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full moon rising sanaa yemen art panorama by Michael Robert Powell

Sanaa, Yemen – An Arabian Night’s Vision

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Blink, and realize it’s no dream. Envisage the 1001 Nights. That’s the ancient city of Sanaa in Yemen.

Magical tower houses.

Narrow alleys.

Veiled women.

The Muslim call to prayer.


Sanaa is one the oldest continuously-inhabited cities in the world, and believed to have been founded by Shem, the son of Noah.

For more than 2,500 years it has situated in a valley at an altitude of 2,200 meters.

full moon rising sanaa yemen art panorama by Michael Robert Powell
Full Moon Rising – Sanaa, Yemen. Art by MRP.

And since the time of Mohammad, Sanaa has been a center for the propagation of Islam.

Old Sanaa has more than 100 mosques.

And 12 hammams (public bathhouses) and 6,500 tower houses – all built before the 11th century AD.

The old city is surrounded by walls 9–14 meters high.

The ancient skyscraper houses sport white geometric patterns laced on mud-brick – like gingerbread houses with white icing.

Windows often gleam with colored glass.

Traditional houses of old Sanaa
Traditional houses of old Sanaa.

Sanaa was declared a World Heritage Site in 1986.

Inside the home, interior walls are white-washed, stairs narrow, thick timber rafters stretch the ceiling.

I stayed a number of days in a family-run guest-house, deep amid the magical, ancient city of Sanaa.

Travels in Yemen – 2005