Old City Of Sana’a: The Great Cultural Heritage of Yemen [Archives:2001/24/Culture]

June 11 2001

Saleh Abdulbaqi
Yemen Times
The Old city of Sana’a is one of the ancient and historic cities of Yemen. It has unique architecture which has made it the focus of interest of so many Arab and foreign tourists. It has also been the dream of so many researchers and European orientalists to visit and study its historical monuments. That is attributable to the rich archeological and historic monuments and sites Sana’a is famous for which qualified it to be included in the competition for the new 7 wonders held recently on the internet.
From the time immemorial, Sana’a has been known as the first capital of Yemen. During the Islamic region, it was the destination of so many Caliphs and Islamic leaders including Ali bin Abi Taleb, Omar bin al-Khatab, Khaled Bin al-Waleed and Mua’adth bin Jabal.
History records that Sam bin Noh was the first to build Sana’a. He dug a well opposite to its mosque from the east. Then, he built the Ghamdan Palace.
Sana’a has unique and marvelous architecture comparable to many sites in the Arab world. When you are walking in the old city of Sana’a, you can never fail to notice that it is a complete picture. What makes it more attractive and impressive is that it is real. Most of those who visit Yemen can never help expressing their admiration and wonder at these unique Islamic architecture and exquisite handicrafts applied on its buildings. Its historic wall is another wonder which is still bearing testimony to the greatness of our ancestors. The wall contains four main doors including Shoob, al-Sabah, al-Balakah, and al-Yemen doors. What has remained of these walls is bab al-Yemen which still radiates its exquisite beauty. The wall used to be the invincible defense protecting the people and preventing any attack. Doors used to be closed at eight o’clock as most of the residents used to work in farms and fields outside the wall.
Of the Islamic monuments is the Sana’a Mosque, or as it is called today the “Big Mosque”. It is located near the town market. It was built by Moa’adth bin Jabal who was the first preacher sent by the Prophet (peace be upon him) to Yemen. That was after the death of Bathan who embraced Islam. The mosque was the first Islamic mosque built in Yemen. It contains many valuable historic, scientific and Islamic manuscripts.
In another part of old city of Sana’a, you will find the two martyrs mosque known as the Martyr Ali Mosque which depicts the story of the two brothers killed by Bashr al-Amri during the aggressive campaign launched by Muawiah against the Sheiah supporting Ali. The two martyrs were buried in that site on which the mosque was built. Saif bin thee Yazan’s Palace located in one end of the old city of Sana’a is now used for hoarding weapons. The old city of Sana’a is also distinguished for its trade market which is the most important means of living for the residents. It is known as al-Melh Market. It was the most important trade center for all the commercial caravans that used to come to Yemen from neighboring areas including al-Sham and al-Hijaz. Yemen at the time used to be a very rich agricultural country. 
Lots of agricultural products used to be exported outside the country. Of these important agricultural products is coffee, Sana’ani almonds, fruits, etc. In the market there used to be also special places for those who come from other countries to stay in for some time to buy things. The market also is the venue for trading clothes, silver, traditional jewelry shops, etc. which Yemen is famous for since a long time. The market is still retaining lots of its features and merits.
The old city of Sana’a is a great heritage we should preserve and maintain.