13 April, 2010

Out of Sana'a

Sana'a, like many Yemeni cities, is surrounded by mountains. Most Yemeni urban centers are old; some thousands of years old. In the olden days, mountains and seas offered excellent protection and security against invaders. A short distance out of Sana'a, on the way to Dar Al Hajar, the road goes through some of these mountains.

Above: from here, Sana'a, one of the oldest human settlements in the world - looks old and wonderful. The trees in the foreground, are of qat. Many people, especially families come up here in the evenings and particularly on weekends, to relax, enjoy the scenery and have some fresh air.
Close to Dar Al Hajar, it is very common to find wedding ceremonies taking place. Like above, these men are celebrating a young man's wedding.
All the men have daggers; Yemeni daggers. Yemeni daggers have short, curved blades and are worn on the belt, at the front. The daggers are worn purely as decorations and as status symbols. The more expensive the dagger, the higher the status of the wearer. Some of the daggers, especially old ones, those made with rhino horn handles, can cost millions of Riyals. Rhino horns are most rare these days and are banned. And the Chinese are now making good imitations of Yemeni daggers; so good that one can easily be fooled that some of them are made with rhino horn handles.
There is so much grace in Yemeni traditional dancing. To an onlooker, the dancing might seem easy and without effort, but the dancing is intricate and needs skill.
This little boy with a falcon has a way with words; he asks for your name, and uses it to to come up with a poem about you and praising you. His bird seems a little unkempt.
While this man's falcon looks well kept and cared for. For a small amount of money, visitors are allowed to take photos with the birds. As people here are very friendly and helpful, it is easy getting along with them.
Sana'a is a mixture of the ancient, the old and the modern. There is something magical and mesmerizing about the old, brown-reddish buildings made of gypsum, baked bricks, and symmetrical stones. One of the most beautiful ancient, urban areas in the world is undoubtedly Sana'a Old City; a city that has been continuously inhabited for thousands of years.
If only Sana'a could have a law that allows only such old, styled houses to be built and the modern buildings to have few specific areas - how stunningly, beautiful and exotic it would be. Like the White City of Amman or the Red City of Marrakesh.
Crowded, congested Sana'a is growing rapidly. Still, Sana'a, even as crowded and hectic as it is; is very interesting. There is much to see, not only within the city, but outside and around it too. Within the city, there are many narrow streets, gardens, elegant mosques and minarets and imposing monuments. On the outskirts of the city, there is more to see. You can simply drive up in to the mountains, on the roads that go around the city; the best times for doing this and seeing the wonderful views, is just after sunrise or before sunset. And out there, are old villages and more wonderful gardens and interesting places.