Qala’at Al-Qahirah: Overlooking Taiz [Archives:1998/01/Last Page]
This is the second of a five-part series reporting on the main fortresses of Yemen.
The Name Qahirah Since the hill on which the fortress was built did not have a specific name, it builder Sultan Abdullah Bin Mohammed Al-Solaihi, named it the “Qahira” (the conquering one). Sultan Abdullah is a brother to king Ali Bin Mohammed, the one who established the Sulaihid dynasty. The fortress was first mentioned in 1014 AD. Ibn Al-Mojawer described it as a strong and a well-fortified bastion. He called it “the Green Mountain” saying that it is “the luckiest in Yemen because it is the home of the monarchy and the bastion of kings.”
Functions & Purposes In its early times, the castle witnessed some bloody days though it provided no real defense against the enemies of the city itself. On the contrary, the castle sometimes became a refuge for rebel army commanders, who used it as a base to launch raids of pillage on its neighbors. For a long time, the castle was an abode for kings, especially during the reign of Rasulid rulers. Therefore, castles were built for them and their families there. These castles often had beautiful names such as the “abode of emirate” or the “abode of arts” and so on. This was a reflection of the urbanization which the city of Taiz witnessed during the Rasulid period. Some of those castles were made prisons for some royal rogues.
Royal War & Machinations The fortress has very strong gates with special keys which were kept with a special warden, who opened the doors in the morning and closed them at night. He was directly accountable to the Sultan himself. Anyone who contemplated conquering the castle had to first think of killing the Sultan. It happened once between servants of king Al-Mojahid and his nephew Al-Mansoor Ibn Al-Modhaffar who, being a failure king, sought a refuge in the castle. After the Taherid state was conquered by the Mamelukes of Egypt and after the Mamelukes were themselves defeated by the Imams who reached Taiz, prince Al-Motahar Bin Sharafuldeen decided to have the rest of the city walled. It was walled by Yahya Al-Nasayri in 1525. It took nearly 7 years to complete the job, the castle thus became a point of strength for the city during the subsequent conflicts and wars. This was proved more than once. When king Al-Majahid was besieged inside the castle for months, his enemies tried to damage the wall, but to no avail.
Blood Down the Mountain During the Turkish period, the fortress witnessed several bloody incidents. When prisoners in the castle rebelled against their unjust agha or prison warden and stoned him to death, the Turkish ruler Hassan Pasha ordered all prisoners to be thrown off the top of the castle. This massacre took place in 996 A.H. The second incident was a kind of a unique socio-politics. In 1020 A.H, the Turkish rulers asked every sheikh in the area to bring his wife, a daughter and a son to remain as hostages in the Qahirah. The aim was to secure total loyalty and obedience to the state. The refusal of some of the sheikhs to comply to this demand led to brutal massacre.
Just a Prison With time, the castle became a mere prison. Therefore, it was neglected and became ruined. Even though, three of its gates and its south side remain intact until today. The fortress played very significant roles in the history of the liberation movements against the regime. One such event took place in 1955. When the revolutionary Ahmed Al-Tholayya led his revolt against Imam Ahmed Hameeduldeen, it was the fortress which led his failure.
Call for Renovation After the September Revolution of 1962, the strategic importance of the castle disappeared and so did its garrison. It has increasingly become the domain of the tourist or archeological authorities, although theyhave yet to take full control. For touristic use, renovation is needed. I would like seize this opportunity and call, through Yemen Times, on President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the prime minister and all responsible authorities to rescue the remains of the castle in order to make use of it in fields of historical research and tourism. Renovating the castle is also important to prevent hundreds of houses located down the hill from being damaged. In 1996, for example, crumbling rocks from the fortress caused great damage in that area.
By: Mohsen Mohammed Al-Mojahid, General Manager, General Tourism Authority – Taiz Branch