What to See in Yemen

Sana’a is the capital of Yemen. The city is located in the western part of the country in the center of a mountainous region at an altitude of 2286 m. It is one of the oldest still inhabited cities in the world. Scientists believe that the time of its foundation falls on the 6th century BC, when the kingdom of Saba dominated here, and local legends say that the city was founded by Shem, one of the three sons of Noah. Sana stood at the crossroads of trade routes that ran between the deserts and the Red Sea and between the major cities of the highlands of the region. From the 10th century AD here were the residences of the imams of the Shia Zaidis, who more than once proclaimed themselves the rulers of North Yemen. The city became the capital of Yemen in 1990 after the formation of the Republic of Yemen.. Sana’a ‘s main attraction is the well-preserved Old City .. It was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1986 and is now the largest protected Old City in the Arab world. It is surrounded by restored sections of fortress walls 6 to 9 meters high, and inside there are more than 100 mosques, 12 hammams and about 6,500 buildings made in the traditional Arabic style. Some buildings of the Old City are about 400 years old. The main attractions of the Old City are the Bab el-Yemen gate, which was erected in the southern part of the city about 700 years ago, the Suk el-Mil market, which has been functioning for over 1000 years, the Great Mosque of the 7th century AD, the Al-Bakiliya Mosque 16th century and old tower houses that resemble modern skyscrapers. To the west of the Old City is the Bir al-Azab district.. Here are interesting Tahrir Square (Liberation Square), the National Historical Museum with exhibits telling about the history of the region, the Military Museum and the Museum of Applied Arts.

According to TOP-MEDICAL-SCHOOLS, 15 km west of Sanaa in the Dhar valley, on a high cliff, stands the former summer residence of the imam – Dar al-Hajar. The time of the foundation of the first palace is not known, however, scientists believe that it crowned a high rock in the pre-Islamic period. Dar al-Hajar was completely destroyed under the Turks and rebuilt at the end of the 18th century. In 1930, under Imam Ihya, the palace was significantly expanded. Now it is not used as a residence, but is a whole museum.

40 km northwest of Sana’a in the province of Al-Mahwit stretches the valley of Al-Munakab, above which mountains rise. This region is known for its mountain fortress cities. One of them is the city of Shibam (not to be confused with Shibam in Hadhramaut province). This is an ancient city, on the gates of which you can see inscriptions from the times of the kingdom of Saba. Shibam is home to one of the oldest mosques in Yemen. It was built about 1000 years ago on the site of an ancient Hamyarite temple. From Shibam, along the steps laid in the rocks, you can go to the city of Kavkaban, which stands at an altitude of 2750 m. Kavkaban is one of the significant historical places in Yemen, where the Shiite Zaidis lived and where the Yemeni kings rested and hid from persecution. 30 km to the west is another fortified city – At-Tawila. Here are interesting residential buildings built of large stone blocks. The ruins of the Mutakhar-bin-Sharaf-Uddin fortress of the 5th century AD are located on the plateau towering above the city.

To the north extends the province of Hajja. Its capital is the city of Hajja. It is located among the mountain ranges at an altitude of 1800 m. There is a Zaidi fortress, under which there was a prison in ancient times. A little to the east, the city of Amran is interesting with its houses built of clay and straw. 35 km southwest of Haji in the cities of Al-Tur and Aslam there are hot springs, the waters of which are used in the treatment of skin diseases and rheumatism. 50 km north of Haji, on two mountain peaks towering over the Wadi Vaar valley, one of the most famous Yemeni fortress villages is located – Shakhara. In the 16th and 17th centuries, it was the main headquarters of the Yemenis who opposed the Ottoman Empire. Shakhara is located at an altitude of 2600 m and consists of two parts, located on the neighboring mountain peaks. Both parts of the village are connected by a bridge built in the 17th century from limestone blocks across the gorge.

