Sana'a is the capital of Yemen, located in the Yemeni Mountains and generally the first destination for travellers to that country.
Under the Yemeni constitution, Sana'a is the capital of the country, although the seat of the internationally recognised government moved to Aden in the aftermath of the 2014–15 Yemeni coup d'état. Aden was declared as the temporary capital by President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi in March 2015.
Sana'a is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. At an altitude of 2,300 metres (7,500 ft), it is also one of the highest capital cities in the world. Sana'a has a population of approximately 1,937,500 (2012), making it Yemen's largest city.
The old city of Sana'a, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has a distinctive visual character due to its unique architectural characteristics, most notably expressed in its multi-storey buildings decorated with geometric patterns. In the conflict that raged in 2015, bombs hit UNESCO sites.
|POPULATION :||City: 1,937,451 / Metro: 2,167,961|
|TIME ZONE :||GMT+3|
|RELIGION :||Muslim including Shaf'i (Sunni) and Zaydi (Shia), small numbers of Jewish, Christian, and Hindu|
|AREA :||126 km2 (49 sq mi)|
|ELEVATION :||2,250 m (7,380 ft)|
|COORDINATES :||15°20′54″N 44°12′23″E|
|SEX RATIO :||• Male: 50.42% |
• Female: 49.58%
|ETHNIC :||predominantly Arab; but also Afro-Arab, South Asians, Europeans|
|AREA CODE :||1|
|POSTAL CODE :|
|DIALING CODE :||+967 1|
One of the oldest continuously-inhabited cities in the world (others being Jericho, Damascus and Aleppo), Sana'a is traditionally said to have been founded by Shem, the son of Noah. As a result, the city has the unlikely nickname of "Sam City".
Sana'a will start surprising you the moment you arrive at the airport. All the policemen and the civilians wear jambiya, the unique Yemeni dagger. Even small children are wearing little daggers. Everyone has a swollen cheek because of chewing qat leaves. Outside the airport, all buildings look the same because of uniformly painted windows and walls.
The old fortified city has been inhabited for more than 2,500 years and contains many intact architectural gems. It was declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations in 1986. Efforts are underway to preserve some of the oldest buildings some of which, such as the Samsarh and the Great Mosque of Sana'a, are more than 1,400 years old. Surrounded by ancient clay walls which stand 9–14 metres (30–46 ft) high, the old city contains more than 100 mosques, 12 hammams (baths) and 6,500 houses. Many of the houses resemble ancient skyscrapers, reaching several stories high and topped with flat roofs. They are decorated with elaborate friezes and intricately carved frames and stained-glass windows.
One of the most popular attractions is Suq al-Milh (Salt Market), where it is possible to buy salt along with bread, spices, raisins, cotton, copper, pottery, silverware, and antiques. The 7th-century Jami' al-Kabir (Great Mosque) is one of the oldest mosques in the world. The Bāb al-Yaman (Yemen Gate) is an iconized entry point through the city walls and is more than 1,000 years old.
A commercial area of the old city is known as Al Madina where development is proceeding rapidly. In addition to three large hotels, there are numerous stores and restaurants. The area also contains three parks and the President's palace.
Sana'a is one of the oldest populated places in the world. According to popular legend, it was founded by Shem, the son of Noah. It was known as "Azal" in ancient times, which has been connected to Uzal, a son of Qahtan, a great-grandson of Shem, in the biblical accounts of Genesis. Its current name likely derived from the South Arabian word for "well-fortified", a name that echoes the meaning of the Ethiopian name—recorded in a Syriac account as Auzalites—the city held in the 6th century.
From the dawn of Islam until the founding of independent sub-states in many parts of the Yemen Islamic Caliphate, Sana'a persisted as the governing seat. The Caliph's deputy ran the affairs of one of Yemen's three Makhalifs: Mikhlaf Sana'a, Mikhlaf al-Janad and Mikhlaf Hadhramawt. The city of Sana'a regularly regained an important status and all Yemenite States competed to control it.
In 1062 Sana'a was taken over by the Sulayhid dynasty led by Ali al-Sulayhi and his wife, the popular Queen Asma. He made the city capital of his relatively small kingdom, which also included the Haraz Mountains. The Sulayhids were aligned with the Ismaili Muslim-leaning Fatimid Caliphate of Egypt, rather than the Baghdad-based Abbasid Caliphate which most of Arabia followed. Al-Sulayhi ruled for about 20 years but he was assassinated by his principal local rivals, the Zabid-based Najahids. Following his death, al-Sulayhi's daughter, Arwa al-Sulayhi, inherited the throne. She withdrew from Sana'a, transferring the Sulayhid capital to Jibla, where she ruled much of Yemen from 1067 to 1138. As a result of the Sulayhid departure, the Hamdanid dynasty took control of Sana'a.
In 1173 Saladin, the Ayyubid sultan of Egypt, sent his brother Turan-Shah on an expedition to conquer Yemen. The Ayyubids gained control of Sana'a in 1175 and united the various Yemeni tribal states, except for the northern mountains controlled by the Zaydi imams, into one entity. The Ayyubids switched the country's official religious allegiance to the Sunni Muslim Abbasids.
