Architecture is just one wonder Aden and its cultural influences [Archives:2003/07/Last Page]
BY RIDWAN AL-SAQQAF
The Garden of Eden, as mentioned in the holy books, historical publications and even linguistics, was perhaps the source of inspiration for naming that historical town situated in the most important strategic location south of the Arabian Peninsula, Aden.
It’s one of the oldest cities that’s a link between various civilizations through trade activities of history. The coming and going of different nationalities has left its trademark on the city’s architecture, giving it a unique style and a special charm.
Architecture during the British occupation:
Several tourist sites in the town date back to pre British occupation, such as the Al-Tawila Saharej (water reservoirs), Aden Lighthouse, Aden Gate and a number of courts and old fences located on mountain tops in Crater.
Even those the English left their mark through restoring the monuments and maintained them during their occupation.
There is also Shamsan Road, which was built in Al-Daraj by the Ottoman Empire, but is unfortunately ignored by the Yemeni government and so is left without maintenance.
Captain Haines in his diary, which he wrote during his arrival to Aden in 1837, said that the small city of Aden is inhabited by 600 citizens among which was a small number of Japanese, 300 Jews and the rest from Arabia and Somalia.
There weren’t more than 100 mud houses during that time, the largest was that of Sultan Muhsen and later the residence for Captain Haines in 1842.
But there was a number of mosques the remained in good condition, especially Al-Aidaroos Mosque and Abaan Mosque in Crater.
Colonies such as the Jewish colony and the Japanese colony managed to maintain their style and architecture since the British occupation, in spite of the little changes here and there and artistic additions on the structures.
Some buildings have become public buildings and some have become private. Also the layout of the streets and the infrastructure of the city roads clearly display the British touch on them.
They designed the streets and named them such as Al-Haddadeen, Al-Bazazeen, Al-Ta’am, Al-Taweel, Al-Haraj, and AlZafaran Markets. These markets were controlled commercially by Al-Buhra sect.
Also the British divided the colonies of Crater in an alphabetical way starting from colony A at Al-Maidan Street to F at Al-Khasaf Street.
They also numbered the streets sequentially, however the people still used the old names which they have been used to such as the Jews, Al-Aidaroos colony … etc until day.
During the British occupation a number of temples were established such as the Shri Minraj Managi Temeple, in Al-Khasaf Street, the Hanoman Temple, on the Ghandi Crater link and the Shanker Mindu Temple, on Queen Arwa road, which was used as a Hindu cemetery for cremation.
In this context, the Persian also built the Fire Temple in the Parisian Gardens in Al-Tawila and on the mountaintops tangible to the city.
Also the British built two churches; the Catholic Church in 1852 and the Protestant Church in 1871.
Gates and fences
The fence around the city was build for a defense purpose in order to protect the political and commercial boarders of the city.
The gate played a significant role in controlling and organizing the trade activities in and out of the port. It also facilitated the monitoring over the city to ensure no dangers are threatening the city.
There are no confirmed documentations or even rumors as to when the fence was built, but more agreed on that it was built in the era of Bani Zurae in 1173, which was mentioned by the historian Abualfida in his book “Taqweem Al-Buldan” or ‘Country’s Calander.’
Historian Ibn Makhrama in his book “Al-Mustabser” or ‘The Visionary’ said that Aden’s fence was built by Othman Al-Zanjabili surrounding Krater and has six gates. The main gate of which is named Bab Al-Agaba or Aden Gate, is considered the main link between Al-Muala City to the west and Aden.
Aden Lighthouse and other features
Aden Lighthouse is situated in a small closed garden in Krater.
It is composed of six stories and reaches 21 meters in height. It has eight sides and a staircase from inside allowing climbing to the top.
As to when it was created, there have been conflicting views between the pre-Islam era, 1200 years ago, and that it was remains of a mosque built in the times of Omar Bin Abdulaziz.
Al-Bughdatan is a small duct or canal through Mount Hadeed that links the two sides of Al-Barzakh. And it is known as one of the wonders of Yemeni monuments, where it displays the ability and creativity of the ancient Yemeni man in architecture and civil engineering.
Ibn Al-Mujawer stated in his book “Thugher Aden” or ‘Opening of Aden’ that Aden was surrounded by mountains and there was no land rout joining it with the other lands, and that the first who carved the way was Shadad Bin Aa’d and work on the rout took 70 years.
Water reservoirs and a fort
These are located below the most condense rain drainage at the top of Al-Taweel Valley.
It’s capacity reaches 20 million gallons and is considered one of the main tourist attractions of the city. And it reflects the architecture skills of the old Yemeni people in building damns and water reservoirs.
Al-Saharej were mentioned in Ibn Batota’s publications when he visited Aden in 1329, but when were they actually built is still a debated topic. Some historians indicate that it was built way before Islam and that there were more than 50 reservoirs out of which the Al-Tawila Reservoirs only remained.
The Seera Fort was built on peak of mountain Seera, as a fort used for protecting the old port. It was also used during the liberty struggle against the British in 1839.
Historian Ibn Al-Mujawer mentioned that building forts and castles dated back to Al-Zuraeen era who ruled over Aden in 1173, and built such forts as a defense mechanism against any external threat to the city.
This was a brief review of a few of the historical sites in Aden, and although the monuments deserve much more attention and elaboration. They not only have historical importance, but also they pose as a strategic political and commercial symbol of how the old city of Aden was a significant link between Arabia and the rest of the world throughout history.