Saadah: Astonishment of place and human [Archives:2005/883/Last Page]

October 6 2005


The governorate of Saadah lies in the north of the Republic of Yemen, 243 km from Sana'a. Saadah City played an important role during the Islamic eras. It is the center and first capital of Zaidism and it was a station for pilgrims and merchants on their way to Mecca. The governorate has a variety of relief: high mountains to the north and west, such as Khawlan, Baqim and Razih mountains, that are 2,800m above sea-level and which are linked to the Juma'aeh mountain chain. The flatland of Saadah is among the most fertile areas in Yemen, with farmers growing black grapes, pomegranates, peaches, apricots figs and other fruits.

High mountains and inner deserts characterize Eastern Saadah, with a number of a valley streams flowing through to the Empty Quarter desert.

The houses in Saadah seem to come out of the ground like mushrooms. Unlike Sana'a or Hadhramout, houses here are not built with adobe. Applying the so-called “sabur technique”, bulbs of clay with a thickness of some 60 cm are used for the construction of houses of four and five stories.

The old city of Saadah is characterized by its wonderful houses with their decorated wooden doors, and surrounded by a beautiful city wall that still retains its original features.

Saadah is famous for its high quality of iron, traces of which can been seen in various parts of the governorate, and some of its people still work in the mining of iron-ore from the mountains. They melt it in primitive furnaces to make tools, because of its high quality and due to the lack of imported iron in the local market. Other handicrafts include Leather goods.

Saadah is also famous for domestic utensils made from palm leaves and clay. The residents of Saadah are very skillful in the making of kitchenware from stone, extracted from the Razih Quarries. Such stones are called Harradh and the utensils made from these stones are very popular and called “Al-Maqla, Al-Sa'di, Al-Hardha, and Al-Sa'diyya.

The Markets:

There are a number of weekly markets held in different parts of the governorate on different days, the most important being Al-Tallh, 10 km to the north of Saadah, which is held every Saturday, and considered as the biggest market in Yemen.

Archaeological and tourist Sites in Saadah:

As the relief in Saadah vary so does the living of the population, there are mountains, towns, plains, and grass lands such as the eastern region of Saadah. This natural, human, cultural and historical map can be summed up as follows:

Saadah City:

The city is surrounded by a fortified wall considered and as one of the tourist attractions of Yemen similar to Sana'a Wall, but Saadah Wall is still intact with all its components. It is built of mud bricks in a wavy manner interspersed 52 towers and four gates:

Najran, Swedan, Mansourah and Hamdan inside the wall are 16 staircases. The wall measures 3.326 m in length 8 m height from the outside and 6 m from the inside, the thickness at the ground is 5 m and as the top 3.5 m. It is in an excellent condition even though it was built in the 16th century.

Old Saadah:

The city of Saadah is distinguished for its architecture style which resembles old Sana'a to a great extent; yet there is another style prevalent in Saadah and Eastern Yemen, which is the Mud Bricks Style, constructed according to stages with determined heights in the from of belts. This style is noted in many villages of Saadah governorate.

Al-Hada Mosque:

Al-Hada mosque dates back to the 9th century and is considered one of the oldest and most beautiful mosques in Yemen. It contains tomb and domes, of which the most important is the tomb of Al-Hada Yahia Bin Al-Husain, founder of the Zaidite dynasty in the 3rd Hegira century (9th century AD). Saadah town and Al-Hada mosque were famous, in addition to other mosques as schools used for theological studies. This gave the city an academic aura, which is comparable to that of Sana'a, Zabid, Tarim, Dhamar, and Jiblah. Al-Hada Mosque still possesses many invaluable manuscripts and reference books.

Beautiful Villages Surrounding Saadah:

Beautiful villages are scattered around in Saadah and in parts of Qa'a Al-Hosn, characterized by the classic architectural style of Saadah, and surrounded by fertile gardens. The villages of Al-Talh, Al-Abdainn and Rahban deserve special notion.

Forts and Castles Of Saadah:

Saadah governorate was a cross point for trade caravans across different historical epochs: for the Ollibanum and perfume caravans at the time before Christ, the caravans from the As'ad route, the proprietors of the elephant route during the pre-Islamic era, and for pilgrims since Islam.

The construction of forts and castles, therefore, seemed necessary to protect the travelers. Some were built close to Saadah, such as Al-Sinarah, Sama'a fort, Tulmus fort and Al-Abla fort, and the Razeh fortress “Humrum” 60 km to the northwest of Saadah. The most important of the forts is “Om Laila” at Baqim north west of Saadah.

Old Yemeni inscriptions confirm that this is a most significant archaeological site and contains stone paved roads, reservoir, grain stores and defense constructions; for example towers and fortified walls.

Rock Drawings and Primitive Paintings:

Saadah is an area that boasts of ancient paintings and signs dating back to the Hunter Gatherers Society. Many of the caves and rocks in the mountainous areas are full of inscriptions and paintings of goats, hounds, cows, snakes, plant and geometrical shapes. The two areas especially rich in such drawings are Al-Khaza'in, 15 km to the northwest of Saadah at Om Lailai, and Musalhaqat 20 km to the northwest of Saadah.

Customs, Traditions and Folklore:

Saadah is also rich in its folklore dances and music. Some of its residents have traditions found nowhere else. For example, the male residents on the outskirts of Saadah governorate wear wreaths of flowers around their heads and their hair is grown down to their shoulders. This part of Saadah has retained a lifestyle, unaffected by time.