Stone Age tombs discovered in Yemen

14 Jan


Experts say more than 200 tombs were found in Mahweet.

Malak ShaherPublished:12-01-2012

MAHWEET, Jan. 11 – At least 200 Paleolithic tombs were announced to have been discovered in Mahweet in 1996, according to the governorate’s deputy governor Hamoud Shamlan.

Shamlan, who was the head of the Tourism Office at the time of the discovery, said that authorities wanted to keep the tombs, which contain mummies and other relics, “a secret until they got technical support to protect them”.

“We located the cemetery but did not announce the news as we were afraid that the mummies would be stolen,” said Shamlan.

He explained that retired members of the army and tribesmen were guarding the cemetery, which is surrounded by barbed wires.

“We decided to reveal the discovery as we need support now. The situation in Yemen is not secure and we do not want anything to be stolen,” explained Shamlan.

He added that the road to the cemeteries is not a paved and that’s why technical and financial support is needed in this critical time.

According to the state-run Saba News agency, the tombs date back to the prehistoric Stone Age, a period known as the Paleolithic era, which is thought to have begun over two million years ago and ended around 8,000 BC.

Mohammad Ahmad Qasem, Director of the Archeology Department at Mahweet, the cemetery was created from rectangular slots in high mountains.

The openings of the tombs are narrow but widen as you go inside, he explained. Some are just one room and others are two, depending on the number of bodies they hold. Some graves contained groups and others individuals or families.

Niches in the walls of the tombs contain pottery, funerary tools and weapons for the dead. Their placing inside the tombs allowed them to remain well preserved for such a long time.

According to Qasem, the burial grounds were found in the districts of Mahweet like Shibam Kawkaban, Al-Rojom, Melhan, Hufash, Bani Sa’d and Al-Tawila


Street cleaners strike, streets left unclean

10 Jan
Malak Shaher
& Fuad Mused


Sana’a, Jan. 7 – More than 2,000 street cleaners went on a strike from last Tuesday to Thursday to demand their rights.

For more than sixteen years, Hanash Sa’eed, 30, has worked as a street cleaner without receiving a paid vacation or other employees’ rights. The more than 4,000 street clearness in Sana’a are paid just YR 25,000 or USD 110 a month.

According to Ali Al-Maghribi, a secretary for the General Cleaning Administration (GCA), street cleaners were promised that they would be officially hired and receive paid vacations and benefits like medical insurance after the strike.

Al-Maghribi said that Minister of Defense Mohammad Naser Ahmad urgently gave orders to the Logistics Department to provide the street cleaners with 2,000 sacks of sugar, 2,000 bottles of oil and 2,000 boxes of canned beans.

Past disappointments and new promises

In a GCA meeting held on Wednesday, it was decided that street cleaners will receive medical insurance and paid vacations after one months’ time.

The street cleaners have, however, complained that they have received promises before and that this time around they remain unsure whether such promises will be followed by action. “The most important thing is that they fulfill their promise this time. We only want our rights,” said Sa’eed, who has a wife and a child who also work as street cleaners. Jabri Al-Jamal, a street cleaner, said that this is the sixth such promise they have received. “Their promises are like antibiotics that keep us silent for a while,” said Al-Jamal, 34.

He said that although he owns a house – where he, his wife and six children live – the money he receives as a monthly salary is not enough to live on. Sana’a’s street cleaners also went on strike two years ago to demand that they be officially employed and receive medical insurance and paid vacations.

In general, street cleaners work three shifts. The first is from 7 a.m. until 11 a.m., the second from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and the third from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Each street cleaner daily works two out of three shifts in areas specified by the municipality’s cleaning administration. In addition to the street cleaners, the cleaning administration also has possesses vehicles to collect garbage from houses and shops. There are 17 districts in Sana’a. Each district has two supervisors who report on their area’s cleanliness and who also monitor whether the cleaners are performing their duties or not, Abdulhakim Saber, a worker at the administration, told the Yemen Times earlier.

More than 2,000 street cleaners went on strike in Sana’a demanding paid vacation and medical insurance.  YT photo by Malak Shaher

An environmental problem

At least 10,000 tons of garbage is collected in Sana’a each day, according to Abbass Al-Sharafi, head of Operational Unit at the administration.

Al-Sharafi said the garbage is disposed of using an old method in which it is buried in the soil and covered with sand, leaving behind “huge mountains of garbage that aren’t recycled at all.”

In Aden, however, people have become concerned about the environmental consequences of burning garbage in residential areas.

Garbage has also piled up in Aden’s streets after the city’s street cleaners went on strike for the last two days. Shop owners in Aden’s Crater District gathered all the garbage in their area and burned it near the Al-Za’faran Market.

