Reflections of Tahiris’ scholastic achievementAmiriyah School [Archives:2005/862/Culture]

July 25 2005

Hassan Al-Zaidi
Located in the center of Rada' Town, about 90 kms north of Sana'a, the Amiriyah School is believed to have been built by Sultan Salah al-Din Amer bin al-Mansour and Abdul-Wahab bin Dawood al-Tahiri in 910 Hejri. He assigned his vizir prince Ali bin Mohammed al-Ba'dani to supervise the construction of the historically famous schooling center.

Later, Amir bin Abdul-Wahab endowed the Amiriyah with lands in the areas of Rada', Damt and Juban.

Amir bin Abdul-Wahab is one of the prominent Tahiri monarchs, a dynasty spanning 90 years. Tahiris are said to have descended from Baidha tribes. They built their state on the collapse of the Rasouli State and expanded their rule to cover as far as Aden and Shahr cities.

The Tahiri State came to an end but their School survived the centuries not only as a reminder of the State but also as an evidence of the esteemed scientific status of the Tahiris under the reign of Amir bin Abdul-Wahab who succeeded his father in 894 and died in 923 Hejri.

Amiriyah School's sections

The School is a two-storey building. The first floor used to be the residence of students containing 20 rooms and two big halls used for lecturing. This floor also contains a praying space, and bathrooms for washing and ablution.

The second floor contains a mosque with a great dome surrounded by six smaller neatly built domes. To the north of the mosque, a water canal brings water from Ghayl al-Mahjiri (spring of al-Mahjiri).

There are two towers, each of them consists of one chamber called “Sultan's Rest Room.”

Two yards lie in the east and west and are being grassed. They are fenced with a frame having decorations called sharanifs that fit in the building.

Neglecting the past, conserving the present

In addition to natural erosion forces, negligence, and intentioned sabotage made to the School, lands around the mosque have been looted by locals throughout the School's history. It became financially unsupported and that drove students out of it. Until recently, buildings diminished the open space and are now pressing on the walls of the School on all sides.

International interest in rehabilitating the School

No one attempted to maintain this ancient edifice which dates back to the sixteenth century. On the contrary, many people continue to maim it and loot its endowments. The parts that survived time and destructive forces have been maintained by virtue of the Dutch support during 1983-1986. The support was resumed in 1997 funding the woodwork costs at an amount of YR 21 million.

From 83-1999, the government spent no more than YR 8,056,000 on the School which slowed down and hobbled maintenance, said Yahya al-Nusairi, Baidha' Archeology Office Director.

Since 2000, some YR 154 million, funded by the Dutch, Italian and the Social Development Fund, had been spent on the School before it was inaugurated last month. The maintenance was conducted by the Italian Center for Conserving Rome Archeology. 25 experts worked on the School for about 10 thousand days, restoring an area of 600 square meters covered with the most magnificent Islamic decorations.

Amiriyah: unique architectural style

The Amiriyah School is a finely chiseled piece of art. Its majesty lies in the domes, distribution of its components, smooth movement within its sections, and the wonderful decorations. It seems the builders were affected by the Ottoman, Moroccan Persian styles, perhaps also Chinese and Japanese.

Sultan Amir bin Abdul-Wahab must have hired the best craftsmen, embroiderers, and carpenters, and spent large amounts of money. The construction materials were costly. The timber and stones must have been brought from a far distance because they are not indigenous to the area. This explains why the Amiriyah School has survived over five centuries despite negligence.

German photographer

Yahya al-Nusairi explained, “The School has been restored to its state before 910 Hejri. No strange materials are used in the restoration. The bases of the School remained intact. However, the lost parts were known from documents and chronicles. The building has been restored into its shape at the threshold of the 20 Century based on the photos taken by the German photographer who visited the area between 1910-1909.