Taiz Antiquities, Reality and Ambitions [Archives:2000/07/Culture]

February 14 2000

Imad Al-Saqqaf
Yemen Times , Taiz
Tourism plays an important role in providing information on the country’s civilization and history. Each country in the world entertains its own features and has its own tourism features that distinguish it from the others.
Yemen is known throughout history to be the origin of the Arabs. Due to this historical and cultural feature, Yemen is inevitably rich with the remains of an ancient civilization and spectacular history, as well as being full of wonders and splendor, in addition to its enchantingly beautiful landscapes.
Taiz is one of Yemen’s ancient cities. It enjoys irresistible charm and tranquillity, and a lot of eye-catching spots. Its location, nature, salubrious air, historical sites, ancient fortresses, mosques, museums, traditional markets of traditional jewels and fine gems give it a special flavor and attraction, thus making it one of the most beautiful cities in the country.
Unfortunately, many tourist sites have not been utilized yet. Worse, is that the available and known tourist places are prone to misuse and carelessness and not properly maintained. If such places are given serious attention, tourism will revive and the city will regain its splendor.
There are many tourist sites in the city that are still unknown to tourists. Lack of transportation facilities and passable roads help make such places not easy to reach, and consequently, neglected. Al-Mansourah Fortress, in Assilw is an example. Tourists rarely visit it, as a result of the rough terrain that make it a bit difficult to reach. However, I can see a silver lining in the horizons, as the infrastructure of tourism seems to be in the bloom. Many facilities that need the cooperation of all authorities concerned should be made available to make these places known to tourists and easy to reach. Passable roads, transportation facilities, telecommunications and security should be made available for tourists. It is hoped that people in charge of tourism will try to spread awareness about such places and do what is proper to preserve them and their historic value.
It is very disappointing for tourists to be received in a bad way by inhabitants of the districts and places they visit. Such uncivilized behaviors do not make tourists do not think of coming back again, nor do they encourage others to visit those places. Tourists, in general, want to know about any thing they visit without being disturbed by people. I hope that people all over Yemen will try to be more helpful to tourists and not show any hostility to visitors.
On tourism and its reality and ambitions, Mr. Mohammed Al-Mogahed, Head of the Tourism Office in Taiz, pointed out the deterioration in the tourism sector resulting from the recent kidnapping incidents of tourists. However, he said that the number of tourists was still promising.
About the most frequented places, Al-Mogahed pointed out the two museums available in the city; ‘The Military Museum’ and ‘Salah Museum.’ “The Old City (Taiz Al-Qadimah) is an open museum, in itself. The old mosques in that area are frequently visited. Many provinces and places outside the city like Saber Mountain, Al-Dhabab, Al-Turbah, Yafros and Al-Ganad are also frequently visited. There are also the seashores of Mocha and Wad Al-Mulch.”, He added.
He said that the official promotional tourist program for the current year was successful; tourism companies rather than the Tourism Office mostly adopted the program for the previous year. “Ambitions to promote tourism in the city are unlimited. However, facilities are limited. We hope that in this year we will be able to at least lay a foundation stone to a branch for the General Authority for Tourism here, and promote the efficiency of management, as well as our relationship with all the entities related to the tourism sector. We also hope to do better.” Said Al-Mogahed.
Al-Izzy Mohammed Mosleh from the Archaeology Office, Taiz was also asked about tourist sites that are still unknown to tourists, he said: ” We have made good headway despite the limited resources available to us. As far as tourist places are concerned, they are our responsibility and we do our best to take care of them. In addition, the government also pays much attention to them.
Of course, investment in this field is banned as private investors tend to destroy and not to construct. Moreover, the Investment Law bans investment in archaeological heritage.
Presently, Salah palace is being rehabilitated with the resources available. So far, we have rehabilitated most of the National Museum. Entrances and yards have all been renovated. For his part, President Ali Abdullah Saleh has donated YR 50 million to rehabilitate Radaa Mosque in Al-Aameriah. The work is about to be finished. So, as you see we are always working.”
When asked about the difficulties and problems that they face in their work, he said that they were the same problems faced by Third World countries. “People should be aware of the importance and great value of their historical and ancient heritage. In this regard, the public media should do what is proper to raise the people’s awareness about the high value of such things. Some people look upon antiquities as a matter of history that has no current value. Those people neglect the fact that they are highly valued and that the present is a continuation of the past. Antiquities must be handled carefully. What is happening is that, people destroy their value, mostly because of ignorance of their real high value. Had those people asked themselves what makes tourists leave their paradise countries and come to our country, they could have been more civilized in their treatment of antiquities. Those things, which reflect the deep-rooted history of Yemen, are mainly what lure tourists to Yemen. People should cooperate with the authorities concerned to preserve all that relates to our history, no matter how old it was, whether they think them to be valuable or not. Let me give a clear example, look at Al-Qahirah Fortress. This historical place has no meaning to some people. We do our best to preserve it, but what happens is that some people, who have no sense of responsibility come under the cover of night, when there is nobody, and reside there. There is no denying that we suffer from lack of financial resources, but I do believe that this is happening in many places. Some churches in Italy have been rehabilitated for more than thirty years. Anyhow, in our plan, we are intending to build a wall around Al-Qahirah Fort. I think this will do.
About the Taiz Wall, we have agreed with the Governor, who immediately formed a committee including members from all the authorities concerned. It is now forbidden to sell or rent areas near the Wall. We suggested fencing the whole area with wire netting.”Hen continued, “In Assawi, Taiz Governorate, 40 kilometers to the south, we have found antiquities dating 1000 years back. This historical city had flourished during the Qatabani age and lived through the Himyarite and Islamic periods. It played an important political role in defending against the Abyssinian invasions. Assawi is located on the caravan road that leads to Moshi port. It needs to be fenced. Damp has been made by the inhabitants on the outskirts, not realizing the damage water and moisture can do to antiquities. In Egypt, million of dollars had been spent in order to shift an ancient temple from moist ground to dry land. The difference between them and us is that they do realize how highly valued antiquities are. What is seen clear in our case is the absence of any kind of coordination between the people and authorities concerned, which certainly, poses many difficulties.
He concluded: “Hopefully, we are working on a map that will be finished within six months. As soon as it is finished, it will be distributed among all offices concerned to share the responsibility of preserving and protecting those antiquities.”