Saada is the administrative center of the province of the same name and the main city of the northwestern part of Yemen. It is located between the Sahhar and Maar mountain ranges, 80 km from the border with Saudi Arabia. Since ancient times Saada stood at the crossroads of trade routes between north and south. It was here in the 9th century AD. Imam al-Hadi Yahya bin al-Hussein bin al-Kasem began to preach Zaidiism. For 1200 years, Saada was the religious center of the Yemeni Zaidis, and after the revolution of 1962, the province of Saada, together with its central city, remained the only stronghold of the Zaidis in the country. Saada is surrounded by a 16th century fortress wall, which was built of clay. It has survived to this day almost completely. The wall is one of the most important Yemeni historical monuments, not inferior in its importance to the walls of Sana’a.. Inside the fortress walls, one of the oldest and one of the most beautiful mosques in the country, the Al-Hadi Mosque of the 9th century AD, has been preserved. The mosque houses the tomb of Imam al-Hadi Yahya bin al-Hussein bin al-Qasem.

10 km north of Saada, in the village of Al-Tal, a market opens every Saturday, which is considered one of the largest in the country. 60 km northwest of Saada, in the village of Bakim, an ancient fortress has been preserved that guarded merchants traveling from the interior of the Arabian Peninsula to the south.

The capital of the coastal dry region of Tihama and the province of Hodeidah is the city of Hodeidah . It is the fourth largest city in Yemen and the country’s largest seaport. Hodeida located on the Red Sea and surrounded by sandy beaches. In the period from the 7th to the 19th century, the city was one of the main ports of the region. The distance from Hodeidah to Sanaa is 226 km, between them there is a highway of good quality. In Hodeida, it is worth visiting the fish market, which opens in the early morning. On its shelves you can see not only commercial fish, such as tuna, and lobsters, but also sharks and manta rays.

50 km southeast of Hodeidah, the city of Bait Al-Faqih is interesting., where one of the largest markets in the region is open every Friday. The market was opened at the beginning of the 18th century. A wide variety of goods are sold here: vegetables, fruits, coffee, spices, textiles, pottery and products of local craftsmen.

100 km southeast of Hodeidah, 25 km from the coast, is one of the most significant cities in the Islamic world – Zabid. From the 13th to the 15th centuries it was the capital of the country. There are 29 mosques, 53 religious schools and one of the oldest universities in the Arab world, which was founded in 800 AD. The city’s most famous mosques are Al-Ashair from the 9th century and the Great Mosque from the 16th century.

Hot springs are located in the southern part of Al-Khodeidah province. The most popular source is located in the city of Al-Suhan, 45 km south Hodeids. In the old days, Yemeni imams rested here in winter. The spring waters help in the treatment of diseases of the digestive tract, skin diseases and rheumatism.

Sandy beaches stretch along the entire coast of the province. Approximately 70 km north of Hodeidah, opposite Al Salif Bay, is the island of Kamaran. – the largest Yemeni island in the Red Sea. Its area is 108 sq. km, length – 18 km, width – 7 km. This is a shelf island surrounded by coral reefs on three sides. The island is known for its colorful underwater world and beaches. For living on the island, a tourist village is equipped, with 10 traditional-style huts. In addition to diving and beach holidays, trips are offered here to the northern coast of the island, where mangrove forests stretch.

To the east of the province of Hodeidah, in the mountains, is the province of Dhamar. Its administrative center is the city of Dhamar, which was founded by the Hamyarite king Dhamar Ali. It is located 100 km south of Sanaa at an altitude of 2700 m. Dhamar is the only city in the mountainous region of Yemen that is not surrounded by a fortified wall. Dhamar is surrounded by a geothermal area. To the south of it are the hot springs of Hammam Damt. The springs are located in the crater of an extinct volcano, metal steps lead to them. Their waters help in the treatment of diseases of the skin, digestive system, eye diseases and rheumatism. To the east of Dhamar you can see the youngest volcano in the country – El Lasi, where geothermal springs are also located. Not far from El Lasi, the city of Rada is interesting., where it is worth seeing the 16th-century El-Amiriya Mosque, the remains of a stone wall and buildings characteristic of the area, which are built from specially processed bricks and then coated with gray clay every year.