“This forced us to close all our windows on Friday as the smoke was everywhere and did not allow us to breathe clean air,” said Salem Mohammad, a resident of Aden.

Mohammed called on officials to respond to the street cleaners’ demands and to give them their legal rights. Since last Thursday, garbage has been burned in other areas in Aden, leaving people afraid of falling ill following exposure to the suffocating smoke.

Qaed Rashed, head of Aden’s Cleaning Fund, called on the Minister of Finance to officially increase the street cleaner’s salaries.

He said that he is willing to consider resigning after striking street cleaners demanded that he leave his position. These problems came on the heels of environmental problems caused when Sanitation Administration employees went on strike.

When Somali piracy became a threat

15 Dec
Some of the key ports used by Somali pirates


Since 2005, Somali pirates started to move around the Yemeni waters to hijack ships and kidnap crews, asking for millions of dollars as ransoms and causing an ever-increasing problem for Yemen. Somali piracy in the 20th century began with the collapse of the state in 1991. As the security situation deteriorated, the smuggling of illegal immigrants as well as the smuggling weapons began to flourish. The marine forces collapsed and tribal leaders used the lack of security and the spread of their forces over Somali lands to extort tributes from passing ships. Day by day, pirates were threatening ships in the waters off Somalia. The Gulf of Aden became a piracy hotspot with high-profile ships and tankers taken hostage.

By Malak Shaher

Yemen Times
It was 5pm on Mar. 8, 2005 when two sailing yachts, Mahdi and Gandalf were moving 30 miles off the coast of Aden to Oman. Suddenly, two motor-powered boats, about 25 and 30 feet long with four armed men in each “came very fast directly at us,” Rodney Nowlin, a sailor of south Virginia told Noonsite, the global site for cruising sailors.

Before these two boats approached, Nowlin said another two boats were observing them, each with three men on board. These boats just watched as the bigger two approached them.

“The boats separated at about 200 yards, one boat ahead of the other, coming down Mahdi’s port side, and firing into the cockpit. The other boat was firing an automatic weapon at both Gandalf and Mahdi from ahead. These guys were shooting directly at the cockpits, and obviously intended to kill us,” Nowlin told Noonsite in May 2005.

That incident was the first piracy attack in Yemeni waters in 2005, marking the start of a reign of terror against ships and oil tankers in Somalia’s surrounding waters.

Soon after this attempt, the Yemeni Coast Guard Authority and other operational offices in the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea increased their efforts in fighting piracy.

“In the beginning, pirates’ operations were confined to stealing small equipment from small ships,” said Shuja’ Al-Deen Al-Mahdi, the head of the Operational Unit at the Yemeni Coast Guard Authority (YCG).

“But in 2005, their operations started to become increasing sophisticated; they were not satisfied with the small things they stole. Their operations were more professional and they started equipping themselves with guns and night vision goggles – not to mention the bigger and stronger boats they now use,” Al-Mahdi said.

When the owners of the hijacked ships fail to pay the ransom, the pirates eventually use the captured vessels as “mother ships” from which to launch further attacks.

According to the YCG records, piracy operations have grown year by year since 2005, with 2010 being their most active year. In 2010, 57 ships were hijacked in the Yemeni waters with 225 failed hijacking attempts.

So far this year, the YCG has arrested 12 Somali pirates in Yemeni waters – though this doesn’t account for those picked up by international fleets more than 12 miles off the coast.

An international problem

Worldwide, piracy began to increase in the early 1990s, peaking at roughly 350 to 450 reported attacks per year during the period 2000-2004, then declining by almost half by 2005. In 2007, almost half of the world’s reported pirate attacks took place in African waters, mainly near Nigeria and Somalia.

However, the number of attacks in Somali waters doubled in 2008, according to a study by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) mentioned in the Congressional Research Services.

In Yemen in 2007, 10 ships were hijacked with 20 failed attempts. 42 ships and boats were hijacked in 2008 and 46 ships and boats were hijacked in 2009.

The IMB study found that at least 219 attacks occurred in the Horn of Africa in 2010, with 49 successful hijackings. Somali pirates have attacked ships in the Gulf of Aden, along Somalia’s eastern coastline, and outwards into the Indian Ocean.

The situation in Somalia, and the piracy threat, was the subject of an open debate at the UN Security Council in March 2011, during which the Council stressed the need for a “comprehensive strategy to encourage the establishment of peace and stability in Somalia.”

According to the IBM study, the increase in pirate attacks off the Horn of Africa is directly linked to continuing insecurity and the absence of the rule of law in war-torn Somalia.

