Mystical, romantic and endlessly enchanting, Sana’a is one of the greatest treasures of Arabia. It is also one of the world’s oldest cities, and its rich history reveals itself throughout the narrow streets lined with centuries-old buildings. Unlike many great Arab cities, Sana’a has resisted modernization and retained its historic charm. You won’t find any gleaming towers of steel and glass in the city, but you will see the stone and fired-clay buildings change hues from peachy-pink to deep rose as the sun moves across the sky. If it were not for the scooters and cars that whiz down the streets, you may swear you have stepped back in time.
The Old City is the heart of Sana’a and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The entire district is a work of art, and wandering without aim is the best way to enjoy it. The area is so well-preserved that you can walk more than a kilometer in any direction without coming across a single new building.
There are over 14,000 tower houses in Sana’a, designed to bring residents as close to heaven as possible. Known as the world’s first skyscrapers, the houses often reach six to eight stories and follow a set design: storerooms and stables occupy the ground floor; the second is used for entertaining; the third floor is for children and women; and bedrooms, the kitchen and bathrooms occupy the third and fourth floors. The top of the house contains the attic, then the mafraj, or the “room with a view.” The mafraj views over the city are truly ravishing.
The Souq al-Milh lies at the center of the Old City and is one of the best markets in all of Arabia. There, visitors can shop for anything from mobile phones to handwoven carpets and everything in between. Silver jewelry gleams in the sunlight, the air is thick with the scent of jasmine, stalls overflow with piles of dates and colorful scarves wave in the breeze. Walking through the labyrinth of vendors is like traveling back to a bygone era. Surrounded by topsy-turvy whitewashed houses and dreamy mosques, the whole market feels like a fantasy brought to life.
The National Museum is not just one of the largest museums in the region, it is also one of the best. The breathtaking collection of figurines, statues and artifacts from the Saba and Hadramawt kingdoms greets visitors on the first floor while the second is dedicated to the medieval Islamic period. The well-curated galleries present an incredible range of history while providing an outstanding introduction to the country’s history, culture and people.
One of the highlights of the Old City is the Great Mosque, the most significant of the 50 mosques in Yemen. Legend dictates this was the country’s first mosque, built on the directions of the Prophet himself. All that remains of the original mosque are a few ornamental fragments in the ceiling and some of the arcades. The current reincarnation was built and rebuilt from the 9th through the 17th centuries. The most striking features of the mosque are its minarets, beckoning worshippers with their elaborate geometric designs. Non-muslim visitors are prohibited from entering this and other mosques in Yemen, but you can catch a fleeting glance at the main prayer halls through the front doors.
Sanaa Geographical Location
Sanaa is located in the central western area of Yemen and has an approximate population of 1,750,000.
Arabic is the official language of Yemen.
Sanaa Predominant Religion
- 100% Muslim
Less than one percent of the population adheres to a religion other than Islam. There are small groups of Christians, Jews, and a very small group of Hindus.
The Yemeni Rial is the official currency of Yemen.
There is very little rain in Sanaa as it is considered a mild desert climate. The temperatures are normally pleasant with the winters being warm and the summer comfortably hot.
Sanaa Main Attractions
- Old City of Sanaa
- The Museum of Traditional Arts and Crafts
Other Attraction in Sanaa
- National Museum