Preserving Old Yemeni Towns: Art & Public Awareness [Archives:1998/14/Business & Economy]

April 6 1998

Organized by the General Organization for the Preservation of Historic Cities in Yemen (GOPHCY) and funded by the Dutch Embassy in Sanaa, The National Workshop for the Preservation of Historic Cities was held during 29-31 March at Sheraton Sanaa. The opening session was attended by the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Mr. Abdulmalik Mansoor; the director of GOPHCY; the Dutch Ambassador to Sanaa; and a large number of Yemeni and international architects, city planners, civil engineers, and other experts on the preservation of historical towns and cities.
Lectures delivered and topics discussed by the participants covered such diverse issues as the strategy of historic cities planning, the strategy of preservation and restoration of historic cities, problems and challenges of historic sites, NGO contributions for the process, violations in old Sanaa, etc.

In Yemen, there are three preserved historical towns: old Sanaa, Shibam Hadhramaut and Zabeed.
One of the important topics also discussed by the participants was the role of legislations and regulations to prevent the vandalizing of historical towns and ancient sites. The participants agreed that the existing laws should be reviewed and enforced in order to preserve the country’s heritage for posterity.
Tourism, it was agreed, is acting in such a way as to damage the very tourist attractions that were created by the tourism industry in the first place.

The director of GOPHCY said: “Several preservation project were executed in old Sanaa. Almost 70% of the town’s infrastructure is now complete. The old market places are known as “smasaras” they are known in Yemeni dialect. Some of these markets are now converted into handicraft centers for both men and women. The re-construction of the southern wall of Sanaa was completed, and the main Bab Al-Yemen gate was renovated. The old town street were paved with cobble stones.”
Similar renovation work was also conducted in Zabeed and Shibam Hadhramaut.
“As far as Aden is concerned, an historical project is now being studied to renovate the Taweela conduits and cisterns, in cooperation with the UNISCO.”

The workshop’s goals can be summarized as follows:
1- Finding a practical policy for the preservation of historical towns in Yemen.
2- Raising public awareness of the importance of preserving historical towns.
3- Activating the people’s participation in the preservation process.
4- Drawing the attention of the relevant government organs to the importance of coordinating efforts in order to better preserve historical towns.