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Sanʿa

SANʿA

Capital of the Republic of Yemen.

One of the world's oldest continuously inhabited sites, Sanʿa was the capital of the Yemen Arab Republic from 1962 to 1990, at which time it became the capital of the new Republic of Yemen. Over earlier centuries it had been the capital and chief city of a succession of political entities: the Hamid alDin Zaydi imamate from the end of World War I to 1962; the two Ottoman occupation regimes during the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries; earlier Zaydi imams before and after the Ottoman occupation; and numerous other regimes, major and minor. Regardless of ruler, Sanʿa was for centuries the great Zaydi urban center in the highlands of North Yemen, surrounded by tribes that accepted and defended Zaydism. The city has been Islamic since the earliest days of Islam, and its major mosque is said to be built on the ruins of one that was built before the death of the prophet Mohammad. In recent decades, the city has been the stage for much of Yemen's highest political drama: the sacking of Sanʿa by the tribes as punishment for its role in the aborted 1948 revolution and the heroics of its citizens and republican defenders during the seventy-day siege of Sanʿa in early 1968.

Sanʿa is located at an altitude of about 7,500 feet in the geographical center of modern North Yemen, northeast of the port of Hodeida (alHudayda) and north of Taʿiz. Its barren setting conveys an austere, almost monastic aura, but it has a dry, temperate climate, marred seasonally by lip-cracking dryness and dust-filled winds. Wells and erratic rains in the spring and late summer allow for both irrigated and dry farming as well as extensive animal husbandry in the city's environs. Sanʿa is not a green place; people and factories have won out decisively over trees, grass, and flowers in the competition for water.

Guarded by the small, bald mountain of Jabal Nuqum, Sanʿa stretches across a wide, flat plain from the mountain's western flank. Before the 1962 revolution, Sanʿa had an hourglass configuration: the Jewish quarter (Qa al-Yahud) to the east separated by a half mile of gardens and the usually dry watercourse from the much larger, walled Islamic city at the foot of the mountain. This configuration was largely erased by the unplanned growth of the
1960s and 1970s and, even more so, by the urban sprawl of the 1980s. Still, the old Islamic city remains one of the urban architectural treasures of the world. It was declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in the early 1980s and has been the object of considerable restoration and preservation campaigns since then. In addition to its main gate, restored portions of thick wall, and dozens of slender minarets, the city is distinguished by the dense concentration of houses, many of them several stories tall, made of cut stone and of baked and sun-dried bricks. The domestic architecture of Sanʿa dates back at least two millennia and is a triumph of art and engineering. The city's ancient marketplaces still thrive; the most famous of these is at the core of the old city. These marketplaces house shops selling goods from all over the world and are also home to artisans and traditional manufacturers. In recent years, the new city and the outskirts have become the locale for modern stores, distribution centers, showrooms, and light industry. Sanʿa has also become a city of schools, most notably the Sanʿa University.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Sanʿa boasted handsome stone government offices and other public buildings, old and new, as well as many mosques, schools, and fine homes, but Taʿiz claimed to be the commercial and business center of North Yementhe more modern city, more open to the ideas and practices of the outside world. By the 1980s, however, with a population of more than 500,000 and growing rapidly, Sanʿa had emerged as the undisputed center of political, cultural, and economic life in North Yemen. With Yemeni unification in 1990, government officials and supplicants flooded from Aden to Sanʿa, the political capital, and the preeminence of Sanʿa became even more apparent; it remains to be seen what ranking and division of labor will ultimately prevail between Sanʿa and Aden, the designated economic capital of unified Yemen. The cities, while similar in size, are wildly different in appearance and lifestyle, making them a complementary pairing. As they grow, both must cope with traffic congestion, water and electricity shortages, limited sewage facilities, great housing needs, and the inadequacy of other urban services. The great challenges of becoming a livable modern city in a poor, developing country were compounded in Sanʿa after 1990 by the deluge of unemployed workers expelled suddenly from Saudi Arabia at the beginning of the 1991 Gulf War. By the mid-1990s, Sanʿa's population had reached almost one million. For the first time rimmed by slums and replete with beggars, Sanʿa is nonetheless beginning to meet some of these challenges, and the old city survives as an urban treasure.

see also hamid al-din family; yemen; yemen arab republic; yemen civil war; zaydism.


Bibliography


Bonnenfant, Paul, ed. Sanaa: Architecture domestique et société. Paris: CNRS Editions, 1995.

Serjeant, R. B., and Lewcock, Ronald, eds. Sanʿa: An Arabian Islamic City. London: World of Islam Festival Trust, 1983.

robert d. burrowes

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"Sanʿa." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Sanʿa." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . Retrieved August 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/sana

Sana

Sana or San'a (both: sŏnä´), city (1994 pop. 954,448), capital and largest city of Yemen. The city lies inland on a high plain (alt. 7,250 ft/2,210 m) and is connected to the Red Sea port of Hodeida by road. Sana is an Islamic cultural center, and there is a Muslim university, other institutions of learning, and many mosques. It is a commercial and marketing center and is noted for the grapes grown nearby. Sana has been settled from pre-Islamic times; much of its ancient city wall remains. It was under Ethiopian control in the 6th cent. In the 17th cent. and again from 1872 to 1918 it was occupied by Turkey. After 1918, when Yemen's independence was reestablished, Sana became its capital. The capital was moved to Taiz in 1948, but returned to Sana in 1962 at the founding of the Yemen Arab Republic. Upon unification with Southern Yemen in 1990, it became capital of the new, unified Republic of Yemen.

See L. J. Rose, Sana'a: City of Contrast (1981).

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"Sana." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/sana

Sanaa

Sana'a (San'a) Capital and largest city of Yemen, 65km (40mi) ne of the Red Sea port of Hodeida. Situated on a high plateau at 2286m (7500ft), it claims to be the world's oldest city, founded by Shem, eldest son of Noah. During the 17th century and from 1872 to 1918, it was part of the Ottoman Empire. In 1918, it became capital of an independent Yemen Arab Republic, and in 1990 capital of the new, unified Yemen. It is noted for its handicrafts. Agriculture (grapes) and industry (iron) are also important. Pop. (2002 est.) 1,653,300.

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"Sanaa." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Sanaa." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved August 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/sanaa