My friend Fadi has always introduced me to really fascinating stuff, like the works of Amin Maalouf, Carnet de Routes and Suite Africaine, Coltrane’s Olé, and one of my favorite novels of all time, Albert Cohen’s Belle du Seigneur. One thing I particularly enjoy is going to his apartment where he has wonderful things from all over the world. In particular, I always find myself staring at a painting of Sana’a, the capital city of Yemen. Sana’a (not to be confused with the Arabic name Sanaa) is portrayed like an intricate beehive of blues, browns and whites.
The other day, I decided to do some research on the city and found that it is just as interesting as the painting.
Sana’a is a World Heritage City with over two thousand years of history, and is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the Middle East (and the world for that matter).
Not only is the city beautiful, but culturally it has a long history and tradition of diversity and influence. Although Yemen is now overwhelmingly Muslim (Sunni majority with a large Shiite minority), it once had a significant Jewish population and Christians. Most of the Yemenite Jews migrated in the Operation Magic Carpet. Yemen also played a role in influencing the cultures of Ethiopia and Somalia. For example, the popular consumption of the narcotic qaat in Somalia comes from Yemen (which I read about in the novel Knots).
My understanding has always been that Yemen is a fairly dangerous place to visit, even though this has not been confirmed by anything that I have read so far in terms of traveling to Sana’a. For the meantime, though, I will not take the risk and will simply enjoy the photos.