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Yemen’s ancient architecture threatened by war

August 15, 2018

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THE archaeological city of Baraqish in Yemen said to be in ruins because of war.
THE archaeological city of Baraqish in Yemen said to be in ruins because of war.

SANAA: Yemen’s three-year war has taken a heavy toll on Sanaa’s historic Old City, a dense warren of mosques, bath houses and 6,000 mud brick houses, which date from before the 11th century.

Part of the Old City, a Unesco World Heritage Site, has been razed by bombing. Now only rubble and straggly palm trees remain, where unique tower houses once stood.

“Many buildings have been badly damaged and are only skeletons now,” Umat al-Razzak, manager of traditional housing, told Reuters.

The Old City is dominated by two hues — that of the baked mud bricks and of the lighter gypsum used for the houses’ ornate arched window frames and external geometric decorations.

Sanaa is said to have been founded two and half millennia ago and its old heart once bustled with traders and drew tourists in calmer times.

The ancient city remained an area of relative calm during the 2011 uprising in Yemen which led to the downfall of late President Ali Abdullah Saleh, but the war between the alliance of Sunni Muslim Arab states and the Iranian-aligned Houthi movement that now controls the capital has brought havoc.

Unesco said it is assessing the impact of the conflict on the Old City and other sites in Yemen, but it was too early to quantify the extent of the damage.

The organisation listed the al-Qasimi area in Sanaa, the Old City of Saadah and Marib Dam, the archaeological city of Baraqish, Al Qahirah citadel in Taiz and Hadramout’s ancient tombs as being severely damaged. It said the 9th century mosque of Bani Matar and Dhamar Museum have been completely destroyed.

Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2018