100 km south of Dhamar, on the slopes of Mount Badaan, stands the ancient trading city of Ibb. In these places, the greatest amount of precipitation falls, so the surroundings of the city are very picturesque: mountain valleys are covered with terraces with agricultural land. Ibb has long been known for its coffee plantations. Thanks to the coffee trade, the city reached its power. 10 km away is the city of Jibla, which was founded in 1065. Under the Queen of Yemen Arve Bint Ahmad Al Sulaihi Jibla, who ruled in the 11th century after the death of her husband, Jibla was the capital of the state. Also, the city of Jibla was an important center of learning in the Islamic world. Its main attraction is the Arva mosque of 1088, where the tomb of the great queen, a museum dedicated to her life, and a functioning school for the study of the Koran are located.

From here you can go further south through the Sumarra Pass, passing at an altitude of about 2500 m, to the city of Taiz . Taiz was first mentioned in 1173. In the following centuries, it became the capital of various states more than once: in 1175 – the kingdom of the Ayyubid dynasty, from the 13th to the 15th centuries – the kingdom of the Rasulid dynasty, and from 1948 to 1962 – the last kingdom of Yemen. Today, Taiz is an important economic center. It is located on the slopes of Mount Sabir at an altitude of 1400 m. In Taiz, the Al-Qahira fortress standing on a 400-meter cliff, mosques from the time of the Rasulids, the remains of the fortress walls of the 13th century, an old market, which is considered one of the best places in the country for buying silver products, are interesting, and the palace of the last imam of Yemen – Ahmed.

To the south of Taiz , Mount Sabir rises with a height of 3070 m. A road leads from Taiz to the top of the mountain. Traveling along it, you can see local women dressed in bright national clothes with baskets on their heads in which they carry fruit. 20 km northeast of Taiz in the village Al-Janad is one of the most ancient mosques in Yemen. It was built in the 7th century and, together with the Great Mosque of Sana’a, is carefully protected by the state as a significant historical monument. 35 km southwest of Taiz, in the city of Yaphrus, there is another place of pilgrimage – the tomb of Ahmed Ibn Alwan, one of the most famous and revered preachers and religious leaders of ancient Yemen.

94 km west of Taiz on the Red Sea coast near the Bab el-Mandeb Strait is the port city of Mokha.. Since the 16th century, Mokha has been the main port through which Yemeni coffee was transported. It is from the name of the city that the name of the Yemeni coffee variety – “mocha” came from. At the end of the 19th century, Aden became the main port of Yemen and Mokha lost its importance. Mostly tourists go here to visit the markets where you can buy real mocha coffee, look at the Al-Shadeli Mosque, which is over 500 years old, or simply relax on the beaches. 160 km southeast of Taiz is the city of Aden. Aden┬ástands on the shores of the Gulf of Aden and occupies a small peninsula connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus. The city has been known since the 1st century BC. e., as one of the most important ports on the way from India to Europe. In the 19th century, after the construction of the Suez Canal, it became the main port of the Arabian Peninsula. From 1967 to 1990 Aden was the capital of South Yemen. The old city of Aden is located in the crater of an extinct volcano in the eastern part of the peninsula, for which it received its name “Crater”. From the west it is bounded by the Shamsan mountains. The architecture of the Old City shifted Yemeni, Indian and Victorian styles, because in the period from the 19th to the middle of the 20th century, Aden was part of the British colonial possessions. Along the perimeter of the Old City are the remains of the fortress wall and towers, and in its southern part are the Aden reservoirs, or the so-called Tawila cisterns, the construction of which began as early as the 6th century AD. e. Next to the Tavila cisterns is the palace of the Sultan of Lahej, which now houses the National Museum. Also of interest in the Old City are the 14th-century Al-Aydarus Mosque and numerous markets. At the entrance to the harbor of the old port of Aden, there is a small rocky island, on top of which stands the fortress of Sira. In the western part of the peninsula behind the Shamsan mountains is the modern port of Al Tawai, built by the British. South of the modern port are the most popular resort areas of Aden – Gold Moor and Elephant Bay.

