Does your house have Qamaria? [Archives:2003/643/Culture]

June 19 2003
Making Qamaria requires high skill and understanding of basic geometrical principles
Making Qamaria requires high skill and understanding of basic geometrical principles
Mahyoub Al-Kamaly
The traditional Yemeni home is uniquely built and the first eye-catching sight for visitors is its windows, which are the dominant element. In the past, relatively few picture windows existed.
This can still be observed in the traditional mountain houses as well as new houses which resemble fortresses. Since time immemorial, Yemenis have had a certain kind of imagination to build theirs houses in a unique way. This has manifested itself in several architectural styles. The first thing that one has a look at the Yemeni houses is its semi-circle windows, “Qamariat”.
The Yemeni traditional architecture has been featured by technical and aesthetic features. It has been handed down from generation to another generation.
Attempts have been still on full swing to add and renew special effects which could cope with the people's tastes and that could meet the demands of the people's desires. The only thing that has added a special effect to the Yemeni architecture is its decorative engravings and adorned mosaic from both internal and external sides.

Unique art
Above all, the (Qamaria) curved like windows, has attracted the sightseer.
It is featured by its eye-catching bright lights and glitter. In order to maintain those features, all the Yemenis have taken interest in adding those special technical effects and touches to their houses whether Qamariat or gypsum engraving on ceilings of the reception rooms, (Majales) and open halls.
Ameen Mohsen al-Ammari, the owner of the Typical Talents Center for Qamaria making and gypsum engravings has made it clear that the humble beginnings of this kind of architecture is that the white marble, glass-like color, was used by the people of ancient Yemen. It was used by Yemenis to be added to the upper holes of the windows. This has been made in order to let light pass into houses.
The word, Qamaria is an Arabic word derived from, Kamar, (the moon), because it allows tranquil moon-like lights to pass inside rooms. The Qamariat, the plural Arabic word for Qamaria, have passed through different stages.

How Qamaria is made
First, water is mixed with an amount of plaster, (in Yemen plaster is known by Goss). When it becomes little harder, it is fixed upon wooden board in accordance with the Qamaria specific standards and measurements.
Second, drawing forms are put on the plaster.
There are different kinds of drawings such as, plant and geometrical drawings.
This has been made according to the customers' interest.
After drawing is complete, it is hewed using an electrical machine.
Then, it is hewed and leveled by knives used for cutting different modes.
Then, the Qamaria is removed from the wooden board and exposed to sunlight.
Next, the Qamariat are returned to workshops and colored pieces of glass are fixed from behind according to the shape made. Then, the external side of the Qamaria is hewed in accordance with the shape made. Glass is then washed with water and again the Qamaria is exposed to the sun. At this stage of the process, the Qamaria is ready to be sold or bought.
There are different forms for fixing Qamariat in Yemen and this depends basically on the taste of customers when selecting them. This manifests itself when a customer for instance, prefers double Qamarias, that is one blank glass-made Qamaria fixed from outside and a colorful one fixed on the inside.
An in-between light bulb is sometimes placed, which makes the houses' widows glitter.
During the day time those windows, along with their shining colors give a soft light.
That kind of glass preserves its natural color and never is affected by any factor such as, heat, rain or any other climate changes.
The cost of those Qamariat sometimes reaches YR. 10.000.
There are of course other kinds of Qamariat which are in a way or another dark in color and sometimes light and their colors are easily affected by heat.
Al-Ammari elaborated that different kinds of Qamariat are made.
“We try to do our best to offer the best handicrafts in order to attract the customers'' attention and meet their tastes.
The main reason behind the Yemenis' inclination towards buying the Qamariat could be attributed the architectural designs of their houses which in turn have left special effect on their houses,” al-Ammari said.
The majority of foreigners who come to Yemen, they at first glance deeply impressed by the artistic different styles of Qamariat. As a result, they take small Qamariat samples back to their homes as an architectural gem.
Despite the high rise of price of those Qamariat, foreigners still buy them and their industry has widely spread among handicrafts.
We as Yemenis don't have an enough time to make such Qamariat, because we have been preoccupied with so many things in our day-to-day life.
The Yemenis' interests to buy or make Qamariat have made them believe that Qamariat are integral parts of the Yemeni houses or villas.
Those Qamariat are beautifully embellished with multi-colored glass that allows the tranquil sunlight go into the rooms of the house.
This kind of architecture follows the pattern of the Islamic architecture.

Islamic architecture pattern
As for the embellishment of other decorations fit on ceilings and walls, Mr. al-Ammari has briefly summed up the process of making those patterns.
First, an aluminum bar along with gypsum is fixed on the wall.
Then, plaster is put and filled in the aluminum bar and then it is shaped in the form of a semi-circular frame.
After that, it is smoothly softened and then, special geometrical designs are drawn as if they were natural views.
Different drawings and shapes are colored.
Sometimes, roses painted with yellow, blue, or pink.
Each form of those decorations has its own stems and branches and that the beauty of each pattern has its own color and this depends on the customers' tastes.
They are also shaped in the form of round or octave designs and sometimes in star-like designs.
There are other decorations placed on the wall and they are called in the Yemeni dialect, “Slowsy” and sometimes it is ranging from 10 to 12 cm.
They are fixed around window frames or Qamariat frames from inside.
All those decorated designs have different decorations and in most of cases they are man-made handicrafts.
At the end, what is needed is that, a special attention and support should be given to those handicrafts. It is also required to maintain these places and make them places fit enough to be visited by tourists. Exhibitions should also be organized so as to make our handicrafts known to all of the people. The concerned bodies should also provide all those handicraftsmen with all facilities and assistance to encourage them. If such places and workers are well looked after, Yemeni cities in general and the old city of Sana'a in particular will be able to retain their old traditional features that are gradually disappearing in course of time.