16 November, 2009

Old Sana'a: One of the World's architectural gems

"The capital’s Old City is one of the world’s architectural gems, a thicket of unearthly medieval towers etched with white filigree and crowned with stained-glass windows. But more unusual than their mere survival is the fact that the traditional building arts continue to thrive here. Elsewhere in the Middle East, many older houses are being ripped down to make way for bland steel-and-glass high-rise buildings. The hyper-modern skyline of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, with its mismatched skyscrapers looking as if they were hurled down at the Persian Gulf from outer space, is being emulated in Beirut and other cities."

That's how Sana'a Old City is described in an article just published in The New York Times. The article goes on:

This country has been famous for its unique architecture ever since Sabaean rulers built the skyscraper palace of Ghumdan 1,800 years ago, celebrated by one medieval poet thus:

It rises, climbing into the midst of the sky

twenty floors of no mean height

wound with a turban of white cloud

and girdled in alabaster.

Architects rediscovering the Old City soon found there was more than beauty at stake. The traditional houses were also more durable and effective than concrete-based modern houses, and better suited to the climate.

Be it in Sana'a Old City or the mud bricked houses of Hadhramout, Yemen's architecture remains very much traditional and unique. And is still being preserved in most parts of the country.