Taiz: A Beautiful Tourist Destination [Archives:2001/46/Culture]

November 12 2001

Farouq al-Kamali 
Yemen Times 
Taiz, 270 km away from Sana’a, is one of the most beautiful cities in Yemen due to its special location, its diversity of attractive landscapes and its moderate climate. Moreover, Taiz has a unique architecture, where old buildings blend with modern ones portraying a beautiful picture of the city; when you enter the old city it seems as if you have moved into another world. 
At al-Shanini souk, you will be impressed to see huge crowds of people shopping at the traditional markets, where you can see locally made cheese, pottery, fabrics and traditional products. 
Taiz has many antiquities and religious shrines, such as al-Janad mosque. This mosque was built by Mu’ad bin Jabal, a close associate of Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) and his envoy to the people of Yemen to convince them to embrace Islam. Similarly, the Ahmed bin Alwan shrine, located in Yafrus, is the destination of many people asking God to heal them from illnesses from which they are suffering. On the other hand, there is another non-Islamic shrine in Taiz which is the tomb of al-Shebzi, a Jewish scholar and poet. This Jewish shrine is visited mostly by Jews since it is considered a religious symbol. 
Taiz has many historical monuments, such as the palaces of the Rasulids kings in Tha’abat, the Imam Ahmed palaces (the current National Museum), and al-Qahira Castle. Similarly, Taiz attracts many visitors who want to enjoy the hot springs available in the governorate, or practice the sports of mountain climbing and sea diving at areas close to the city. Unfortunately, these tourist attractions have not yet been used to their full potential, as many of the sites are i need of attention. Some people think that the reason behind the lack of tourist facilities is the scarcity of resources for carrying out the necessary infrastructure. Moreover, the private sector does not dare embark on unsafe ventures in this sector. Broadly, tourism in Taiz is still quite weak and slow-growing. Based on statistics from the Taiz Tourism Office, the number of tourists that visited Taiz from January to August 2001 was 1376, which is a very small number for an attractive city like Taiz. 
Abdulqawi Salem, Director of the Taiz Tourism Office, thinks that there are many difficulties obstructing the progress of tourism, such as not exploiting the tourist potentials and deforming the archaeological monuments, as well as the role of the Western media in tarnishing the image of Yemen overseas and the unsatisfactory marketing program adopted by the tourism authorities in Yemen. The weak infrastructure of the tourism industry in Yemen plays a major role in the current stagnant situation of tourism here. On the other hand, the role of media propaganda (brochures, promotion magazines, guide books) is very weak and mostly absent. Similarly, many other factors have significantly contributed to the deterioration of tourism in Yemen, such as the lack of well-qualified manpower to help boost tourism; the high prices of water, telephone and electricity bills, which led to the closure of many tourist enterprises; non-punctuality of domestic flights; and high bank interest rates which prohibit investors from investing in tourism sector. 
Domestic Tourism in in Taiz 
Taiz has attractive landscapes, particularly in the countryside, as the inhabitants of the city of Taiz love to spend their vacations there. Saber Mountain, which overlooks the city of Taiz, embraces a magnificent scene that attracts many people during holidays. Moreover, there are many other beautiful places worth seeing such as al-Thabab valley. However, there is a great need for public parks at these places. 
Statistics show that the number of tourists visiting Taiz from January to August totaled 28,920, who spent 46,612 nights in the city. In contrast, tourism in Taiz during the other months of the year is very weak. Abdulqawi Sallem, Director of the Tourism Office in Taiz, ascribes the reasons behind the weakness of domestic tourism in Yemen in general and in Taiz in particular to the low incomes of Yemenis, the low number of festivals and events, the high prices of accommodation and transportation, the lack of means of collective transportation and finally, most Yemeni families do not attach importance to tourism in general.