Random excavations in the Old City aren’t tailor-made, residents complain [Archives:2007/1097/Local News]

October 25 2007

By:Hamed Thabet
SANA'A, Oct. 23 ) The General Assembly to Protect Ancient Cities has received grievances from residents in Old Sana'a complaining about the poor condition of streets beside the historic Al-Kabeer Mosque.

Their grievances regard carelessness and random construction that have destroyed the streets of the Old City located at the heart of the capital of Sana'a and declared a World Heritage City by the United Nations.

The construction, which began earlier this year, was supposed to fix Old City entrances and streets damaged during the rainy season.

“During Ramadan, Al-Mustaqbal Company committed to take over the streets of Old Sana'a,” National Assembly member Ahmed Salah said, “but unfortunately, the job done up until then wasn't tailored.”

Moreover, “There was no supervisor to oversee the project and when they were asked to come and oversee it, they ignored it.”

Salah added, “Residents in the Old City of Sana'a should stop this project before it destroys whatever is left. The old project was better in comparison to the new one because it was a perfect job. Anyone can see the difference and tell which is better.”

He continued, “Streets were broken and dug up randomly and pipeline wasn't done incorrectly, which messed up the streets' appearance.”

Additionally, “The differences in size and thickness – which is the most important part of a sidewalk – are clearly noticeable and have made the street unbalanced,” Salah concluded.

According to one Old Sana'a resident, “This will cause environmental damage, especially when it becomes a place for excavation, rainwater collection and garbage.”

The same resident further noted, “The construction workers were the worst thing because they didn't have any instructions to do their work properly. Moreover, there has to be enough cement in order to make the street and the sidewalk last, but there was more sand than cement, which will cause cracks in the near future.”

Al-Mustaqbal Company carried out the project for YR 34 million. “Completion, which had to be done on many parts of the project, cost YR 1.75 million, but nothing is done. Moreover, materials cost YR 4.55 million for painting sidewalks with special paint and placing water pipes where they wouldn't be seen, as well as covering the ground with cement, but unfortunately, none of this has been completed,” Salah said, noting that an investigating committee will look into the complaints on Oct. 24 and “discover the truth.”

Ahmed Al-Wareth, deputy manager of the General Assembly to Protect Ancient Cities, stated, “We stopped workers from continuing the work since the first day of Ramadan (September) due to carelessness.” Nevertheless, neighborhood residents are angry at seeing their old homes destroyed.

However, Esam Badran, manager of contracts administration as well as project manager, stated firmly, “I didn't receive any grievance and I don't know anything about what's going on ll I know is that people there want everything done like they want. We'll send an engineer this coming Saturday to oversee the project.”

The UNESCO-preserved site of the Old City of Sana'a is the largest preserved old city in the Arab world. It's one of the world's oldest continuously inhabited cities, according to Yemeni legend, possibly as early as the second century B.C. Once an Arab center for Christians and Jews, the city was converted to Islam in 632 A.D.

Surrounded by ancient clay walls standing six to nine meters (20 to 30 feet) high, the Old City is a wonderland of more than 100 mosques, 12 hammams (baths) and 6,500 homes. Dating back to the seventh and eighth centuries B.C. when the city was a prominent and important Islamic center, most buildings were constructed of brick and dark basalt stone.