Sana'a

Overview

Introduction

Sana'a, Yemen's capital (pop. 972,000), is the oldest city in the country. In many ways, it hasn't changed in centuries: It's a beautiful and fascinating city of unique architecture and veiled women. Among its attractions is the world's first skyscraper—the 2,000-year-old, multistoried Palace of Ghamdan (now, alas, in ruins). Just walk around both the old and new parts of town (many roads are unpaved and dusty) and observe the beautiful valley setting highlighted by rugged mountains. (Be careful when navigating through all the people, vehicles and animals that fill the streets.) While visiting 10th-century Old Sana'a, see the market, the Bab el Yemen (one of six gates of adobe bricks), the old city wall and Yemen's oldest mosque, then stop at a tea shop to refresh. In contrast to the Old City, "new" Sana'a's main street, Abdal Moghni, has many modern buildings. After Yemen supported Iraq during the Gulf War, hundreds of thousands of Yemenis were expelled from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States during the early 1990s. Many found new homes in the capital, and the city has nearly doubled in size over the last quarter century.

Be sure to visit the national museum and the former palace of the Imam, now the Al Hamd Palace Hotel. For a lively look at local life, visit the souk just east of the Old City where qat, which everyone chews, is on sale. A few day excursions can be made from Sana'a. A short drive to the north leads to Ar Rawdah, a beautiful summer resort; other outings include trips to Kawkaban, Marib, Sa'da, Wadi Dahr, Hadda (a mountain village) and Al Huqqar (with ruined ancient temples). 190 mi/305 km north of Aden.

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