Category Archives: Architecture

Aden Hinterland Freed!

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A picturesque ceremony took place recently at Lahej, the capital of the Aden hinterland, on the occasion of the restoration to his throne, under British auspices, of the Sultan, Sir Abdul Karim ibn Fadthli ibn Ali, K.C.I.E.  He succeeded to the throne on January 1, 1918, and was recognized as Sultan by the British Government, but it was only lately that he was installed after the evacuation of Lahej by the Turks.  There were some 7000 Turkish troops in the Aden hinterland and southern Yemen, and for some time after the armistice granted to Turkey, it is said they refused to evacuate those territories, believing the news to be a hoax.  Special envoys had to be sent from Constantinople to convince them, and they have since surrendered and have been shipped out of the country.

from The Illustrated London News, March 1, 1919– 293.

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Yemen Architecture Exhibition

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Trevor Marchand has put together an exhibition entitled “Buildings That Fill My Eye” Architectural Heritage of Yemen for the Brunei Gallery at SOAS in London.

The exhibition and its planned public talks and educational events will explore the astonishing variety of building styles and traditions that have evolved over millennia in a region of diverse terrains, extreme climates and distinctive local histories. Generations of highly skilled masons, carpenters and craftspeople have deftly employed the materials-to-hand and indigenous technologies to create urban architectural assemblages, gardens and rural landscapes that dialogue harmoniously with the natural contours and conditions of southern Arabia. In turn, the place-making practices of Yemen’s builders have played a significant role in fostering tight-knit communities with a strong sense of pride and distinct cultural identities.

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National Geographic on Shibam

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On April 3, National Geographic online published an article on the historic Yemeni city of Shibam.

In the heart of Yemen’s Wadi Hadramaut, a cluster of ancient mud skyscrapers soars above the desert floor—a beacon of mankind’s adaptability to the most formidable of environments.

At the edge of a desolate expanse of desert known as the Empty Quarter, the 16th-century Walled City of Shibam remains the oldest metropolis in the world to use vertical construction. Once a significant caravan stop on the spice and incense route across the southern Arabian plateau, British explorer Freya Stark dubbed the mud city “the Manhattan of the desert” in the 1930s.

Every aspect of Shibam’s design is strategic. Perched upon on a rocky spur and surrounded by a giant flood wadi, its elevated position shields it from flooding while maintaining proximity to its primary source of water and agriculture. The city was built on a rectangular grid behind a fortified wall—a defensive arrangement that protected its inhabitants from rival tribes and offered a high vantage point from which enemies would be seen approaching.

For the full story click here.

AIYS at MESA

AIYS held two well-attended panels at MESA in Boston last week.  Here are some of the photos from the panel organized by Dan Mahoney on the destruction of Yemen’s cultural heritage:

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Dr. Lamya Khalidi, Dr. Krista Lewis and Dr. Dan Mahoney at MESA

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Dr. McGuire Gibson at the heritage panel.  Dr. Gibson was the founder of AIYS in 1978.

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Dr. Lamya Khalidi, who also provided a video of Dr. al-Sayani, the current Director of the General Organization of Antiquities  and Museums in Yemen.

And here are photos from the panel organized by Dr. Marieke Brandt:

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Yemen’s World Heritage in Venice

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Dr. Alessandro de Maigret (1943-2011)

Announcing an Exhibition and Conference

Yemen’s World Heritage. Archaeology, Art and Architecture
Museum of Oriental Art in Venice
October 20 – December 16, 2016

A joint initiative of:
Museums of the Veneto – Museum of Oriental Art , Veneto Institute for Cultural Heritage, Italian Archaeological Mission in Yemen, Monumenta Orientalia, Rome

The Oriental Art Museum, the Veneto Institute for Cultural Heritage and the Italian Archaeological Mission in Yemen want to promote a series of events to make known in Venice’s the historic and artistic heritage of Yemen. Since March 2015 Yemen has been in a conflict in which the bombing violated numerous protected sites both nationally and internationally recognized, and destroyed museums and monuments of the rich cultural past of the country.
Recently, UNESCO reiterated its condemnation of the destruction perpetrated against the world heritage of Yemen and initiated a campaign # Unite4Heritage, the Yemeni Heritage Week: Museums United for Yemen for 2016, involving the major museums of Europe (the British Museum, Musée du Louvre, Hermitage, etc.).

