Milestone 21 – Distance: 3,676.5 km (75.3%) – 19 April 2021
The capital and largest city in the country with over 2.5 million inhabitants, Sana’a lies inland from the west coast, up in the Sarawat (Sarat) Mountains at an altitude of over 2,200 m.
With a history spanning over 2,500 years, it is regarded as one of oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Legend has it that after the death of Noah, his son Shem built the city at the base of Jabal Nuqm which rises up to approx. 3000m.
As we enter the capital city, we are thrown back in time passing through the southern gate of the Sana’a fortress at Bab al-Yemen (the Gate of Yemen). The first version of the gate was built over a thousand years ago but today’s incarnation was constructed by the Turks in the 17th century. Today it represents a bustling part of the city popular mainly among shoppers.
Divided into two districts between the Old City, listed as a World Heritage site and the modern district, there are lots of sights vying for your attention.
The Old City of Sana’a has been described as enchanting and mysterious. From the maze-like set up of the narrow stone streets to the 6,000 high-rise mud-brick houses reminiscent of Hansel & Gretel’s gingerbread house. I’m not sure about you but I certainly don’t need fattening up before the witch eats me!
The beauty of the architecture of these houses lies in the geometric patterns of the bricks and alabaster, as well as the qamaria ‘of the moon’ stained glass windows which admit moonlight and an array of colours but block out prying eyes.
Supplanting the 7th century Great Mosque in Sana’a, one of the oldest worldwide and regarded as the first mosque built outside Mecca and Medina, the Al-Saleh mosque was commissioned and inaugurated in 2008 costing USD 60 million.
The mosque, named after the former president, sits in the south of the capital, framed by a mountainous backdrop. Costs aside, the artwork and architecture on display is highly regarded among visitors.
Weaving our way through this city you will find that every corner will awaken your senses – from exotic aromas to whet the appetite, to a cornucopia of Arabian spices to the hypnotic mild scent of qat leaves to calm the senses…
One thing for sure is that we need to arrive as early as possible in the day because it’s going to get crowded.
Enjoy your day shopping and viewing the wonderful architecture here before we trek some 13 km north west to visit Dar al-Hajar, an ancient Yemeni royal palace.
Hope you enjoyed the climb up this former rock dwelling. Known as the ‘Stone House’ or ‘Rock Palace’, construction of a former Yemen ruler’s summer retreat took place in the early 20th century on top of a late 18th century structure, it is now a museum. In keeping with the local architecture of mud brick houses ornately decorated with alabaster, one feature to look out for is the 700-year-old stone floors.