Historic Town of Zabid

Historic Town of Zabid

Zabid's domestic and military architecture and its urban plan make it an outstanding archaeological and historical site. Besides being the capital of Yemen from the 13th to the 15th century, the city played an important role in the Arab and Muslim world for many centuries because of its Islamic university.

Ville historique de Zabid

L'architecture domestique et militaire de cette ville et son tracé urbain en font un site d'une valeur archéologique et historique exceptionnelle. Outre le fait d'avoir été la capitale du Yémen du XIIIe au XVe siècle, Zabid a eu une grande importance dans le monde arabe et musulman pendant des siècles en raison de son université islamique.

حاضرة زبيد التاريخية

تشكل هذه المدينة موقعاً ذا أهمية أثرية وتاريخية استثنائية بفضل هندستها المحلية والعسكرية وتخطيطها المدني. وبالإضافة الى انها كانت عاصمة اليمن من القرن الثالث عشر الى القرن الخامس عشر، اتسمت زبيد بأهمية جمة في العالم العربي والإسلامي طيلة قرون من الزمن بفضل جامعتها الإسلامية.

source: UNESCO/ERI

乍比得历史古城

乍比得的民用和军事建筑及其城市规则使之具有杰出的考古和历史价值。除了在13世纪到15世纪曾作为首都,许多世纪以来由于乍比得的伊斯兰大学,使得该城在阿拉伯和穆斯林世界发挥着重要作用。

source: UNESCO/ERI

Исторический город Забид

Жилая и военная архитектура Забида и его планировка делают этот город выдающимся археологическим и историческим объектом. Он был столицей Йемена в период XIII-XV вв.; кроме того, в течение многих столетий Забид играл огромную роль для всего арабско-мусульманского мира, так как здесь располагался Исламский университет.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Ciudad histórica de Zabid

La arquitectura militar y doméstica de esta ciudad, así como su trazado urbano, le confieren un valor excepcional en el plano arqueológico e histórico. Zabid no sólo fue la capital del Yemen entre los siglos XIII y XV, sino que además tuvo una gran importancia en el mundo árabe y musulmán por espacio de varios siglos debido a su reputada universidad islámica.

source: UNESCO/ERI

古都ザビード

source: NFUAJ

Historische stad Zabid

De inheemse en militaire architectuur van Zabid en haar stedenbouwkundig plan geven de stad een opvallend archeologisch en historisch karakter. Zabid was de hoofdstad van Jemen van de 13e tot de 15e eeuw. De stad heeft eeuwenlang een belangrijke rol gespeeld in de Arabische en moslimwereld vanwege z'n islamitische universiteit. Net als de rest van Jemen heeft de stad geleden onder de heersers Banu Nagah en Mahdid tijdens de roerige periode tussen 1021 en 1159. Het paleis en een deel van de vestingwerken werden vernietigd. Toen de opstanden voorbij waren werd Zabid de toonaangevende stad in het oosten.

Source: unesco.nl

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Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

Zabid is one of the coastal towns in Tehama area west of Yemen, sitting on a rise above the river junction and the fertile flood plain. It is a circular fortified town with four remaining gates, which was supplied with water by extensive canals. It was already flourishing when Islam was established in the region in the 7th century. Its development is due to Ibn Ziyad (the founder of the Zyadite dynasty), who was sent to the region by the Caliph al-Mamun in 820 AD to quell a rebellion.

The core of the town is its first mosque, Asa'ir. The Great Mosque lies to the west of the town to which spread the souq. Zabid has the highest concentration of mosques in Yemen, some 86 in all, mainly simple brick structures but some with elaborate carved brick and stucco decoration. Fourteen of these date to the Rasulid period - all of them madrasas - and are the largest group of buildings from this period in Yemen.

A network of narrow alleys spreads over the town and its vernacular buildings, typical of the southern Arabian Peninsula, give the town outstanding visual qualities. The houses, built of burnt brick, display similar plans with a reception room, murabba, opening onto an enclosed yard. The larger houses extend upwards to two or three storeys and have fine, elaborate interiors with skilfully carved brick walls, niches and ceilings.