From Prehistory to the present day the extreme tip of the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen has preserved unique features in the production of their material culture, whose forms are as native as the result of exchanges and synergies with Africa, Asia and the Mediterranean. Historians of Greek and Roman classicism used to talk about Yemen using the nickname Arabia Felix, as a land of prosperity and wealth, not only material but also geographical and territorial. Yemen was, in fact, at the center of an important caravan and maritime trade axis: here met traders from India and the Horn of Africa with those who would later traced to the north of the Peninsula to enrich the courts of the various empires in Mediterranean with products such as incense, myrrh, spices, pearls and precious stones.
The deep bond of man with the settlement territory is expressed in through the remains of south Arabian kingdoms – the most notable of which is the Kingdom of Sheba – which were already using the house typology commonly referred as Yemen “tower house”.
With the start of Islam then, the Yemeni architecture has been enhanced with new forms and stylistic paradigms, and many temples of the pagan tradition turned into mosques. Archaeological studies conducted in Yemen have shown a slow and lasting osmosis between pre-Islamic and Islamic civilization.

The initiative promoted at the Museum of Oriental Art in Venice will go right to investigate this union, to raise awareness of an almost unknown cultural heritage in the West, whose origins are lost in the often muffled contours of myth.

The initiative also wants to highlight some Italian experiences, namely that of the Italian Archaeological Mission in the Republic of Yemen (MAIRY), began in 1980 and that of the Veneto Institute for Cultural Heritage began in 2005. Both have as their purpose the protection and enhancement of Yemeni heritage and both have been accomplished in total synergy with local counterparts, thus becoming moments of much scientific as human enrichment.

A series of seminars and meetings, by national and international experts at the Oriental Art Museum, will bring the public closer to the peculiarities of the history and culture of the country. In the room which will host the conference there will be some photo-descriptive panels on display that will illustrate some aspects of archeology, art and architecture of Yemen as  direct testimony of both the Italian Archaeological Mission and  the Veneto Institute for Cultural Heritage.

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AIYS MESA Roundtable on Destruction of Yemen’s Heritage

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The following roundtable will take place at the annual MESA meeting in Boston on November 18.

[R4434] The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Yemen and Current Preservation Efforts

Created by Daniel Mahoney
Friday, 11/18/16 10:00am
Participants: McGuire Gibson, David B. Hollenberg, Krista Lewis, Lamya Khalidi

SUMMARY:
This roundtable, sponsored by the American Institute for Yemeni studies, will discuss the destruction of cultural heritage in Yemen, in light of the Saudi coalition air strikes as well as the ensuing internal conflict and rising Islamism, in order to assess the extent of damage and solutions for current protection and future preservation. Since March 2015, Saudi coalition air strikes have been conducted in Yemen under the stated purpose of countering Houthi rebels who had taken control of the capital Sanaa and a large part of the country. This offensive has left over 6,000 dead, over 30,000 wounded, and 2.5 million internally displaced. Another result has been the continuous destruction of over 47 archaeological sites and monuments, as confirmed by Mohannad Al-Sayani, director of the General Organization for Antiquities and Museums of Yemen. These include not only historical mosques and citadels, but also 3 UNESCO World Heritage sites including the celebrated vernacular architecture of old Sanaa, the pre-Islamic cities of Baraqish and Sirwah, and the famed Marib dam, all of which have already previously undergone significant restoration efforts. Additionally, more than six museums have been damaged by aerial shelling, among them the regional museum of Dhamar and the National Museum of Sanaa. This extensive destruction clearly provokes further questioning into the motivations of these campaigns which seem to target highly valued places of cultural heritage. The pattern becomes further complicated by the confirmation that, while the U.S. State Department (and UNESCO) had given the Saudi coalition a list of specific sites to avoid and their location, they also provided it with logistical support and intelligence for their military offensive. Conversely, other efforts have are being made to try to preserve and document Yemeni heritage before it is lost, such as the Yemeni Manuscript Digitization Initiative, wherein a team of scholars from inside and outside of Yemen are working together to create a digital library of manuscripts taken from private collections in Yemen. By addressing current damage, this round table is organized with the intention of raising awareness regarding the destruction of priceless world heritage and finding current and future solutions for its protection and preservation by local authorities and specialists.