I arrived in San'a after midnight, when the streets were almost empty and the city was asleep. I saw the decorated houses in the scarse street lights, light shining through stained glass windows, and I immediately fell in love with it. Walking in the city is marvellous during the day, and becomes like a fairy tale in the evening. According to the Yemenis, San'a is one of the oldest human settlements in the world. It has a long history of wars and sieges, and it is only since a few decades that it has started to grow to the size of a real capital city.
But while the suburbs contain modern buildings, traffic jams and other inconveniences of modern cities, the old city has very much retained its character. There is little traffic and walking around the city you can perfectly be led to think that you are walking in a medieval town. Every corner holds surprises, a small mosque, an especially beautifully decorated building, a small arch hiding an inner coutyard, gardens which are still used for agriculture. But the most obvious attraction of the old city is the tower houses. Made of stone, they are all decorated and painted with white paint. No house is the same, they all have their unique character.
I decided to stay in one of the old houses turned into a hotel, to experience the way the houses are built. They are all high, the stairs have high steps and if you walk directly to the top floor it will often leave you out of breath, also because San'a sits at over 2200 metres above sea level. The best room is the mafraj, it is located on the top floor and has windows on all sides. This is where the owner of the house will lead his guests to chew qat in the afternoon. Since the roofs are always flat, it is possible to enjoy a panoramic view from the roof of the houses.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Old San'a (Yemen). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Old San'a.
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