A World Heritage Site ...
Situated in a mountain valley at an altitude of 2,200 m, the Old City of Sana'a is defined by an extraordinary density of rammed earth and burnt brick towers rising several stories above stone-built ground floors, strikingly decorated with geometric patterns of fired bricks and white gypsum. The ochre of the buildings blends into the bistre-colored earth of the nearby mountains. Within the city, minarets pierce the skyline and spacious green bustans (gardens) are scattered between the densely packed houses, mosques, bath buildings and caravanserais.
Inhabited for more than 2,500 years, the city was given official status in the second century BC when it was an outpost of the Yemenite kingdoms. By the first century AD it emerged as a centre of the inland trade route. The site of the cathedral and the martyrium constructed during the period of Abyssinian domination (525-75) bear witness to Christian influence whose apogee coincided with the reign of Justinian. The remains of the pre-Islamic period were largely destroyed as a result of profound changes in the city from the 7th century onwards when Sana'a became a major centre for the spread of the Islamic faith as demonstrated by the archaeological remains within the Great Mosque, said to have been constructed while the Prophet was still living. Successive reconstructions of Sana'a under Ottoman domination beginning in the 16th century respected the organization of space characteristic of the early centuries of Islam while changing the appearance of the city and expanding it with a second city to the west. The houses in the old city are of relatively recent construction and have a traditional structure.
As an outstanding example of a homogeneous architectural ensemble reflecting the spatial characteristics of the early years of Islam, the city in its landscape has an extraordinary artistic and pictorial quality. Its many-storied buildings represent an outstanding response to defensive needs in providing spacious living quarters for the maximum number of residents within defensible city walls. The buildings demonstrate exceptional craftsmanship in the use of local materials and techniques. The houses and public buildings of Sana'a, which have become vulnerable as a result of contemporary social changes, are an outstanding example of a traditional, Islamic human settlement.
Described by historians, geographers and scholars of the early Islamic and medieval eras, Sana'a is associated with the civilizations of the Bible and the Koran.