Old City of Sana’a

Old City of Sana’a
Photo by: mcmay, Creative Commons

Sana’a is one of the cities in Yemen that dates back to the sixth century BC, when the Sabaean dynasty was still at the height of its power. The earliest written reference to this ancient city was discovered in inscriptions that go back to as early as the first century AD. Researchers suppose that it is the capital city of the Himyarite kingdom at the beginning of sixth century AD. It has also been known from studies that Sana’a is connected with the spread of Islam from 628 (during the initial part of the Hegira). The entry point to this historic city is the Bab al-Yaman (Yemen Gate) which is over 700 years old.

The Old City of Sana’a has over 2,500 years of history and is a showcase for architectural jewels. The old city is surrounded by ancient walls made of clay that stand 20-30 feet (6-9 meters) high, and has over 6,500 houses, 12 hammans (baths), and 100 mosques. Each of the houses has been designed in such a way that their combination articulates integral splendor. The details of the houses are simply exquisite. Several of them look a lot like skyscrapers, standing several stories high and crowned with flat rooftops. Windows of stained glass and ornate wall paintings with elaborately carved frames decorate these houses.

One of the primary attractions in the Old City of Sana’a is the city of Al Madina, a commercial area where development is quickly advancing. Here you would find a lot of restaurants, shops, warehouses, three amusement parks and three large hotels. This is also where the President’s palace is located.

One attraction is the extremely popular Suq al-Milh or Salt Market where you can buy not just salt but also silverware, pottery, cotton, copper raisins, spices, bread, antique items (both genuine and fake) and formerly, even slaves.

In 1986, the United Nations Organization declared the Old City of Sana’a as a World Heritage Site.

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