A Walk through the Old City of Sana’a


I seem to have a knack for visiting UNESCO World Heritage sites. Old Sana’a is no exception, it was declared a World Heritage site in 1986.

Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, is situated in a mountain valley at an altitude of 2,300m and has been inhabited for more than 2,500 years. It was one of the few cities that existed when there were only tents to be found in the Arabian Peninsula. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. How cool is that?

Old Sana’a's many multi-storeyed houses that were built of compact earth and geometric patterns add to the beauty of the city and are very well preserved today despite modern versions outside of the old city.

Driving to the old city, I was impressed how these overpasses, even small ones for motorbikes!

Driving to the old city, I was impressed by these underpasses, even small ones for motorbikes!

Armed with the history (and bodyguards), I was a little too excited to explore the old city with the team. I was going to ignore all the stares I was about to get from the locals and enjoy my once in a lifetime opportunity of being in Sana’a.

The main Gateway to the Old City

The main Gateway to the Old City

Notice the big hole in the door left by a bomb attack

Notice the big hole in the door left by a bomb attack

Strolling the alley ways

Strolling the narrow crowded streets

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The city was a major centre for the propagation of Islam in the 7th and 8th centuries; this clearly can be seen in the mosques, hammams and thousands of houses, all built before the 11th century. I enjoyed ogling at the architecture of these ancient buildings.

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We stopped into the historic Burj Al Salam Hotel for afternoon tea. An absolutely charming hotel filled with locally handcrafted Yemeni furniture. From the lounge (both indoor and outdoor) we got some fantastic sunset views of ancient Sana’a, albeit dusty.

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The outdoor lounge for smoking

The outdoor lounge for smoking

My models...relaxing in doors and waiting on tea.

My models…relaxing in doors and waiting on tea.

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We had the opportunity to visit one of these old houses. It was explained to me that the reason the floors in the old houses were not even, is because each floor was added on as the joint family extended. And because it was built with compact sand, it was only obvious it would not all be even.

The short doorways meant lots of bending to move from room to room

The short doorways meant lots of bending to move from room to room

Uneven steps,...taking a break before moving on to the top floor

Uneven steps,…taking a break before moving on to the top floor

Looking out the windows onto the street activities

Looking out the windows onto the street activities

Even the shelving were made of compact sand

Even the shelving were made of compact sand

View of the neighbour's courtyard and activity

View of the neighbour’s courtyard and activity

The peephole women had to use so no one can look up and see them.

The peephole women had to use so no one can look up and see them.

Continuing our adventure, I couldn’t help but take these shots. The people were finally warming up to this Trini-Indian girl who looked  so much like a local walking around with a bunch of white men! Yes I know they all were thinking that from the stares!

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I absolutely loved exploring the ancient city. It was a special feeling knowing I had visited one of the oldest cities to exist in the world. I can’t wait to return some day and spend more time, perhaps even stay at the Burj Al Salam smack in the middle of old Sana’a…maybe even act like a local?

Categories: YemenTags: , , , ,

1 Reply

  1. Those kids look adorable!! The city does look old! From buildings to their cars.

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