Sanaa is the largest city in Yemen and was (and still is for many) the capital of Yemen. Sanaa is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.
The Old City of Sana’a, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has a distinctive architectural character, most notably expressed in its multi-storey buildings decorated with geometric patterns. This UNESCO World Heritage Site may soon become a thing of past. Do you know why?
Situated in a mountain valley at an altitude of 2,200 m, the Old City of Sana’a is defined by an extraordinary density of rammed earth and burnt brick towers rising several stories above stone-built ground floors, strikingly decorated with geometric patterns of fired bricks and white gypsum. The ochre of the buildings blends into the bistre-colored earth of the nearby mountains. Within the city, minarets pierce the skyline and spacious green bustans (gardens) are scattered between the densely packed houses, mosques, bath buildings and caravanserais.
According to UNESCO, as an outstanding example of a homogeneous architectural ensemble reflecting the spatial characteristics of the early years of Islam, the city in its landscape has an extraordinary artistic and pictorial quality. Its many-storied buildings represent an outstanding response to defensive needs in providing spacious living quarters for the maximum number of residents within defensible city walls. The buildings demonstrate exceptional craftsmanship in the use of local materials and techniques. The houses and public buildings of Sana’a, which have become vulnerable as a result of contemporary social changes, are an outstanding example of a traditional, Islamic human settlement.
In the early hours of 12 June 2015, the Old City of Sana’a, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was hit by a bombing raid. Several houses and historic buildings were destroyed, causing human casualties. Among the buildings destroyed was the magnificent complex of traditional houses in the Al-Qasimi neighborhood, bordering an urban garden (Miqshama), near the Sailah water channel.
And war in Yemen is still continuing and heritage structures are fast becoming rubble and UNESCO may have to delete one name from its World Heritage Site List soon.