Somalia’s “pirate economy” has also grown substantially in the past two years, with ransoms now averaging more than $5 million. These revenues may further exacerbate the ongoing conflict and undermine regional security. The annual cost of piracy to the global economy ranges between $7 and $12 billion.

Piracy ports

There are four main Somali ports where the country’s pirates receive support and where they can keep hijacked ships and boats, according to Al-Mahdi. The ports are providing pirates with fuel and other required equipment as well as keeping the ships and boats until their owners pay the ransoms.

The main ports are Eyl, Hobye, Caluula and Xaafuun. “From Eyl port in particular come the most dangerous pirates,” said Al-Mahdi. Negotiations between pirates and ships’ owners usually take place in Eyl, making it one of the most dangerous, he added.

Somali pirates in Yemeni

Of the 752 pirates currently facing prosecution in 11 countries, Yemen has arrested 120 pirates since 2005. During 2008 and 2009, Yemen detained 62 pirates.

However, due to the high cost of keeping pirates in detention while they await prosecution, Yemen stopped detaining and trying Somali pirates submitted by international forces since 2009. These pirates were attacking ships in non-Yemeni regional waters, according to the CGA.

Aesh Awwas, from the Sheba Center for Strategic Studies in Saba’a, says there are no specific laws covering the trial of pirates caught outside of Yemen.

“Piracy in international waters has created a problem for Yemen as the country is not responsible for Somali pirates hijacking ships outside its waters,” said Awwas.

Last month, ten pirates were sentenced to ten years each by the Criminal Court in Al-Mukalla after being in jail and awaiting prosecution for more than 11 months.

And last December, the Penal Court in Al-Mukalla sentenced twelve Somali pirates to thirteen years in jail for conducting piracy attacks in Yemeni and international waters.

Some face even harsher sentences when caught; last year a Yemeni court sentenced six Somali pirates to death and jailed six others for the hijacking of an oil tanker they seized in April 2009. The pirates were captured by the CGA and found guilty of killing two of the oil tanker’s crew.

A growing problem for Yemeni fishermen

As the international navy has been fighting piracy in the Gulf of Aden, Yemeni fishermen have also been caught up in the process. There have been at least three cases where Yemeni fishermen were assumed to be Somali pirates because of their dark-skinned color.

“Some Yemenis are looking to piracy themselves, or even just ‘facilitating’ the piracy of others, be they Yemeni or Somali or of other nationalities,” Michael Frodl, head of US consultancy firm C-Level Maritime Risks, told the Financial Times last month. He blamed the situation on the ongoing political crisis in Yemen.

The Yemeni Coastal Guard Authority denied the accusation against Yemenis becoming involved in piracy, saying that 15 Yemeni fishermen were arrested and beaten after they were accused of piracy. Just a week before the incident in October, seven other men were beaten and their belongings taken, Umar Salim, the head of the Fishermen Association in Hadramout said.

At present, five Yemeni fishermen from Mukala, Hadramout, remain in jail in India after the authorities assumed they were Somali pirates in May. Two months ago another boat in Yemeni waters was attacked by an Indian ship – the fishermen’s belongings, along with their fish, were thrown overboard. The men were also beaten according to Al-Mahdi.

“Piracy has brought us problems that we have no connection with,” said Al-Mahdi, adding that with the passage of time, pirates keep using more sophisticated tactics, making it even harder to tackle the problem.

While the CGA tries to catch the pirates within the allowed Yemeni waters – up to 12 miles off the Yemeni coast – the pirates are using mother ships further out to provide smaller piracy boats with equipment and fuel.

Al-Mahdi concluded: “The more we try to catch them and control piracy, the further away they go, hijacking ships from waters we cannot protect.”

Stronger rial leaves questions over exchange

15 Dec
The Yemeni rial dropped sharply in March due to the conflict but began gaining value again a few days ago.

Malak ShaherPublished:15-12-2011

SANA’A, Dec. 14 — The value of the Yemeni rial has rapidly increased in the last two days from 238 rials to 218 rials to the dollar, leaving some angry after losing thousands of rials in the exchange rate.

“I heard people saying that the value of the dollar was rapidly decreasing yesterday. I had a thousand dollars and I did not want to lose money,” said Asma Abdulla, a teacher, who had to exchange her money in a rush. Abdulla exchanged her one thousand for 220,000 YR instead of YR 237,000 the previous day.

Demand and supply variables caused the rapid increase in the value of the Yemeni rial. People started to exchange their saved dollars into Yemeni rials in a bid to beat any further losses. But the more people exchanged their dollars the more the value of the Yemeni rial increased.