The city with its narrow closed streets, traditional houses and minarets is an outstanding example of a homogeneous architectural ensemble that reflects the spatial characteristics of the early years of Islam. Around the town are cemeteries, notably the one to the north-west with a mosque, a well and shady trees.

Zabid played an important role in spreading Islam due to its Islamic university (the ancient mosques and madrasas which received students from all over the world to obtain Islamic knowledge and study different sciences (substantially developed by Muslim scientists contributing to the advancement of science).

Criterion (ii): Zabid is of outstanding archaeological and historical interest for its domestic and military architecture and for its urban plan (the only city in Yemen to be built harmonizing the typical Islamic town's layout with the central mosque and souq, together with houses providing privacy). Its architecture profoundly influenced that of the Yemeni coastal plain.

Criterion (iv): Zabid's domestic and military architecture, its urban and defensive fabric layout manifested in its wall remains, watchtowers and citadel, as well as indirect access make it an outstanding archaeological and historical site. The domestic architecture of Zabid is the most characteristic example of the Tihama style of courtyard house, which is to be found over a wide area of the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula.

Criterion (vi): The Historic Town of Zabid is strongly linked with the history of the spread of Islam in the early years of Hijra as demonstrated in the archaeological remains within the Alash'ar Mosque, associated with Al-Alash'ari, one of the Prophet Mohammad's companions, who built it to become the fifth mosque in Islam. Besides being the capital of Yemen from the 13th to the 15th centuries, the town played an important role in the Arab and Muslim world for many centuries in view of its being one of the significant centres spreading Islamic knowledge.

 Integrity (2010)

The adequate size of the property represents all necessary elements and components of domestic and military architecture, its urban and defensive fabric layout, which make it an outstanding archaeological and historical site. However, the recent insertion of concrete buildings, the installation of an electricity system, with unsightly overhead cables, and the increasing use of modern materials such as concrete and corrugated steel sheeting, as well as open spaces invasion, are seriously eroding that integrity.

The visual and physical integrity of the property is so threatened by these new developments and encroachments that up to 40% of the structures are vulnerable. There is an urgent need to halt this decline and reverse the undesirable changes.

Authenticity (2010)

The attributes that convey the Outstanding Universal Value, such as the mosques, city layout and traditional buildings are highly vulnerable to decay, to change in the forms and materials of buildings, and to the spread of new, inconsistent developments to the northern and eastern sides of the city. Nevertheless, even though threatened, a certain degree of authenticity exists and could be augmented if the urban layout and traditional buildings are restored to enable the Outstanding Universal Value to be more adequately conveyed. There is an urgent need to reverse the downward trends.

Protection and management requirements (2010)

The Historic Town of Zabid is protected by the Antiquities Law of 1973. A Master Plan for the entire city has been approved in 2004 and an Urban Conservation Plan is currently under preparation. A Management Plan for the property will follow the preparation of the Urban Conservation Plan. The Law for the Preservation of Historic Cities will be agreed upon and enforced in the near future.

The authority in charge of the property is the GOPHCY (General Organisation for the Preservation of Historic Cities in Yemen), established in 1990 with the aim of managing and safeguarding all the historic cities of Yemen.

Since 2007, the local branch of GOPHCY in Zabid has been reinforced, with the support of a project, managed by the German Technical Assistance (GTZ), that aims at addressing the city's severe decline and improve its overall physical, social and economic conditions, through running a housing rehabilitation programme and an infrastructure improvement project.

In order to be able to meet fully the requirements of the long term preservation and sustainability of the property, and in the medium term to reverse the downward trends, that threaten its Outstanding Universal Value, GOPHCY will need considerable support, resources, capacity building, as well as technical and financial assistance.

