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The Old City of Sana'a (with over 2.000 years of history) presents an unique homogeneous architectural ensemble. The design and detail of each of the houses combine into an integral beauty. Sana’a is also connected to the spread of Islam in the early years of the Hegira (from 628).

Surrounded by ancient clay walls which stand 6–9 metres (20–30 ft) high, the old city boasts over 100 mosques, 12 hammams (baths) and 6,500 houses. Many of the houses resemble ancient skyscrapers, reaching several stories high and topped with flat roofs. They are decorated with elaborate friezes and intricately carved frames and stained glass windows.

One of the most popular attractions is Suq al-Milh (Salt Market), where it is possible to buy not only salt but also bread, spices, raisins, cotton, copper, pottery, silverware, antiques (both fake and real) and, formerly, slaves. The majestic seventh century Jami' al-Kabir (Great Mosque) is one of the oldest in the Muslim world. The Bâb al-Yaman (Yemen Gate) is an iconized entry point through the city walls and is over 700 years old.


Jorge Sanchez (Spain):
Yemen is, with abysmal difference, the most interesting country in the Arabian Peninsula (of course, excluding holy cities of Mecca and Medina, in Saudi Arabia, which are forbidden for the no Muslims).
The walled city of Sana’a, for instance, the country capital, looks a medieval town not belonging to this world. Its buildings and castles are incredibly beautiful and enthralling. They look like the fantasy houses that the children do in the schools with earthenware or other materials.
In Sana’a (as elsewhere in Yemen) people walk in thestreets showing their enormous knifes in their waist (they are called “jambiyas”), and wear turbans.
Khat is sold everywhere with total impunity and people use to chewing it in the streets, while in Saudi Arabia, for instance, its possession is punished with jail.
I used to sleep in a communal room, with many Yemenite men, in downtown, for less than 1 US Dollar. Yemen is the poorest country in the Arabian Peninsula.
After visiting Sana’a, Aden, the second town in population, is a little disappointing.
Date posted: July 2013
Paul Tanner (UK):
San’a is a city to wander round without a map and without any particular objectives other than soaking up the atmosphere. “Dive in” at the Bab Al-Yaman and just see where serendipity takes you. Oh, and have plenty of digital cards or film! Because of the narrowness of the alleyways and the height of the buildings it is worth going at different times of day in order to benefit from different positions of the sun. Some buildings will let you in and the views from the top over the city are worthwhile if you can find them/ obtain invitations. You will also get a feel for the enclosed gardens which dot the city but are largely invisible from the outside other than a few palm branches peeping over the walls!

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Site info

Old City of Sana'a
Country: Yemen
Inscribed: 1986
  • In Danger
    Cultural Heritage
    Criteria:  (4) (5) (6)
    Category: Urban landscape, Urban continuity

    Site history:
    2015In Danger
    damage due to armed conflict
    1986 Inscribed
    Reasons for inscription

    Site links

    Official website:
    »Yemen Tourism

    In the news:
    » 'Air strike' kills five in historic district of Sana'a (12-06-2015).
    » UNESCO condemns 'severe' bombing damage to Sanaa old town (13-05-2015).
    » Sana'a's Old City: Prospects grim for cultural preservation (09-01-2015).
    » Historic homes in Old Sana'a crumble (01-04-2008).

    Related links:
    » Virtual Tourist.
    » Old Sanaa.

    Related Forum posts:
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    Vernacular architecture .
    Baths . Tower-houses . Walled cities .
    Religion and Belief
    Mosque .
    Built in the 7th century .
    Located in a Capital City . On Banknotes .
    WHS on Other Lists
    Aga Khan Award for Architecture . Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible heritage .

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