Monday, 22 February 2016

The Threat to Yemen’s Heritage.

My latest article for Apollo Magazine...

Sana'a, Yemen. Photo: Creative Commons/Rod Waddington
Yemen, a country with three UNESCO world heritage sites – the Historic Town of Zabid, the Old City of Sana’a and the Old Walled City of Shibam – and a further 10 on the organisation’s tentative list, has suffered greatly since the outbreak of civil war in February 2015. As well as the large-scale loss of life, important historic sites have been severely damaged, often as collateral damage, but also reportedly intentionally.

Among the four major kingdoms dividing South Arabia (modern-day Yemen) during the first millennium BC was that of the Sabaeans, who grew powerful thanks to their control of overland and maritime trade routes, as well as their trade in frankincense and myrrh. In the 7th century BC, the Sabaeans constructed the Great Dam of Marib – currently on Yemen’s tentative world heritage list – to capture and divert rainwater for the irrigation of fields around Marib, their capital, transforming the desert environment. Reconstructed repeatedly over its 1,000 years of use – first by the Sabaeans themselves and later by their conquerors, the Himyarites – at the dam’s zenith, when its retaining wall stood around 15 metres tall and 500 metres long, it was regarded as one of the greatest constructions of the ancient world. Today, only the dam’s two sluices survive, one of which was damaged by an airstrike in May 2015. At around the same time, the Dhamar Regional Museum – where many ancient Yemeni inscriptions were stored – was also destroyed; thankfully, many of the museum’s ancient inscriptions had already been digitised and so their content, at least, survives.

You can read the rest of the article here: The Threat to Yemen’s Heritage.