In a press statement, the Studies & Economic Media Center said it had received complaints from people who tried taking dollars from their bank accounts, but their banks had not allow them to do so.

Local banks said that the Central Bank refused to provide them with hard currencies, especially dollars, during the last few days, according to the Marib2day website.

“The rapid increase of the Yemeni rial has made some people insecure and they want to exchange the dollars they have for rials at once,” said Mohammad Jubran, an accounting teacher at Sana’a University.

Why is it difficult to take pictures in Yemen?

8 Dec
By: Malak Shaher, 07-12-2011

Yemen is a challenging place to take pictures. Despite its unique beauty and interesting culture, photographers have to deal with an array of issues from people refusing to have their photos taken or just being too eager to getting in the shot, to insecurity and violence.


Amira Al-Sharif, a freelance photographer who studied at the International Center of Photography, said that because Yemen is a conservative society, people usually do not accept photographers. Yemenis are often suspicious about “what you are going to do with the photos,” she said.

Al-Sharif said that even when some allow her to take their picture they don’t hang around long enough to get a good shot. “Once they hear your camera shutter they assume you have finished taking photographs and leave,” she explained.

“So you need to keep convincing them that it is not enough that you still need to take more shots,” she said.

Shooting women is a more difficult as she has to “get prior permission from their relatives, fathers, brothers or husbands – otherwise it could create problems between tribes.”

However, she said that Yemen is changing and people are slowly become more open to photographers and photos – partly because of the revolution. “I can tell you that a lot of Yemeni youth tried to protect me in the demonstration marches so that I could document the truth,” said Al-Sharif. “It was also a really nice feeling to find myself surrounded by men who took each others hands to make a circle around me so that nothing would happened to me.”

A Psychological problem

Al-Sharif said that the most serious problem her fellow photographers might face is a “lack of confidence”. Al-Sharif, who conducted a workshop for 26 photographers in Sana’a’s Change Square, said that many felt encouraged to take natural pictures.

Because of the country’s security situation, many photographers face psychological stress trying to take pictures in Yemen, according to Al-Sharif. She said that most of the 26 photographers she trained felt they could not take good pictures during protests because they were too busy worrying about their safety.

“In protests, photographers feel afraid because of snipers,” she explained. “Photographers are threatened with death yet nobody admits their importance here.

“They do not feel confident and are not comfortable in the field. Intimidation, beatings, kidnappings and arrests have become commonplace for journalists and photographers covering the protests against President Ali Abdullah Saleh.”

Taking a natural shot

Even aside from controversial photos of conflict and the current crisis, most Yemeni photographers agree that it is very difficult to take a natural picture of people here.

Sami Al-Ansi, a Yemeni photographer with Agance France Press (AFP) said that he struggles to take natural pictures.

“In Yemen people gather in front of the camera and when I finish, they follow me from location to location just to see what I’m doing or to be in my shots one more time,” said Al-Ansi.

Al-Ansi was in Cairo last month and he found “a big difference compared to Yemen. People there never ask why I am taking pictures and very few looked into the camera or gathered around each other with big smiles for a photo like Yemenis do. They act normally as if nobody’s taking a picture for them.”

Al-Ansi said that he always finds “funny people ruining his work” with silly behavior in front of the camera while he is reporting live.

“I was asking people’s point of view on something in the street and suddenly one of those funny people stood in my shot and shouted the name of another journalist ‘Hammoud Munasser, Al-Arabya, Sana’a!’ he yelled.”

Posing for females

Gender and nationality also play a role in the types of shots you get or the reaction from Yemenis. Iman Al-Awami, also a freelance photographer, said that it is easier for her to work as a photographer as people, especially men, pose for pictures, saying cheese with a big grin.

Once men notice her, they gather in front of the camera asking her to take pictures for them. Al-Awami said they even follow her around until she shows them her pictures.

On the contrary, she finds great difficulty when shooting women or even places where women accidentally walk into shot.

“One day I was shooting in the Old City of Sana’a and as I took a picture of a building, a woman walked in front of me. She stopped and asked that I delete the picture even though she was covered from head to toe,” Al-Awami said.

“One day, I was with working with foreigners and we were in front of a girl’s school where we were taking pictures of little children. But very soon their parents came out and started shouting at us.” She said.

“They wanted to take the cameras but we spent a lot of time convincing them that we would not use the pictures.”

The female photographer said that, nevertheless, Yemenis are more likely to allow foreign photographers to take pictures of them. Al-Awami said that when she is with foreigners, “people are nicer”.