The Ottoman Empire entered Yemen in 1538 when Suleiman the Magnificent was Sultan. With Ottoman approval, European captains based in the Yemeni port towns of Aden and Mocha frequented Sana'a to maintain special privileges and capitulations for their trade. In 1602 the local Zaydi imams led by Imam al-Mu'ayyad reasserted their control over the area, and forced out Ottoman troops in 1629. The Zaydi imams maintained their rule over Sana'a until the mid 19th-century, when the Ottomans relaunched their campaign to control the region. In 1835, Ottoman troops arrived on the Yemeni coast under the guise of Muhammad Ali of Egypt's troops. They did not capture Sana'a until 1872, when their troops led by Ahmed Muhtar Pasha entered the city. The Ottoman Empire instituted the Tanzimat reforms throughout the lands they governed.
In 1904, as Ottoman influence was waning in Yemen, Imam Yahya of the Zaydi imams took power in Sana'a. In a bid to secure North Yemen's independence, Yahya embarked on a policy of isolationism, avoiding international and Arab world politics, cracking down on embryonic liberal movements, not contributing to the development of infrastructure in Sana'a and elsewhere and closing down the Ottoman girls' school. As a consequence of Yahya's measures, Sana'a increasingly became a center of anti-government organization and intellectual revolt.
Imam Ahmad's inheritance of power in 1948. That year, Sana'a was replaced with Ta'izz as capital following Ahmad's new residence there. Most government offices followed suit. A few years later, most of the city's Jewish population emigrated to Israel. Ahmad began a process of gradual economic and political liberalization, but by 1961 Sana'a was witnessing major demonstrations and riots demanding quicker reform and change. Pro-republican officers in the North Yemeni military sympathetic of Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt's government and pan-Arabist policies staged a coup overthrowing the Imamate government in September 1962, a week after Ahmad's death. Sana'a's role as capital was restored afterward.Neighboring Saudi Arabia opposed this development and actively supported North Yemen's rural tribes, pitting large parts of the country against the urban and largely pro-republican inhabitants of Sana'a. The North Yemen Civil War resulted in the destruction of some parts of the city's ancient heritage and continued until 1968 when a deal between the republicans and the royalists was reached, establishing a presidential system. Instability in Sana'a continued due to continuing coups and political assassinations until the situation in the country stabilized in the late 1970s.
Following the unification of Yemen, Sana'a was designated capital of the new Republic of Yemen. It houses the presidential palace, the parliament, the supreme court and the country's government ministries. The largest source of employment is provided by the governmental civil service. Due to massive rural immigration, Sana'a has grown far outside its Old City, but this has placed a huge strain on the city's underdeveloped infrastructure and municipal services, particularly water.
Sana'a was chosen as the 2004 Arab Cultural Capital by the Arab League. In 2008, the Saleh Mosque was completed. It holds over 40,000 worshipers.
On 21 May 2012, Sana'a was attacked by a suicide bomber, resulting in the deaths of 120 soldiers.
Recently, during the Houthi insurgency, the Houthis have seized, and currently control, Sana'a.
On 12 June 2015, Saudi-led airstrikes targeting Shiite rebels and their allies in Yemen destroyed historic houses in the center of the capital. A UNESCO World Heritage site is severely damaged.
Sana'a features the very rare mild version of a desert climate.
Sana'a sees on average approximately 200 mm of precipitation per year.
However, due to its high elevation, temperatures are much more moderate than many other cities on the Arabian Peninsula. In fact, average temperatures remain relatively constant throughout the year in Sana'a, with its coldest month being January and its warmest month in July.
The city seldom experiences extreme heat or cold. However, some areas around the city can see temperatures fall to around 15 °F or 20 °F (−9 °C or −7 °C) during winter. Frost usually occurs in the early winter mornings, and there is a slight wind chill in the city at elevated areas that causes the cold mornings to be oddly bitter, including low humidity. The sun warms the city to the high 60s °F (15-20 °C) and low 70s °F (21-26 °C) during the noontime but it drops drastically as night falls in.
The city experiences many microclimates from district to district because of its location in the Sana'a basin and uneven elevations throughout the city.
Summers are warm and can cool rapidly at night, especially after rainfall. Sana'a receives half of its annual rainfall during the months of July and August.
|Daily highs (°C)||19.8||20.2||22.8||25.5||26.0||27.1||27.7||25.9||23.7||22.0||20.7||19.7|
|Nightly lows (°C)||5.1||8.0||9.7||11.5||13.6||15.8||16.7||16.3||12.4||9.1||6.8||6.2|
Historically, Sana'a had a mining industry. The hills around Sana'a were mined for onyx, chalcedony, and cornelian.The city was also known for its metalwork, which the British described as "famous" in the early 20th century, but declining in popularity.As of 1920, Sana'a was described by the British as being "well supplied with fruit and grapes, and has good water."
As the capital city of Yemen, 40% of jobs in Sana'a are in the public sector. Other primary sources of formal employment in the city are trade and industry. Like many other cities in the developing world, Sana'a has a large informal sector which is estimated to constitute 32% of nongovernmental employment. However, while there is a greater variety of jobs in Sana'a as compared to other cities in Yemen, there is also greater poverty and unemployment. It is estimated that 25% of the labor force in Sana'a is unemployed.
Generally, Sana'a is divided into two parts: the Old City District ("al-Qadeemah") and the new city ("al-Jadid.") The former is much smaller and retains the city's ancient heritage and mercantile way-of-living while the latter is an urban sprawl with many suburbs and modern buildings. The newer parts of the city were largely developed in the 1960s and onward when Sana'a was chosen as the republican capital.
Al Wahdah District
As Sabain District
At Tahrir District
Bani Al Harith District
Old City District