jump to the content

Old City of Sana'a

Old City of Sana'a

Situated in a mountain valley at an altitude of 2,200 m, Sana’a has been inhabited for more than 2,500 years. In the 7th and 8th centuries the city became a major centre for the propagation of Islam. This religious and political heritage can be seen in the 103 mosques, 14 hammams and over 6,000 houses, all built before the 11th century. Sana’a’s many-storeyed tower-houses built of rammed earth (pisé) add to the beauty of the site.

Vieille ville de Sana'a

Édifiée dans une vallée de montagne à 2 200 m d’altitude, Sana’a a été habitée depuis plus de 2 500 ans. Aux VIIe et VIIIe siècles, la ville est devenue un important centre de propagation de l’islam. On retrouve ce patrimoine religieux et politique dans ses 106 mosquées, ses 12 hammams et ses 6 500 maisons qui datent tous d’avant le XIe siècle. Les maisons-tours aux nombreux étages et les maisons de pisé anciennes ajoutent encore à la beauté du site.

مدينة صنعاء القديمة

بنيت صنعاء في واد جبلي يرتفع الى 2200 متر وأصبحت مأهولة بالسكان منذ أكثر من 2500 سنة. وتحولت المدينة في القرنين السابع والثامن الى مركز هام لنشر الإسلام، فحافظت على تراث ديني وسياسي يتجلى في 106 مساجد و21 حماماً و6500 منزل تعود الى ما قبل القرن الحادي عشر. أما المساكن البرجية المتعددة الطبقات ومنازل الآجر القديمة فتزيد الموقع جمالاً.

source: UNESCO/ERI

萨那古城

萨那坐落于海拔2200米的山谷里,人类在那里的居住历史已超过2500年。在公元7世纪和8世纪期间,此城成为伊斯兰教的主要传播中心。其中的政治和文化遗产包括103座清真寺、14座哈玛姆寺和6000间会所,全部建于11世纪前。萨那城的多层塔楼为景点增添了美丽。

source: UNESCO/ERI

Старый город в Сане

Сана, расположенная в горной долине на высоте 2200 м над уровнем моря, населена уже более 2,5 тыс. лет. В VII-VIII вв. город стал крупным центром распространения ислама. О религиозном прошлом и политической жизни Саны можно судить по 103 мечетям, 14 общественным баням («хаммамы») и более 6 тыс. жилым домам; все они возведены до XI в. Многоэтажные жилые дома Саны, построенные из утрамбованной земли – «писе» - придают городу особый колорит.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Ciudad vieja de Sana’a

Edificada en un valle situado a 2.200 metros de altura sobre el nivel del mar, la ciudad de Sana’a tiene más de 2.500 años de historia. En los siglos VII y VIII fue un importante centro de propagación de la religión islámica. El legado de su esplendoroso pasado político y religioso lo atestiguan sus 103 mezquitas, 14 casas de baños públicos (hammam) y 6.000 viviendas construidas con anterioridad al siglo XI. Las casas-torre de múltiples pisos, edificadas con tierra apisonada, contribuyen a realzar la belleza del sitio.

source: UNESCO/ERI

サナア旧市街

source: NFUAJ

Oude stad van Sana’a

Sana’a wordt al meer dan 2.500 jaar bewoond. De oude stad ligt in een bergdal op een hoogte van 2.200 meter. In de 7e en 8e eeuw werd de stad een belangrijk centrum voor de verspreiding van de islam. Dit religieuze en politieke erfgoed komt tot uiting in de 103 moskeeën, 14 hammams en meer dan 6.000 huizen, die allemaal zijn gebouwd vóór de 11e eeuw. De gebouwen tonen een uitzonderlijk vakmanschap met betrekking tot het gebruik van lokale materialen en technieken. De huizen en openbare gebouwen van Sana’a zijn een goed voorbeeld van traditionele islamitische bewoning.

Source: unesco.nl

  • English
  • French
  • Arabic
  • Chinese
  • Russian
  • Spanish
  • Japanese
  • Dutch
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

Situated in a mountain valley at an altitude of 2,200 m, the Old City of Sana'a is defined by an extraordinary density of rammed earth and burnt brick towers rising several stories above stone-built ground floors, strikingly decorated with geometric patterns of fired bricks and white gypsum. The ochre of the buildings blends into the bistre-colored earth of the nearby mountains. Within the city, minarets pierce the skyline and spacious green bustans (gardens) are scattered between the densely packed houses, mosques, bath buildings and caravanserais.

Inhabited for more than 2,500 years, the city was given official status in the second century BC when it was an outpost of the Yemenite kingdoms. By the first century AD it emerged as a centre of the inland trade route. The site of the cathedral and the martyrium constructed during the period of Abyssinian domination (525-75) bear witness to Christian influence whose apogee coincided with the reign of Justinian. The remains of the pre-Islamic period were largely destroyed as a result of profound changes in the city from the 7th century onwards when Sana'a became a major centre for the spread of the Islamic faith as demonstrated by the archaeological remains within the Great Mosque, said to have been constructed while the Prophet was still living. Successive reconstructions of Sana'a under Ottoman domination beginning in the 16th century respected the organization of space characteristic of the early centuries of Islam while changing the appearance of the city and expanding it with a second city to the west. The houses in the old city are of relatively recent construction and have a traditional structure.

