Yemen’s ancient architecture threatened by war
SANAA - Reuters
“Many buildings have been badly damaged and are only skeletons now,” Umat al-Razzak, manager of traditional housing, said.
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.
Resident Abu Hani-Elaifa said he remembers clearly the night in September 2015, the year that a Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen’s war, when his neighborhood was hit.
“I was standing outside my house. There were warplanes overhead and then they hit this house while the family was having dinner,” he said, pointing to the rubble which still lies there.
“Unfortunately, it is not a situation unique to Sanaa, as heritage has been affected in all parts of the country,” Director of the World Heritage Centre, Mechtild Roessler, said in a statement.
The organization 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.
UNESCO reiterates “the utmost need for all actors in the conflict to avoid destruction of irreplaceable sites, monuments and museum collections in Yemen, which are critical to the identities of local people and of global significance for the history of art, architecture, science and culture.”
“Protecting this city is an international responsibility, not just a Yemeni responsibility,” said Abdullah Ahmed al-Kabsi, the official in charge of culture in the Houthi administration.