The Yemen-Arabia Felix


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  • The Yemen is a desert state.
  • President Ali Abdullah Saleh has promised to step down in 2013, after two terms in office. (1978!! To the present)He’ll be lucky! Eight days of protests so far. He has arrested an opposition leader which is pretty stupid.
  • There are three kinds of desert.Ergs or “sand seas”Regs or “wind-scoured gravel plains”Hammadas – rocky plateaux with deeply eroded gorges.THIS IS HAMMADA.
  • A desert is an area which receives less than 250mm of rainfall.
  • Surface drainage is intermittant.
  • If you want perennial water you have to dig for it. Groundwater depletion in the Sana’a Basin is around 5.5 metres per year and the water could run out entirely in 15 to 20 years.
  • Ground water is used for irrigation wherever there is flat land – and often where there isn’t! 75% of the population depend on agriculture. All agriculture is irrigated.
  • The difference between the availability of water and the lack of it is marked in the landscape. Effective precipitation amounts to only 5% of the total rainfall.
  • The capital city, Sana’a lies in a basin.As of the dawn of Islam until the detachment of independent sub-states in many parts of Yemen Islamic Caliphate, Sana'a persisted as the governing seat, who himself is Caliph's deputy in running the affairs of one of Yemen's Three Makhalifs: Mikhlaf Sana'a, Mikhlaf al-Janad and Mikhlaf Hadhramawt. The city of Sana'a recurrently assumed an important status and all Yemenite States competed to control it.The Mamelukes arrived in Yemen in AD 1517. Following the collapse of the Mamelukes in Egypt at the hands of the Ottoman Turks, Yemen fell under the Ottoman rule and during the first Ottoman rule of Yemen between 1538–1635, Sana'a became the capital of the Ottoman wilayah and also during the Ottoman second rule 1872-1918. In 1918, Sana'a was the capital of Imam Yahya, who ruled North Yemen. At the onset of the 1962 revolution which deposed the imamate rule, it became the capital of the Yemen Arab Republic. It was then the capital of unified Yemen in 1990 where it is dubbed as the historical capital of Yemen. In 2008, the Saleh Mosque was completed. It holds over 40,000 worshippers.During the first half of the 20th-century, there were about 10,000 Jews living in Sana. As of 2010, there were around 70 Jews living in the capital under government protection.[2]
  • The old fortified city has been inhabited for more than 2,500 years and contains a wealth of intact architectural gems. It was declared a World Heritage City by the United Nations in 1986. Efforts are underway to preserve some of the oldest buildings, some of which, such the Samsarh and the old Mosque, are more than 1400 years old. Surrounded by ancient clay walls which stand 9–14 metres (30–46 ft) high, the old city contains more than 100 mosques, 12 hammams (baths) and 6,500 houses. Many of the houses resemble ancient skyscrapers, reaching several storeys high and topped with flat roofs. They are decorated with elaborate friezes and intricately carved frames and stained-glass windows.
  • The old walls have been allowed to decay in some parts but have been restored in other parts.
  • Alberto Moravia described Sana’a as a “Venice of dust”. Gradually the pavements and roads are spreading but this route will probably remain a dust bowl as it is a river – the WadiSa’ilah.Until the 1960’s there was little internal plumbing or wiring. The seven year civil war ended in 1969. There were 6,000 tower houses in the old town at this time.
  • A few gardens survive. They are called MIQSHAMAH plural MAQAASHIMFrom an ancient sabaic root “qshmt” – a vegetable plot.The gardens, well, 43 of them, survive to this day.
  • This is the only one open to the public. The pressure on water has increased enormously. City has grown from 70,000 to over a million in the last 50 years. The water table is dropping inexorably.The quadad (quanat?) is becoming more important again.
  • Became World Heritage site in 1980s
  • The fort of DjebelNuqum towers over the city. A black thread must be seen in the morning light.The call to prayer in the morning is amazing as the minarets on the western side of the basin start first and then the adhan is repeated in a wave across and around the city’s basin to the shady east side of the city.
  • The public square is where a lot of business is done. Totally male dominated.
  • The old town is largelypedestrianised. The lanes were built for camel traffic rather than motor vehicles. So relatively safe area to visit. There are about 40 odd deaths a week in the Yemen on the roads. (cf 12 in UK) Diesil and petrol are heavily subsidised.
  • The mafradsh is always on the top floor.
  • This one has been converted into a restaurant.
  • The basements were all originally for keeping the animals in. More and more have been converted into commercial premises, in this case a sweatshop.
  • The lower windows usually have bars. Keeps the wains safe.
  • The firewood comes to town.
  • Deforestation is a big problem. This is an attempt at coppicing.
  • There are a myriad of tribes in the Yemen e.g. Sayyids, Qadis, BeniHusheich
  • They’ve been building dams here for thousands of years. This is the old dam at Ma’rib. The new dam is just up the valley…
  • …but it works on the same principals. There are no connecting canals or distribution pipes. The water seeps into the aquifers below to be tapped by wells downstream.
  • Ancient Ma’rib was next stop. Bombed by the Egyptians during the last civil war in the sixties. Now occupied on fringes.
  • A Berber woman.
  • The Sun God Temple was a desert sanctuary around 800BC. Note the modern bullet holes!Then back to Sana’a.
  • Next day off to Ta’izz. A roadside garage and petrol station.
  • Old transport and new.
  • The Dhamar Plain.
  • Terracing on the steep slopes extends the agricultural land.
  • The emirate of Ibb was abolished in 1944.
  • Ibb – Probably the door of a Jewish silversmith.
  • Jiblah
  • Jiblah
  • Tihama
  • Zabid – painted ceiling
  • Zabid wedding
  • Hodiedah
  • Al Hajjarah
  • Note the dykes in the cliff face. They are softer than the sandstone so they form recesses.
  • The Yemen has problems but none of them are insurmountable. The people deserve better - education and health services rather than Mig29s and tanks. Beautiful people in a beautiful country. Waiting for a government that cares – no, really cares.
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