Traveling through the eastern desert part of the country is best to start from the city of Marib , which stands at the western borders of the Ramlat es-Sabatain desert. A highway has been laid here from Sana’a. However, first visit the city of Barakish. It is located about 80 km north of the Sana Marib Highway. Barakish was founded in the 3rd millennium BC. It is known as the capital of the ancient state of Main. The remains of walls, the ruins of an ancient castle, columns of ancient temples, as well as stones with inscriptions in ancient languages have survived in the city to this day.

The city of Marib is located 172 km east of Sana’a. on the banks of the Wadi Danah. It is believed that it was founded in the 2nd millennium BC. and was an important point on the caravan route passing from desert regions to mountainous areas. In the 1st millennium BC. Marib was the capital of the kingdom of Saba. Under the Sabaeans in the 8th century BC. a dam was erected on the banks of the Wadi Danah, which for more than a thousand years supported the reservoir. The dam was built to irrigate the region with water that flowed down from the mountains between April and August. Its length was 720 m, height – 15 m, and thickness at the base – 60 m. The dam became the most grandiose structure of ancient Yemen. Nowadays tourists go to Marib to see the ruins of an ancient dam, where you can see ancient Sabaean inscriptions, the remains of Sabaean temple complexes dedicated to the god of the moon, mosques and clay houses, and also to go on an exciting journey through the desert.

It is best to travel through the desert areas on off-road vehicles. Along the way, you can see vast sandy fields, red mountains and fragrant oases, where ancient trading cities are located. The main attraction of this region is the valley of the Masila River. 160 km long and about 10 km wide. Even at the turn of the 2-1 millennium BC. the state of Hadhramaut arose here, which later gave the name to the entire region. The main caravan route leading to the western regions of the Arabian Peninsula passed through Hadhramaut. In addition, the valley is considered a sacred place, because many tombs have been preserved here, where prophets revered in the Islamic world are buried. Today, the province of Hadhramawt stretches from the northern borders of the country to the southern coast and occupies most of the Yemeni desert region.

Saada (Yemen)

Saada is the administrative center of the province of the same name and the main city of the northwestern part of Yemen. It is located between the Sahhar and Maar mountain ranges, 80 km from the border with Saudi Arabia. Since ancient times, Saada stood at the crossroads of trade routes between north and south. It was here in the 9th century AD. Imam al-Hadi Yahya bin al-Hussein bin al-Kasem began to preach Zaidiism. For 1200 years, Saada was the religious center of the Yemeni Zaidis, and after the revolution of 1962, the province of Saada, along with its central city, remained the only stronghold of the Zaidis in the country.

Saada is surrounded by a 16th century fortress wall, which was built of clay. It has survived to this day almost completely. The wall is one of the most important Yemeni historical monuments, not inferior in its importance to the walls of Sana’a. The length of the fortress wall is 3326 m, and the height reaches 8 m. Here you can see 52 towers and 4 gates. Inside the fortress walls, one of the oldest and one of the most beautiful mosques in the country, the Al-Hadi Mosque, has been preserved.. It was built in the 9th century AD. under Imam al-Hadi Yahya bin al-Hussein bin al-Kasem, who laid the foundation for the Zaidi dynasty. Until now, the mosque continues to be an important training center for the Zaidis, where their shrine is located – the tomb of Imam al-Hadi Yahya bin al-Hussein bin al-Kasem. Also inside the fortress walls you can see numerous ancient buildings made of clay, where government offices, madrasahs and markets are now located. Saada’s markets sell the famous soapstone (steatite) pots.

10 km north of Saada, in the village of Al-Tal, a market opens every Saturday, which is considered one of the largest in the country. 60 km northwest of Saada in the village of Bakim an ancient fortress has been preserved that guarded merchants traveling from the hinterland of the Arabian Peninsula to the south.

What to See in Yemen