A proud historyAncient granaries show Yemeni spirit [Archives:2005/815/Culture]

February 10 2005

Ismail Al-Ghabiri
Yemeni people have learned from the time of ancient civilizations the importance of underground granaries to save surplus crops for future needs.

Underground granaries are works that the Yemenis left to show Yemeni civilization before Islam.

The granary is a wide space dug and carved in a rocky surface.

Mostly, the mountains foots are the plots for the underground granaries and the places where to build their homes, to keep away from valleys (wadis), not to be swept off by its floods.

The granary is done in a way similar to the shape of a big jar, narrowing the neck and the bottom of the hole whereas its belly is broadened in the middle.

Granaries are not same in volumes even though some of them are similar in shapes. The biggest contain more than 1000 kilograms.

The underground granaries are used for preserving the grains, wheat, maize and malt crops.

After filling in the granaries with crops in an organized order, they cover up the open hole with a smoothened piece of stone, sealed with clean and smooth clay, to avoid any damage to the crops.

Granaries may preserve the crops inside it for three years and bit more. The granaries preserve itself and the crops inside it by the higher degree of the heat which doesn't allow any kind of bacteria to live.

Some of the Yemeni families think of and add some salts onto the saved crops or some coals to secure longer life of the crops.

Judge Ismail al-Akwa' in his reviewing the book titled “Eyes Stability to the history of the Pleasant Yemen” by Ibn-al-Badee', has explained, If a man returned to open a granary in two months, and got down inside the granary directly, he'd lose his skin due to the higher degree of the heat inside there.”

From our field research in numerous Yemeni zones, it is found that there are two types of granaries: the first is a small or medium. It is dug up mostly inside the domestic homes of the Yemenis and sometimes besides the homes.

The other type is bigger – such one is owned by the Government systems, sometimes, owned by the shiekh of the tribes. The crops kept inside such bigger granaries are the yields taken from the people as levies and duties or against penalties imposed on the guilty ones, or the crops which are taken as supplies for its official forces and staff etc.

Such parties (government or shiekhs) dig up several underground granaries somewhat close to each other and connect them to each other through internal tunnels, to securing the transfer of the crops, once the first location is filled up.

As well, the ancient civilizations used to dig several underground granaries on the surfaces of the castles and towers surrounded by walls, which they use during war time.

Even though most of the granaries spread throughout most of the Yemeni areas were done by the Hemyaritees, the civilizations that came after the Hemyarite civilization went on using those same underground granaries for the same purposes.

The people didn't stop using such granaries until the industries and factories started in the modern era.

It is worth mentioning too that the ancient Yemeni civilization used to master carving, engraving insides of rooms, the stairs, and the faces of the rocky walls forming their homes with shelves, and also water tanks, besides carving small confidential chests within the walls for keeping monies and precious jewels without being visible to others, in a way looking like a wall picture.

The Yemenis used to engrave holes in the house grounds, also used as a place for putting spices and grains. And they would engrave tiny holes close to each other used as vessels for cooking materials such as salt and spices, in the kitchen.

So, the ancient Yemeni civilizations didn't surrender to the hilly nature of the country, but went on surviving despite its ruggedness.