Among the world’s oldest citiesSana’a, the city of memories [Archives:2004/795/Culture]

December 2 2004

By Ghadeer Al-Hussein
A few years ago after a long trip out of Yemen, I stood by the bridge of Al-Sailah. I saw a scene that I could never forget up.
It was a cold night whose moon was covered by a gloomy cloudy whether. Rain was also expected any moment. On that night, Old Sana'a seemed a bewitched town drawn by fog. It looked pale and fast asleep just like the princess of “Sleeping Beauty”.
Such a scene kept haunting and possessing me: the scene of Old Sana'a wearing a foggy, transparent cloak and oozing grief and exhaustion. Every path and zigzag was moaning and panting as if it were to travel to the darkness itself.
For a little while, and in the morning of a sunny summer's day, I stood by the arena of Bab Al-Yemen, the Gate of Yemen. The gate was wide open, revealing the spectacular and glorious scenery of the old town.
I beheld the steady high hermitage of the Great Mosque revealing its rich history, as if it were waiting for its visitors. Once you set foot in this charming town you will hear very arresting, weird and unusual sounds which you may have never heard before. U
I stood captured and bewitched by the charm and fascination of the town, not just because of the marvelous architecture of its fabulous buildings, but also because of the peculiar, wonderful harmony of a wonderful mixture of the architecture, colors and lights of the town.
The buildings strongly indicate undisputed skills in all arts of architecture. There are some engravings on gypsum which are very beautifully made. In the grayish light of the dawn the old town wakes up very lively. And as soon as the warm sunshine spreads, the town is full of vitality in all its streets and markets.
The markets of old Sana'a are very special, because they were build to cope with the very narrow streets of the town. So you can see all shops crammed with a large variety of goods and merchandise including gifts and antiques.
There were some craftsmen who were hammering some boards and sparks of gold and silver for the purpose of turning them into Arabic engravings designs as thick as papers. The neighboring craftsmen were sewing belts of Janbia (the famous Yemeni dagger worn around the waist).
The threads used in such belts are silky and painted by the water of gold and silver. Not very far from those craftsmen, there were some barbers in tiny shops on the corners.
In the midst of those shops I faced a different world. There were shops in which you can buy copper plates, belts, sandals, Yemeni traditional hats “Emamas” and other similar items.
In the midst of all this, in an old antiques shop I was amazed by what I found. I actually found some walnut wood boxes which were made in the 17th century. I also found some ancient candelabras which used to decorate old rich palaces and houses, which woke up and arose a dream world in myself.
When I reached the famous AL-Milh Market, my instincts were again fascinated and captured by peculiar mixture of scenes, sounds and the different smells of variable spices. By the entrances of shops there were large bags full of raisins, dates, and other kinds of things.
Within these scenes and views, some brief cafes were there also with some restaurants that were selling grilled and barbecued meat and also sweet pies. There were also around this some walking traditional tradesmen who were drawing attention to their merchandise.
The day went so fast while I was hanging around in the old town. As a matter of fact, the time which you spend in old Sana'a never allows you to enjoy all of the town's precious treasures and tourist places.
I paced more quickly till I reached the Bridge of Al-Sailah. The sunset was taking place among wonderful gold, red and purple colors that was reflecting against the ancient buildings composing and painting a fascinating and arresting picture.
At that moment, I couldn't help it! I screamed aloud, addressing the father and builder of the town, “Sam” the son of prophet “Noah”. I told him, “Now, at length, you can really rest in peace, for your daughter has returned shiny, glorious, steady and productive as you have always wished.”
Nearby my position in the same place by Al-Sailah, there was a cultural evening. The place was crowded with citizens talking about Sana'a as being the capital of Arabic culture for the year 2004. I silently clapped. I was just like those citizens and other millions of people around the world.
I shared with them the love for that old town which contains a great deal of cultural heritage. “Sana'a is a town that lives inside you, and it's always a place that you could hardly leave,” I told myself.
It's interesting to note that the racks and shelves of the mosques of Sana'a were believed to be first founded by “Waber Bin Bahnas Al-Ansari, one of the companions of prophet Mohammed,(POH),in the sixth year of Hegira.
This was reported by Al-Razi in “The History of Sana'a”.
The mosques' racks project was developed by Ayob Bin YahyaAl-Thaqafi in the reign of Al-Waleed Bin Abdul-Malik. Ayob was Al-Waleed's governor of Yemen. Unfortunately, this great project was destroyed by the flood in the year 265 of Hegira.
Luckily, the rack project was rebuilt by Prince Asa'ad Bin Yafor Al-Hawali.
The project of the racks and shelves of mosques of Sana'a is still as left by Al-Hawali with the exception of the eastern section which was built by Queen Arwa Al-Sulaihi in the 525 year of Hegira.
Sana'a is one of the oldest cities in the world, and up to the date, it is still called the city of Sam Bin Noah, the man who founded the city over 2000 years ago.
Sana'a was uniquely described by a beautiful poem written by the famous scholar Ahmed Bin Easa Al-Rada'ai.
(Resources: Description of the Arab Peninsula for Al-Hasan Al-Hamdani, and The Group of Yemen's Countries written by Judge/Mohammed Al-Yemani.)