UNESCO, has declared Zabid as a World Heritage site and has funded excavations of the old schools. Visitors can enter the ruins of the ancient university and inspect the intricate designs formed from the mud bricks.
The temperature in Zabid was cooler than Aden, but still quite hot.
The remaining gates to the citaded are still intact and serve as a main entrance to the maze of narrow streets in the city interior. Sheep and goats roam the dusty streets while young children play in brightly colored dresses or small sport coats. Yemeni children are almost always dressed in this attire.
Outside the walls of the city there is abundant agriculture. Archaeological evidence suggests that farming has been ongoing for many millennia. Zabid borders the coffee region of Yemen and a major part of the suq still trades in this crop.
Aside from the suq, there is a pleasant place to stop, have some coffee and relax in the Zabid Tourist House.
There are many mosques in Zabid. In fact, I was told there was one mosque for every eight houses in the city. This one-time center of Islamic education is still the home to over 80 Koran schools and centers for Islamic studies.
It is a young city and Yemen’s fourth largest. Al-Hodeidah is situated on the Red Sea and it is very important seaport and commercial city.
In 1935 the German traveler Hans Helfritz called this town of mud-built houses of eight or nine stories the “Chicago of the desert”. Like a big ship of the desert it stands right in the middle of a dry river valley. Not only archaeologists believe Shibam to be one of the most beautiful towns in the world. Its foundation goes back to the 3rd century AC.
The capital of Wadi Hadhramout. Built in 1873, this mighty adobe palace with 109 rooms and four round corner towers gives evidence of the powerful Kathiri sultans. With its white painting applied in 1936, the palace makes a vivid impression on visitors.
It is the center and first capital of Zaidism. The houses in Sa’ada seem to come out of the ground like mushrooms. Unlike sana’a or Hadhramout, houses here are not built with adobe. Applying the so-called “sabur technique”, bulbs of clay with a thickness of some 60cm are use for the construction of houses of four and five stories.
Tarim is the holy city of Hadhramout. The great number of dome tombs and the Mihdar mosque give an idea of the significance of Tarim and its many important Islamic figures. This mosque and the highest minaret (50m) in southern Arabia stand our above Tarim’s splendid buildings.
Hajja is guarded by two castles, Noman and Al-Kahira. The province itself is spread out over a number of little hills below al-Kahira. The Al-Kahira citadel on top of the highest peak was constructed by the Turks; its houses a large underground prison.
Shaharah is a large archaeological site in Yemen. The town lies on the top of a high mountain (3000m above sea level). The reason for coming to this town is to view the famous mountain bridge which connects two villages on two neighbouring mountains (Djabal al-Amir and Djabal al-Feesh). This bridge is made of stones (3m wide,32m long) and was built over 300 years ago.
Sana’a often called the “pearl of Arabia” is the world’s oldest city still alive with all its municipal functions. Founded by Shem, Noah’s son, its history is wrapped in a shround of the past. Situated at the foot of Jabal Nuqum at the altitude of 2,200m, the Yemeni capital will fascinate you with its beautiful old city which was declared “Heritage of Mankind” by the UNESCO. Come and see the impressive architecture, the romantic narrow streets and the picturesque souq (market).
Literally the garden city of Sana’a. Points of interest: the architecture of the Imam Gasim Mosque from the 17th century, the rural clay houses made in the Sana’a style and the vineyards. Every Sunday: Market.
The green Wadi Dhar is famous for the Dar al-Hadschar palace (Rock House), which was erected on a rock standing in the valley. The Yemenis like to come with their families to this vantage point overlooking the beautiful Wadi Dhar. On Friday you can watch the traditional dances of all male guests invited to a weeding.
50km from Sana’a, Kaukaban lies at an altitude of 2800m. The Imam’s retreat in the 16th century, during the First Ottoman conquest. From the fortress town Kaukban there is a marvelous open view over the whole surrounding area. A 350m downhill walk brings you into Shibam, where you can visit a colorful market every Friday.
Used to be a fortress town of the Imams in the 16th century. 2800m high, the town is an archetype of the Yemeni stone architecture.
Situated at the foot of the 3000m high mountain Djabal Saber; famous for its beautiful mosques from the 13th/14th century. Visit the ashrafiyah mosque, the souqs and the national Museum-and don’t forget to drive up the saber mountain.
Manakhah is the center of the Haraz region with the 3000m high mountain djabal shibam. Architecture and landscape are in harmony. Manakhah itself is situated between these mountains. Every Sunday: market.
This is a very picturesque place of workshop for the Ismailis, the third religious group in Yemen.
The land of the Queen of Sheba and for centuries, the old capital of the Sabaean kingdom. Here you will find well-preserved ancient ruins witnessing a time when this town was still in control of the gold and incense trade routs. Nearby is the Marib Dam, the oldest artificial dam and one of the miracles of the ancient world.
Capital of the governorate of Hadhramout, situated on the Indian Ocean; visit the old city and the souqs. The old houses still have artistic work on the wooden doors and windows.
An urban settlement since ancient times. The legends say that Cain and abel founded Aden, which now has about 300,000 inhabitants. Natural harbour and economic enter of Yemen in the future. Visit the impressive ancient cisterns “The Tanks”, the palace of the sultan, the Aideroos mosque, the house of Rimbaud, the Tawahi quarter, the gold Mohur coast and the market.
· It is the second highest mountain in Yemen of 3070 meters height:
embraces the city of Taiz from the south. It includes a lot of wellsprings and fertile soil where various sorts of fruits are growing. The nice weather and spectacular scenery of the mountain makes it one of the best tourist resorts in the country.
· Al-Dorihemi Region:
One of the famous tourist recreations in Yemen, and a significant center for the traditional textiles industry. It is also the favourite holiday destination for the inhabitants of Hodeidah city, particularly, over the first week of June, as people there used to celebrate the harvest reaping of dates, and horse races, folk music and dances are organized.
A very beautiful place some 56km away from the capital Sana’a. It is a fertile agricultural area characterized by its abundant waterfalls, which were used to operate the mills in the past.
· Wadi Al-Dabab:
· Wadi Dhar
Forts and castles
An old historical center and a very fortified fort, sets at 12800 meter above sea level. The city of kokban is fenced in the northern side, and naturally fortified from the other side.
· Kuhlan Afar fort
It is one of the most fortified Yemeni old forts. It is characterized by its foundations, fortifications, and its defensive towers and walls.
It is a typically fort amongst many others spread all over Hajja’s mountains. It is situated at 2500 meter above sea level around 58 km away from the capital Sana’a.
Old and historic Mosques
· Al-Ganad Mosque:
It is one of the oldest mosques in the world, it was built in 630 AD in the area of Al-Ganad, around 20 km away from the city of Taiz.
Moath Ben Gabble, the fellow of prophet Mohammed peace be upon him, who built the mosque.
· Youfros Mosque:
One of the oldest mosques in Yemen. It was built in the 14th century.
· Al-Shatheli Mosque:
Al-Shatheli mosque is one of the old mosques in yemen. It is the most prominent monument in the city of Mocha, its history dates back more than 5 hundred years.