Architectural Heritage of Yemen

Architectural Heritage of Yemen


Buildings that Fill my Eye

edited by Trevor Marchand

Gingko Library Arts Series Editor: Melanie Gibson
Format: Paperback
Published: July 2017
Illustrations: 100
Pages: 240
ISBN: 9781909942073

The book is priced at £35, and for every copy sold, £5 is donated to the UNHCR Yemen Emergency Appeal.



‘The richness and quality of scholarly contributions in this publication helps us to see beyond the beauty of the architectural expressions of different regions of the country. […] Prof. Trevor H.J. Marchand is taking us on an architectural journey around the country but he also reminds us very eloquently how much architectural heritage and the knowledge which made it possible, is at risk of disappearance and the first thing to do is to remind ourselves of our responsibility of citizens of the world to respect it and defend its values.’

Anna Paolini, Director, UNESCO Representative in the Arab states of the Gulf and Yemen

‘This timely book shows how in Yemen mud technology has been stretched to its limits to produce buildings perceived as staggeringly beautiful by outsiders, and which are highly satisfying places in which to live and work, finely tuned to their environment, and with a strong sense of identity. But it also stresses just how vulnerable this architecture has become to changing social structures and, even more so, to the devastating impacts of recent conflicts. If this is all to survive, there needs to be a strong, shared understanding of its enormous value to humanity and of the skills and social structures needed to sustain it: this collection of essays offers a very substantial contribution to that task.’

Susan Denyer, World Heritage Adviser, ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites)

Architectural Heritage of Yemen is an absolute must for anyone interested in the marvels of Yemeni architectural design. [This book] is an excellent and timely reminder of the need to document and preserve, in Marchand’s words, “one of the world’s finest treasure-troves of architecture”, and to raise awareness of the need to protect not just the buildings, but also the people who have created, lived in and cared for it.’

Dr Marcel Vellinga, School for Architecture, Oxford Brookes University


Twenty chapters, authored by leading scholars from around the world, explore the astonishing variety of building styles and traditions that have evolved over millennia in a region of diverse terrains, extreme climates and distinctive local histories. Generations of highly-skilled masons, carpenters and craftspeople have deftly employed the materials-to-hand and indigenous technologies to create urban architectural assemblages, gardens and rural landscapes that sit harmoniously within the natural contours and geological conditions of southern Arabia. A sharp escalation in military action and violence in the country since the 1990s has had a devastating impact on the region’s rich cultural heritage. In bringing together the astute observations and reflections of an international and interdisciplinary group of acclaimed scholars, this book raises awareness of Yemen’s long history of cultural creativity, and of the very urgent need for international collaboration to protect it and its people from the destructive forces that have beset the region. Following the editor’s introduction, the book is divided into three parts. Part One introduces readers to the astonishing variety of architecture and building traditions across the country, from the Red Sea coast, eastward into the mountainous highlands, to the edge of the Arabian desert, and southward into the deep, dramatic wadis of Hadhramaut. Part Two is dedicated to exploring the issues and the challenges of conserving and preserving Yemen’s rich architectural heritage. Part Three offers vivid personal insights – both historical and contemporary – into the making of place and the construction of identities.

Trevor H.J. Marchand is Emeritus Professor of Social Anthropology at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), and received the Royal Anthropological Institute’s Rivers Memorial Medal (2014).



Table of Contents:

Foreword by Sheikh Mohamed Bin Issa Al Jaber

Trevor H.J. Marchand – ‘Buildings That Fill My Eye’: An Introduction to the Architectural Heritage of Yemen

Part 1 Architectural Traditions of Yemen

Ronald Lewcock – Early and Medieval Sanaa: The Evidence on the Ground

Noha Sadek – Rasulid Architecture

Venetia Porter – The Bani Tahir and the ʿAmiriyya Madrasa: Architecture and Politics

Barbara Finster – Some Sufi Mausoleums in Yemen

Nancy Um – Mocha: Maritime Architecture on Yemen’s Red Sea Coast

Shelagh Weir – Construction, Development and Destruction on Jabal Razih

Fernando Varanda – The Domestic Architecture of the Northern Plateaux and Eastern Slopes of Yemen: Building Attitudes and Formal Identities

Pamela Jerome – The Art of Building Tower Houses in the Wadi Hadhramaut

Noha Sadek – The Forts of Yemen: The Example of the Citadel of Taʿizz

Trevor H.J. Marchand – The Minarets of Sanaa

Part 2 Preserving Yemen’s Architectural Heritage

Ronald Lewcock – The Campaign to Preserve the Old City of Sanaa

Tom Leiermann – Preserving Shibam: The City of Towering Mud Houses

Renzo Ravagnan, Sabina Antonini de Maigret, and Cristina Muradore – Preserving and Transmitting Traditional Building Techniques in Yemen

Ingrid Hehmeyer – Majil and Birka: Cisterns in the Western Highlands of Yemen

Part 3 Making Space & Place in Yemen

Tim Mackintosh-Smith – Paradise Built: Al-Shahari’s Description of Sanaa in the Twelfth/Eighteenth Century

Deborah Dorman – A Nasraniyya in Sanaa, 1988-99

Gabriele vom Bruck – Bodies on the Move: Gender Dynamics on a Sanaani Minibus

Anne Meneley – The Zabidi House

St John Simpson – Views of Aden


Nabil al-Makaleh and Fahd al-Quraishi – Preservation of Cultural Heritage is the Preservation
of Cultural Identity and Belonging




The book is priced at £35, and for every copy sold, £5 is donated to the UNHCR Yemen Emergency Appeal.

Additional information


Art, History, Politics


Edited by Trevor Marchand