Handicrafts in the Old City of Sana’a on the Wane [Archives:1999/44/Last Page]

November 1 1999

Yasser M. Ahmad,
Yemen Times

The old city of Sana’a has sustained a number of handicrafts and public markets that help Yemenis earn living, especially in the present time. These markets as well as handicrafts have become part and parcel of their lives.
These public markets have been related to the Yemenis throughout the past decades. Here they used to meet to sell and buy commodities to sustain themselves. In general, Yemen has been famous for its markets, however, the old city of Sana’a is still very much distinguished for its special features reflecting the past. The handicrafts products are scattered in many shops of these markets which include the following:
Carpentry Market:
In this market you can buy wood from farmers outside the city of Sana’a. Wood is dried under the sun, after being cut, so as to lose some of its weight. The most important of these wood giving trees are “tanab” which are used to make doors. Then , it is the job of the craftsmen to give these doors a distinctive stamp of beauty which illustrates the great artistic skills Yemenis still possess. Such doors are actually very expensive as there is a scarcity of this kind of trees. Therefore, some people have started using some other trees that are cheaper and more readily available. As a result these craftsmen have started forgetting those magnificent engravings on doors.
Molding Gold, Silver and Copper’s Market:
Workers in these markets shape silver, gold as well as copper to be used as jewelers for women. They also make beautiful types and antique forms. They make very beautiful rings, necklaces, medals, Yemeni swords, etc. Lots of people tend to decorate their Jambias with golden pieces.
Many tourists are fascinated to see all these things in Yemen and they appreciate such talented people. This is evident from the fact that they sometimes stand for hours looking at these people working in a state of meditation. They are very keen to visit such old markets where they could see such people and appreciate their projects.
Manufacturing Iron tools Market:
A small manufacturing complex where you could see various products used in digging out wells, or earth in the old city of Sana’a. Farmers use such tools in ploughing earth as well as in harvesting.
There are also some other markets such as perfume, animals markets, etc.
So far, the government has done nothing to preserve such a heritage that is on the wane. The best they could do is to conduct a very drastic campaign against peddlers who vend in streets. They believe that by doing this, they help preserve our old heritage and such handicrafts. On the contrary, they are only worsening the conditions of these poor people who have nothing in hand to do.
What the government can do is that special attention and support should be given to these 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 the people. The government should also provide all these handicraftsmen with all the facilities and assistance to encourage them.
If such places and workers are well looked after, the old city of Sana’a will be able to retain its old features that are gradually disappearing from the face of earth in course of time.