Long Description

Zabid was of great importance in the Arab and Muslim world for many centuries because of its Islamic University. In the 13th-15th centuries it was also the capital of Yemen during the Rasulid period. Its architecture profoundly influenced that of the Yemeni coastal plain: the domestic architecture of Zabid is the most characteristic example of the Tihama style of courtyard house, which is to be found over a wide area of the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula.

The city, which is roughly oval in plan, is situated on a flat clay area sloping gently towards the north. It is not certain when it was founded, but it was large enough to become the centre of a province when Muslim power was established in this fertile region in AD 631; it was originally called al-Husayb, but it is not certain when the name was changed. Its development is due to the founder of the Ziyadite dynasty, who was sent to the region by the Caliph al-Mamun in 820 to quell a rebellion. The Tihama was sacked on two occasions during this period by religious revolutionaries, but rebuilt.

Between 1021 and 1159 the palace and part of the fortifications were destroyed and the town contracted in size. From 1216 until 1429, Rasulid rulers encouraged learning and built schools for teaching the Koran and the sciences (madrasas ), along with the necessary hostels for students, all over the region: of the 62 madrasas recorded in Zabid, 22 still survive. Zabid lost its political and economic importance under the Tahirid dynasty (1454-1538), but retained its role as a university. With the establishment of Ottoman rule, Zabid was completely neglected in favour of the capital city, Sana'a.

With the exception of Sana'a, Zabid has the highest concentration of mosques in any Yemeni city: 86 in all. The core of the town of Zabid is its first mosque, the Mosque of Asa'ir. The Great Mosque lies to the west of the town, possibly on the site of the ancient musalla , an open place for prayer used for meetings. The souk (market) spread from the Asa'ir Mosque towards the Great Mosque. A network of streets and alleys, some as little as 2 m wide, spreads over the town, occasionally opening out into small squares. The only large open space is that in front of the citadel. Each of the 'blocks' formed by the streets has a passage allowing access to the houses.

The basic unit of each house is a rectangular room (murabba ), open on one of its longer sides to an irregularly shaped courtyard, which is surrounded by high blank walls on the street side. The corners of these courtyards are occupied by wells, latrines, washing places and kitchens. This type of structure, built from baked brick, predominates in Zabid, but there are small areas of humbler huts of unbaked clay roofed with straw or constructed of reused wooden planks. They nonetheless conform to the basic room plus courtyard module.

Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Historical Description

It is not certain when Zabid was founded, but it was large enough to become the centre of a province (mihlaf) when Moslem power was established in this fertile region in AD 631; it was originally called al-Husayb, but it is not certain when the name was changed. Its development is due to the founder of the Ziyadite dynasty, Ibn Ziyad, who was sent to the region by the Caliph al-Mamun in 820 to quell a rebellion. He gave it its circular plan, built the fortifications, and brought water to it through a network of canals. The Great Mosque was built and the earlier al-Asa'ir mosque enlarged by later Ziyadids, who ruled the Tihama until 1012. It was sacked on two occasions during this period by religious revolutionaries, but rebuilt.

Like the rest of Yemen, Zabid under its successive Banu Nagah and Mahdid rulers suffered during the troubled period between 1021 and 1159. The palace and part of the fortifications were destroyed and the town contracted in size. Following the pacification of the region by Turansah, brother of Salah ad-Din al-Ayyubi ( Saladin) , Yemen became the centre of one of the leading powers in the east under the Rasulids, first as governors and then as rulers of the region. From 1216 until 1429, Rasulid rulers encouraged learning and built schools for teaching the Koran and the sciences (madrasas), along with the necessary hostels for students, all over the region: of the 62 madrasas recorded in Zabid, 22 still survive. They also built residences for themselves and restored and enlarged existing public buildings.

Zabid lost its political and economic importance under the Tahirid dynasty (1454-1538), but retained its role as a university. With the establishment of Ottoman rule, Zabid was completely neglected in favour of the capital city, Sana'a.

Source: Advisory Body Evaluation