Plants inspire ornamentation of houses in Zabeed [Archives:2006/937/Last Page]

April 13 2006

By: Ismail Al-Ghabri
The historical city of Zabeed in western Yemen near Hodeidah city embraces distinctive and magnificent architectural sights mainly influenced by the Islamic art of ornamentation and decoration.

This type of architecture is well known in the West as Arabesque. The term is used in reference to illustrations and drawings in the form of plants, tree branches and leaves in the paintings and decorations of the city's buildings.

In Zabeed, there remain fascinating traces of this art, particularly associated with a type of Islamic architecture called Sasani art. Practitioners of this art are called Sasani artists who influenced the overall ornamental scenery of city houses, mosques and palaces.

Sasani architectural style is unique in the sense that it introduced plant elements into decorating buildings. For instance, such amazing illustrations are observed in the form of circular fan-like palm branches, wing-like leaves and pine cones.

Visitors to Zabeed easily can become acquainted with this peculiar and artistic feature of Islamic architecture with its purity and originality that has survived over the ages. Zabeed is one of Yemen' cities influenced by this art, which manifests itself in marvelous and unprecedented drawings and ornamental work decorating the city's historical buildings.

Throughout the city's lanes and zones, one can witness a variety of traces of Arabesque style on ceilings, doors and internal and external walls of homes. Haroon House, named for owner Muhsin Mohamed Haroon, is one of Zabeed's oldest schoolhouses.

The house's main room, typically called a diwan is considered incomparable in the whole Tihama region. Qur'anic ayaat (verses) are inscribed magnificently on the room's door and date back to Hijra year 1367. The drawings are the masterpiece of artist Mohamed Ali Ezaldeen, whose painting style makes one feel as if he is beholding a natural garden with different varieties of flowers, palm trees and triangular and pentagonal-shaped leaves.

A second example of Arabesque architecture is Al-Rabyee House situated west of Zabeed and named for owner Ahmed Hussein Al-Rabyee. The door of its diwan also is ornamented with Qur'anic ayaat inscribed in an amazing style and the room's front is well decorated with drawings of such animals as serpents and others.

However, the diwan's ceiling is ornamented exceptionally with drawings of trees, branches, tangled roots and circular flowers with different brilliant colors interwoven together to create a vivid scene inspiring the whole room with much beauty and color.

A third house capturing attention is Al-Anbari House, named for owner Yousef Al-Anbari. Located in the eastern zone of Zabeed, the house is well known as an ancient school. Its diwan received special care and was privileged much more with amazing embellishments extending from its main door to its front, ceiling and walls.