Looking in on the history of Mareb: The home of Balqis and Green Yemen [Archives:2002/43/Culture]

October 21 2002


The Yemeni people have a proud history of being among the first to introduce a number of aspects of Arabic culture.
They were the first to establish states and erect places, buildings and dams. They were the first to systematize governments and train armies in ancient and Islamic eras.
They were also among the first to have as a ruler, a women. The story of Balqis, commonly known as the Queen of Sheba, is, in fact, known worldwide.
Three thousand years ago, Jerusalem was ruled by Solomon, the Prophet and king whose name is mentioned in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible and the Holy Quran. He was graced by God for ruling the ancient kingdom of Israel, and reigned 40 years, from 972-932 B.C.

The bird Hoopoe
According to one interpretation of the story of how Solomon and Balqis met, one day he inspected his birds but didn’t find the Hoopoe. When the bird came back it said, “With truthful news I come to you from Sheba, where I found a woman reigning over people and they worship the sun instead of God”.
Solomon ordered the Hoopoe to return to her and give her a message calling her not to exalt herself above him (Solomon), but come to him in all submission. When the message arrived to Balqis, she collected her people asking them for advice.
They said “we are a valiant and mighty nation. It is for you to command and we shall await your pleasure.”
She said, “when a king invades a city he ruins it and enslaves its chieftains I shall send then a present and see with what reply my envoys will return”. She said so to test his faith.
According to the story, Solomon rejected the present. And since he owned much land and riches and this threatened Balqis, she feared he would march against her people.
So, she visited Jerusalem. And then she became a believer in the God of Solomon. But who was Balqis? Her identity is hard to trace, because many Balqises ruled Yemen.
Some interpreters and historians say she was, in fact, the daughter of Balqis, Sharhabil, who appeared in Hamyar among Tuba’s during the fourth century B.C. She has been still remembered by people and they guess that she was the one mentioned in Qura’an”.
When she reigned Yemen, she constructed buildings and temples. The most famous one was “Balqis Throne” in Mareb. Some texts called it “Tehwan”.
Historians call it “lower throne of Balqis”. It was a huge triangular building of 1000 feet in diameter, 400 feet in length on one side, and 250 feet of another side.
The base was 5652 square feet. Eight pillars are still seen in the site.
Though it is covered with sands, it is still beautiful and bright. Recently, it was reconstructed and its appearance that much brighter.
Hamadani said if a large number of people from a Yemeni village tried to move them, they would fail because they were so deeply fixed on a platform, and artiscally.
Mareb civilization
This ancient city is mentioned in the Quran, where it’s noted, “for the natives of Sheba, there was indeed a sign in their dwelling-place, a garden on their left and a garden on their right.
“We said to them, ‘Eat of what your lord has given you and render thanks to Him. Pleasant is your land and forgiving is your lord.”
Farmers were watering their farms for five complete days. The dam was the wonder of the city though historians spoke differently about the time when it was built, and about the builder. Some says it was Sheba dhu Yashjub.
It was built with stones to hold rainwater and remained for a long time. But people were proud of their power and became tyrants, so God destroyed them and their dam.
In his book “Green Yemen, The Cradle of Civilizations,” Mohammed bin Ali Al-Hawli notes, “the explosion of the Mareb dam left a deep mark on the Yemenis and Arab peninsula, and was considered as a great calamity that changed the political and natural history of “the green”.
As a result, tribes migrated to different territories. The Quran adds, “lord, make our journeys longer. They sinned against their souls. So we made their fate by sword, and scattered them throughout the land. Surely, there is a sign in this for every stead fast, thankful man! (Surah 34:19). They dwelt in Mesopotamia and Syria where they established the kingdoms of Hira and Ghassan. Gorhom, the tribe, and settled also in Meccan, where they became custodians of the sacred house until Qusei slo Kilab, Mohammed’s grandfather took custody. Aws and Khezrej settled in Yathrib and later supported the prophet after migration.
Now, Mareb has harsh weather, with dust and moving sands, and Yemenis are building a new Mareb on the remains of Selhin Palace, Hejr and Nashib, keeping in mind they are the descendants of those who built a great ancient capital, the lovely Mareb.