Saturday, January 20, 2007

Gem Of A City

I wish I knew more about architecture so that I could write something meaningful and erudite about the old town centre of Sana'a and its houses rather than the trite platitudes that will invariably follow. As opposed to most of the rest of the Arabian peninsula where the population has historically been nomadic the mild climate of much of Yemen (due to the mountains) led to a more sedentary lifestyle which allowed for the various cultural accouterments that go with it such as architecture and ... other stuff. Anyway, architecture. The buildings in Sana'a, though tall, are not as tall as those in Shibam but more than make for it in style and refinement. Solid brick facades decorated with plasterwork in simple, yet graceful, geometric designs and, the adorning cherry on the cake, the beautiful stained-glass windows. The entire historical centre is remarkably well-preserved (one of the success stories of the UNESCO world heritage programme). In fact the only city of comparable size I have seen with such a stunning historical core is Prague. What particularly pleases me is the fact that even new buildings are built in the traditional style (if not using old methods then at least to look like traditional houses).

Luckily it's also a not too unpleasant place to while away a few days as I have bureaucratic hoops to jump through: more tasirehs, visas and tours to organise (because this time I'm not going to get away with trying to take public transport to restricted areas), and of course Sod's Law is making its appearance by making this a long weekend (it was New Year's day today apparently). At least it gives me time to read, fool around on the internet and watch some TV. Apparently satellite TVs are mandatory hotel furniture, even for really cheap dives, although for some reasons decent ablution facilities aren't. Ah well, different people have different priorities I suppose.

No comments: