More Wonders from a Beautiful City The Forts and Walls of Zabid [Archives:1999/26/Culture]

June 28 1999

# 5 in a Series
The historical city of Zabid, whose name was associated with the civilization of the Yemeni people in ancient times, is still great. This city became famous for its culture, as well as for being a center of religious knowledge. It also had many great buildings, particularly the forts and walls, and these still survive today.
Zabid appeared in the ages of the petty states. It first became important during the Rasulid period, and it remained an important center of power during the time of the Dahiria, the Mameluke Turks, and the Ottoman Empire.
The historical city of Zabid was the capital of the Rasulid state in that time period. It was surrounded by walls, which were later on buried and remained hidden for many years. Other cities were built on top of the old cities, and the old slowly disappeared beneath the new.
The Yemeni civilization was based on the Tihama’s historical roots. This area had a great heritage, and many monuments that reflect the great civilization of the Yemeni people have been found. It has became a source of interest to many researchers around the world, because of its distinct artistic styles and unique construction.

In this episode I am going to examine another monumental aspect of the Tihama and its Al-Khartab city. This city is located on the ancient city of Al-Garahi, which was a very important place in its time, but is largely ignored today.
The city of Zabid was known through the ages for its culture and civilization, and its famous forts and palaces which were guarded against conquering armies by the walls surrounding the city on every side. The walls had four main doors to allow people to go in and out.
The first door was known as Al-Tabariq, and was located in the eastern part of the wall. It leads to Al-Hems and Al-Kariba town and the eastern valley of Zabid.
The second door was known as Gulaifiqah, located in the western part of the wall. It faces towards the valley of Zabid and the eastern town of Al-Tahitah.
The third door is known as Siham, and it opens out onto the main marketplace of of Zabid, and towards the Siham valley.
The fourth door was known as Al-Kartab. This door leads to the southern part of the Zabid valley, which was used as a means of communication between the two great cities of Zabid and Al-Khartab, a famous city that is located in the western part of Al-Garahi.
The city of Al-Khartab was the second greatest city of the time, after Zabid, and was a center of study for around 400 Islamic scientists at that time. Unfortunately, during the continuous tribal wars going on at that time, the Dawaser tribe attacked the city and completely destroyed it. This was after the death of Sheikh Mehdi, bin Alwasel bin Omer bin Gailan bin Ahmed bin Al-Daher, whose mosque in the city of Al-Khartab is famous. Al-Sharga was also a famous city in the area, many famous scientific and religious leaders came from there. The famous author, Sheik Abdul-Latif Al Shargi, was born in that city. Nothing remains of the city now, except for the fort, which was called Al-Katla. This fort was made up of four floors; it was built of red clay bricks and its roofs were made from the best quality of wood, cut from trees known as Al-Iliab, which were abundant in Tihama at that time. The thing that makes these trees different is their strength and high resistance to woodworms. In spite of the destruction of the northern part of the fort long ago, this strong wood still remains, almost unaffected by time.
Because of the strength of this fort, it was a key strategic center for the Ottomans. It was the meeting place of the ruling government and the residence of the Ottoman governor.
The Ottomans lived in this area until the end of their rule over Yemen, when the area was controlled by the Imam and his son Ahmed Bin Hameed Aldien. It remained under their control until the 26th of September revolution, and it was not used again until 1970. At that point, it was given to the Ministry of Education, which transformed it to a school for Islamic teaching, and it was later given by the Sports Ministry in 1990. Since that time it has been ignored, which has lead to the destruction and decay of parts of the fort. However, there have recently been some efforts by the Antiquities Authority to repair the fort, in hopes that it could become an important tourist attraction in the Tihama.
By: Saleh Abdulbaqi
Cultural Editor
Yemen Times