Sana'a is one of the ancient Yemeni cities dating back to the Sabaean dynasty of the 6th Century BC. The oldest written reference to its existence is found in inscriptions which date back to the 1st century AD. It is suggested that Sana'a was the capital of the Himyarite kingdom at the onset of the 6th century AD.

When King Yousef Athar (or Dhu Nuwas), the last of the Himyarite kings, was in power, Sana'a was also the capital of the Ethiopian viceroys, then after 570 of the Persians.

As of the dawn of Islam until the detachment of independent sub-states in many parts of Yemen Islamic Caliphate, Sana'a persisted as the governing seat, who himself is Caliph's deputy in running the affairs of one of Yemen's Three Makhalifs: Mikhlaf Sana'a, Mikhlaf al-Janad and Mikhlaf Hadhramawt. The city of Sana'a recurrently assumed an important status and all Yemenite States competed to control it.

The Mamelukes arrived in Yemen in AD 1517. Following the collapse of the Mamelukes in Egypt at the hands of the Ottoman Turks, Yemen fell under the Ottoman Rule and during the first Ottoman rule of Yemen between 1538-1635, Sana'a became the capital of the Ottoman Vilayet and also during the Ottoman second rule 1872-1918. In 1918, Sana'a was the capital of Imam Yahya, who ruled North Yemen. At the onset of the 1962 revolution which deposed the imamate rule, it became the capital of the Yemen Arab Republic. It was then the capital of unified Yemen in 1990 where it is dubbed as the historical capital of Yemen.

Main sights and culture

The old fortified city has been inhabited for more than 2,500 years, and contains a wealth of intact architectural gems. It was declared a World Heritage City by the United Nations in 1986. Efforts are underway to preserve some of the oldest buildings, some of which are over 400 years old. Surrounded by ancient clay walls which stand 6–9 metres (20–30 ft) high, the old city boasts over 100 mosques, 12 hammams (baths) and 6,500 houses. Many of the houses resemble ancient skyscrapers, reaching several stories high and topped with flat roofs. They are decorated with elaborate friezes and intricately carved frames and stained glass windows.

One of the most popular attractions is Suq al-Milh (Salt Market), where it is possible to buy not only salt but also bread, spices, raisins, cotton, copper, pottery, silverware, antiques (both fake and real) and, formerly, slaves. The majestic seventh century Jami'a l-Kabir (Great Mosque) is one of the oldest in the Muslim world. The Bab al-Yaman (Yemen Gate) is an iconized entry point through the city walls and is over 700 years old.

A commercial area of the Old City is Al Madina, where development is proceeding rapidly. In addition to three large hotels (the Sheraton, Movenpick and Saba), there are numerous stores and restaurants, including branches of American chains such as Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken. The area also contains three parks and the President's palace.

New Sana'a

Sana'a is also starting to modernize. New banks which most are supported by Kuwait are opening. Skyscrapers are also being built and new bridges are under construction which are supported by the Yemeni national bank. Hadda is also expanding rapidly since wealthy Yemenis are putting millions in to building mansions and other buildings into Hadaa. New highways are also being built to connect to Sana'a. Finally, the new mosque at Yemen has been completed which is one of the biggest mosque in the world today.

Cultural Arab Capital

Sana'a was designated as the Arab Cultural Capital for the year of 2004.


Sana'a International Airport is Yemen's main domestic and international airport. The airport will be expanded by 2010. There is no train network currently but one will also be built. The best way around the city is dababs which are like minibuses holding about 10 people. Taxis are also a very common form of transportation at Yemen and in the recent years, Yemen has started use higher quality cars and companies are starting to take over the taxi business which could add more comfort to passengers. There are many caches to other major cities like Aden, Taiz and much more.

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