Ghaiman: Historical and Architectural Wonders [Archives:2007/1074/Culture]

August 6 2007
A bronze statue found in Ghaiman and deposited in Britain museum.
A bronze statue found in Ghaiman and deposited in Britain museum.
Fatima al-Ajel & Nisreen Shadad
Ghaiman is an architectural region, located in Bani Bahlool. Today it is known as Noqum Mountain, a name, which historians have confirmed was given to the area by ancient Ethiopians who once occupied Yemen. “Noqum” mean mountain.

Ghaiman is located 20 kilometers southeast of Sana'a and is divided into an upper and lower region. Both regions are situated on a stony mountain overlooking the cultivated Ghaiman valley situated 150 meters away and 2,500 meters above sea level.

Some historians trace the area's name to the Himyarite king Dhi Ghaiman bin Akhnas bin Hamin bin Zara'ah. A carving found on the door of Ghaiman mosque indicates the king Nasha Karb Yahamen is one of Ghaiman castle's builders. The castle was built in the mid-third century B.C. Additionally, Ghaiman's Al-Maqlab fortress is well-known to be an ancient residence of Himyari kings, utilized for both relaxation and recreation (The rule of the Himyarites lasted till the year 525AD and that is the date when Yemen fell under the domination of the Abyssinians during the rule of Yousef Athar “Dhu Nawas” the last Himyarite King. It is told that he embraced Judaism and to him is attributed the trench event which was mentioned in Al-Birooj Surah in the Holy Koran).

There are many ancient antiques, which can tell us more about Ghaiman that have yet to be discovered. Those that have been found are on display in Yemen's national museum as well as in museums in Europe. “One of the most important antiques is a big head of a Ghaiman statue which is now in a museum in Britain,” Yemeni historian Abdullah Al-Kumaim stated, adding that new treasures will never emerge, unless there is systematic investigation.

Historian Usif Muhammed Abdullah revealed that the most eminent remains of Ghaiman can be found in the area cemetery. “Ghaiman cemetery has spectacular remains that attract people today and in the past. It is located on Yooq hill, facing the southeast of Ghaiman. On this hill are a big number of graves, however, it became distinctive and historical as the greatest [burial site of] Himyarite kings,” Abdullah mentioned.

The belief that the graves of the Himyarite kings are full of jewelry leads many people to dig them up in order to steal what is inside. Before ruling over Yemen in1948 A.C, Imam Ahmed dug these graves with the hope to find the treasure of Abu Kareb Asaad, known as Asaad Al-Kamil. Abu Kareb is considered one of the late Himyarite Kings who restored the unity of Yemen and extended the country's influence over the Arabian peninsula. The reign of Abu Kareb was a turning point in the feudal system structure, respect of personal freedom, property ownership rights, as well as replacement of a barter system with the use of money for goods.

There are many castles and palaces in Yemen and Ghaiman is one of them. The oldest palace in Yemen is Ghamdan palace in Sana'a, also called Azal palace after the name of the region where it is located.

Al-Maqlab palace is situated within Ghaiman castle and surrounded by a big fence measuring 130 meters. Abdullah Al-Kumaim confirmed that historically, Yemen is unique in numerous fields, including the building of vast palaces at a time when other nations lived in caves and huts. He presented verses from the Holy Qur'an, as it is an authentic resource with supportive evidence.

The first verse is:

“Of Iram (who were very tall) like (lofty) pillars. The like of which were not created in the land.” (Surat Al-Fajr: 7-8) Another verse is: “I found a woman ruling over them: she has been given all things that could be possessed by any ruler of the earth and she has a great throne.” (Surat An-Naml: 23)

According to Al-Kumaim, both of these verse, particularly the sentences “were not created in the land” and “she has a great throne” show the magnitude of Yemeni palaces.