Al-Qahira Castle in Hajja [Archives:1998/02/Last Page]
This is the third of a five-part series on the main fortresses in Yemen.
Al-Qahira castle in Hajja is one of the Yemeni fortresses whose establishment was associated with the existence of towns and cities. These castles became part of the defense and daily life of theses towns.
Checkered History The role of Hajja castle was not only in defending the town from foreign attackers, but also to keep the internal security of the place. Dating back to the 17th century AD, Al-Qahira castle played a considerable role in protecting the town of Hajja. Situated on top of AL-Qahira mountain (2,000 ft. above sea level), Al-Qahira along with the Noman and Al-Dhafeer castles and Al-Jahili fort form a defense line protecting not only Hajja, but the whole region as well. Al-Qahira overlooked the roads leading to various little town and villages in the area such as Bani Al-Awam, Walaa, Shaghadira, Najra, Bani Qais, Miswar, Kahlan Taj, Bani Jadeela, etc.
The town of Hajja was founded by Hajja Bin Zaid of the Hashid tribe. It was the seat of government for many Imams, and a bastion in the face of many revolts and political storms. The castle and the town acquired an added importance when they became the center of the Qassemid state towards the end of the 17th century AD.
During the late forties and up to the early sixties, Al-Qahira castle was the scene of several revolts and counter-revolts. The 1995 uprising against Imam Ahmed was launched from there. It was also the place where the uprising of 1961 was started by Sheikh Hameed bin Hussein Al-Ahmer. Several revolutionaries were imprisoned by the Imam in Al-Qahira of Hajja such as lieutenant Abdullah Al-Luqayya. However, Al-Qahira played a more decisive role during the revolutionary years of ’62, ’65, and ’68. Once the castle fell into their hands, the republicans were able to launch successful counter-attacks against the monarchists’ strongholds in the surrounding areas.
Description The total area of the castle and its wall at the top of the mountain is around 1,100 sq. m. The castle’s main building consists of three levels. A small door at the top level leads to the castle’s roof with its three defense towers, which overlook the town of Hajja from the east, west, north, and part of the south. The castle was built in a modified old Yemeni architectural style. The entrances, exits, window sizes, shape of the stairs, and wall basis are all done according to the original Yemeni style. The structure of the inner building, however, is influenced by the Turkish style of architecture. It is open and capacious to allow plenty of daylight to stream in.
Main Features Defense-wise, Al-Qahira’s main feature is that, along with its wall and other fortifications, it forms one solid body. The castle’s wall completely surrounds the mountain’s top, preventing people and armies from crossing to the other side. The only way is through the castle’s main gate. The only negative aspect is that the road leading up to the castle is completely defenseless. The castle became an ordinary habitat for the Hajja townsfolk. Realizing the vulnerability of the road leading to it, the castle’s designer chose a circular shape to allow for the safety and security of the people living within the castle’s confines. The top of the castle, however, is rather exposed. The mosque, the water tanks, the baths, and the living quarters all look like those in any ordinary residence, except for being heavily fortified from the outside.
Tourism Potential Despite its great attraction for tourists, Al-Qahira castle still remains somewhat neglected. There are no recreational or other services. More attention will to be granted by the tourism authorities in Yemen to make visiting this historical place a more worthwhile prospect for the foreign tourists.