As an outstanding example of a homogeneous architectural ensemble reflecting the spatial characteristics of the early years of Islam, the city in its landscape has an extraordinary artistic and pictorial quality. Its many-storied buildings represent an outstanding response to defensive needs in providing spacious living quarters for the maximum number of residents within defensible city walls. The buildings demonstrate exceptional craftsmanship in the use of local materials and techniques. The houses and public buildings of Sana'a, which have become vulnerable as a result of contemporary social changes, are an outstanding example of a traditional, Islamic human settlement.

Described by historians, geographers and scholars of the early Islamic and medieval eras, Sana'a is associated with the civilizations of the Bible and the Koran.

Criterion (iv):Within its partially preserved wall, it offers an outstanding example of a homogeneous architectural ensemble, which design and detail translate an organization of space characteristic of the early centuries of Islam which has been respected over time.

Criterion (v): The houses of Sana'a, which have become vulnerable as a result of contemporary social changes, are an outstanding example of an extraordinary masterpiece, traditional human settlement.

Criterion (vi): Sana'a is directly and tangibly associated with the history of the spread of Islam in the early years of the Hegira. The Great mosque of Sana'a, built in year 6 of Hegira, is known as the first mosque built outside Mecca and Medina.The Old City of Sana'a has contributed to and played a major role in Yemeni, Arab and Islamic World history through the contributions of historical Yemeni figures including Al Hassan B. Ahmed Al Hamdany, Ahamed Al Razy and Al Shawkany.

Integrity (2011)

A significant proportion of all the attributes that express the Outstanding Universal Value are within the property. However, in certain quarters of the city, acceleration of new development is eroding its character. The visual integrity of the property is threatened by an increase in new modern hotels and telecommunication towers in the surrounding landscape.

The disappearance of the traditional juridical system or the application of new and supplementary ones, the accelerated social and economical changes, the rapid urban development within and around the city and the disappearance of open space as the bustans are gradually built over, are creating various unbearable pressures on the city and its inhabitants.

Authenticity (2011)

The attributes that carry Outstanding Universal Value are the overall design of the city and its buildings with their decorated façades, traditional building materials, and the open spaces (bustans, maqashe and sarah'at ) considered as part of the city's urban environment, together with the visual appearance of the city surrounded by mountains. The authenticity of these attributes is vulnerable to incorrect conservation practices and development. Associated intangible values relating to traditional socio-economic activities, including the very high percentage of home ownership, continue to be demonstrated. 

Protection and management requirements (2011)

The protection of the Old City of Sana'a is ensured by the Antiquities Law of 1997 as well as the Building Law of 2002. Protection will be improved when the Historical Cities Preservation Law comes into force. The preparation of a Conservation Plan, and of an exhaustive inventory of buildings of the city and its surroundings have been completed. The General Organization for the Preservation of the Historic Cities of Yemen (GOPHCY) aims to develop the Conservation Plan in the next few years. It is also proposed to establish a Conservation Unit to involve all stakeholders, who will be encouraged to participate in the preparation of the city Management Plan process. GOPHCY, established in 1990, is an independent body set up to create an appropriate strategy for sustainable development. After the new Law enters into force, it will become the overall authority for management of the World Heritage property.

In its decision concerning inscription, the World Heritage Committee "recommended that an adequate buffer zone should be established around the old city." This recommendation should be implemented in order to improve the protection of the property which also needs clearly defined boundaries.

In the long term, it is intended to adopt a clear strategy for sustainable preservation and development of the Old City and to reach a better control of the setting as well as ensuring the balance between commercial and residential activities.

Long Description

Within its partially preserved wall, Sana'a is an outstanding example of a homogeneous architectural ensemble whose design and detail illustrate an organization of space characteristic of the early centuries of Islam which has been respected over time. The houses of Sana'a, which have become vulnerable as a result of contemporary social changes, are an outstanding example of a unique, traditional human settlement. Countless partial studies have been made of the houses of Sana'a, with the objective of eventual demolition. The beauty of the urban landscape of Sana'a, whose overall appearance should remain intact, attests that they should be preserved integrally.

The City of Sana'a, capital of Yemen since 1962, is a fine example of artistic and pictorial quality, now considered to be a homogenous ensemble made up of tower-houses built from rammed earth. Its history covers a period of over 2,000 years. Given official status in the 2nd century BC when it was an outpost of the Yemenite kingdoms, Sana'a (Arabic for 'fortified place') was associated with all the major historical events that took place in Arabia Felix. The site of the cathedral and the martyrium constructed during the period of Abyssinian domination (525-75) bear witness to Christian influence whose apogee coincided with the reign of Justinian.

The remains of the pre-Islamic period were largely destroyed as a result of profound changes in the city from 628. Beginning with the early years of the Hegira, Sana'a became a major centre for the spread of the Islamic faith. The Great Mosque is said to have been constructed while the Prophet was still living, with materials recovered from the Ghumdan Palace and the cathedral.

The successive reconstructions of Sana'a under Ottoman domination, beginning in the 16th century, respected the proportions and balance of the medieval city while changing its appearance. At the same time, a new city grew up to the west of the first settlement and is contiguous with it. The new city covers a similar surface area.

The houses in the old city are of relatively recent construction and have a traditional structure. The stone-built ground floor houses provisions and livestock. A staircase leads to the upper floors which normally comprise, successively, a large common room, which served as a meeting room for business affairs; the divan, used exclusively for festivities and family gatherings; smaller, private living quarters; and, last, on the top floor, the mafraj, a room where men meet in the afternoon. Large windows line three walls of the room forming a kind of loggia. The only differentiating feature of these tower-like houses is the size and number of floors (there may be as many as nine), and the quality of the ornamental and painted decoration of the windows, friezes and coping.

Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC