Beit Baws village: a coronet upon a bride’s head [Archives:2006/941/Last Page]

April 27 2006
A view of Beit Baws village.
A view of Beit Baws village.
Ahmed Al-Shariqi
Situated on the southeastern side of the capital city, Beit Baws village used to lie 10 km. from the Old City, but due to urban expansion, it has become part of Sana'a and now stands on an island in the deadly sea of increasing construction.

Beit Baws has been endowed with nature's blessings, including its invincible position atop a flat mountain, which has kept it safe throughout time. Beit Baws is fortified on three sides: east, north and west. Moreover, it has only one gate on the southern side.

Ancient history

Beit Baws is one of Yemen's most ancient villages, characterized by distinctive fortification style reflecting its military role.

Beit Baws is believed to date back to pre-Islamic times when it was part of the Mathin tribe's property. Pre-Islamic remains, such as musnad (an ancient Yemeni script) engravings, exist in the western part of the village.

Among the village's ancient Islamic landmarks is a small nicely built 10th century mosque constructed upon directive of Imam Yahya bin Al-Hussein Al-Rassi.

The village also accommodated various peoples, for example, besides the original Bawsi inhabitants, Jews also lived in it, which is apparent from houses in the village's western portion.

Stone-made village

Beit Baws houses are as tall as four floors, with visible and invisible passages and other facilities. There are also remains of Jewish houses and a Jewish temple. But the architectural style is the traditional mode found in other Yemeni villages and cities.

If one was going to describe the village, he should begin at the gate, which as stated above, is a single gate leading up into the village's courtyard. There are ruins of walls adjacent to the gate, as well as guardrooms located on both sides of the inner courtyard beyond the gate.

Stone slabs pave village lanes and a number of wide passages can be found, some passing through the ground floor of several homes. Some house fronts contain a few black stones brought from quarries far from the village. This is evident as nearby quarries yield a different type of stone from which Beit Baws mostly is constructed.

Some household devices can be seen in the village, which were of great service to village dwellers, such as grinding stones used to grind grains. Other stone devices like mortars and pestles were used to crush and grind nuts and coffee. Visitors also can find the remains of traditional kitchens with clay ovens.

Beit Baws village hardly lacks Jewish remains, which are stylized like other Yemeni buildings. Some are quite old, like the temple in the southwestern quarter where Jews used to live.

Seen from a distance, the plateau-topping village seems like a coronet adorning a bride's head. Once inside, one will be attracted to ancient Yemeni scripts engraved in rocks and some stones in house walls; however, experts are needed to interpret them. Other incomprehensible signs on the rocks also require research activity. One of the village's mysterious phenomena is the presence of an underground tunnel not far from the gate.

Natural assets

Beit Baws village site represents a historical and tourist attraction with fertile lands surrounding it and sublime scenes. It has been inhabited continuously, even by those from other areas.

Not from the village itself, 70-year-old Saleh Rajeh works as a shepherd, but he is from the neighboring Bilad Al-Roos district. He noted that Beit Baws is an ancient village which used to be inhabited by Bawsi people and later Jews. When asked why he is in the area, he replied that he had been in Beit Baws for two months because there is an abundance of pasture and water for his sheep.

Revenge is another motive

A family not native to the village and originally from Baraqish in Al-Jawf province spoke about their reasons for coming to Beit Baws. The father said due to scarce water and pasture and because of revenge, he decided to abandon his home and come to Beit Baws. He said he is happy to be in the village, which provides a good substitute for his hometown.

Ten-year-old villager Ibrahim Al-Haimi was marvelous, as he could explain many things about Beit Baws village because his grandfather had passed on the knowledge to him. Moments later, flocks of visitors poured into the village, among them was Talal Al-Fari'i, a Yemeni immigrant in the U.S. He said he came to Beit Baws because it is a place “worth visiting.”

He also stressed the importance of Yemenis themselves knowing the different areas of their country and encouraging local tourism. “Such visits soothe the soul and provide valuable entertainment, recreational time and enjoyment of Yemen's natural assets.” Al-Fari'i called on Yemenis abroad to return regularly and visit unmatched attractions like Beit Baws.

A boost to tourism

Part of efforts that are sure to boost tourism is taking care of such important places like Beit Baws village by saving them from the encroachment of urbanism and stopping their decay. Then comes the role of restoration and rehabilitation efforts, culminating in organized visits to these places.