A photogenic Yemen

“On top of being the friendliest country I’ve ever visited, Yemen is the most photogenic,” said Carl Conraldi of Canada. “The portraits I’ve taken there are easily the best I’ve taken anywhere in the world,”

He said that people are so enthusiastic about being photographed. He could only recall one man refusing to have his photo taken – “out of literally hundreds”.

Conraldi added that it is really easy to take pictures of anti-Saleh protesters. The only time he felt the least bit afraid of taking photos was when he was approached by a “shady-looking young man” at Tahrir Square, where pro-government tents are pitched. The man told Conraldi that government thugs were watching him and that he should leave as soon as possible.

Conraldi had his camera temporarily confiscated by government soldiers while making for Change Square to listen to prominent cleric and Islah party leader Al-Zindani speak – but says that was just routine and not scary.

For Giulio Petrocco, a photographer from Italy, the people of Yemen are welcoming. He said that a lot of people were posing and that taking pictures of protesters against the government was easier.

“Yemenis in general are amongst the nicest people I ever met,” he said. “Whether pro or against Saleh, that did not matter. I was always treated well.”

Afraid of Photoshop

Salah Al-Deen Al-Juma’e, a psychology professor at Dhamar University, said that the reason why Yemenis welcome foreign photographers more that natives is that they feel afraid of the society itself.

There have been cases when some people in Yemen use peoples’ pictures in a bad way “like using Photoshop and making people naked,” said Al-Juma’e. In a conservative society like the Yemen, this is considered a scandal that might escalate as far as violence and even killings, he explained.

“However, Yemenis believe that foreigners simply take pictures and do not misuse them,” Al-Juma’e said, adding that educated people are more likely to allow someone to take their picture.

However, some people, Al-Juma’e said, believe that photography is forbidden in terms of religion and that’s why they refuse, believing that it is a sin for which they might go to hell.

Eric Lafforgue, a photographer from France, likes taking portraits.
For him Yemenis some of the best subject

Throwing stones

Eric Lafforgue, a photographer from France and a member of the European Agency for Photography, has been to Yemen six times.

Lafforgue agrees that Yemenis are welcoming. He said that had so many great places to visit, from the coast to hills and mountains, and such a rich cultural country. His specialty is portraits.

“Something I noticed in remote areas is that someone will stop and pose and few seconds later you have 20 people around him,” he said. “I like to take posed portraits and Yemenis are good models,” he said.

Lafforgue fist visited Yemen in 1973 but he and his father had a bad experience.

“I remember my father running away as locals threw stones,” he said, though he hasn’t had any similar experiences since.

Photographing conflict

Things have always been difficult but Al-Ansi explained that the political crisis has made it even harder to work. Now many people completely refuse to be on camera, while others stop him from filming until they know who he is working for.

Al-Ansi has been attacked by pro-government forces twice. But his friend, Hassan Al-Wadhaf, 25, a cameraman for the Arabic Media Agency, was not lucky enough to get away with his life. He died after being shot in the face by a sniper loyal to the government in September leaving behind a pregnant wife and baby daughter.

“I cannot carry a big camera anymore. Sometimes, I do not know whether I am going to get back home safe or if my wife will receive bad news about me one day,” he said.

Sami Al-Ansi, a freelance videographer and journalist,
said that photojournalism in Yemen difficult and dangerous,
needing a lot of focus and an ability to accommodate people.

People’s reactions to photographers depends both on their political affiliations and who you are working for, according to Salah Al-Hitar, a freelance Yemeni photographer who worked for both Suhail and Al-Aqeeq channels, one with the regime and the other with the opposition.

“If you are working with a pro-regime organization and take pictures for people with the regime, no one will say anything. But if you are trying to take pictures of the president’s supporters while working with the opposition, you might have problems,” said Al-Hitar.

One day Al-Hitar was doing a documentary on the damage caused by heavy shelling in Al-Hasaba when he was caught by Al-Ahmar tribesmen who interrogated him, asking him why he was filming in the area.

“When they realized that I was doing a documentary on the damage in Al-Hasaba [where clashes between the tribesmen and regime forces took place], they released me,” he said.

But sometimes he might get into trouble before anyone even asks who he’s working for or what he’s doing.

Outside Sana’a airport, Al-Hitar was hit by a man, who then ran off before he was able to do anything, though he was not seriously injured.

Even before the political uprising against Saleh’s regime began in February, photographers and filmmakers faced problems getting the shots they needed.

“Two years ago I was making a documentary on pesticides when people gathered around me and questioned me on why I was making the video,” he said.

“I had to argue instead of filming,” he added. “They wanted to take my camera.”

Al-Hitar recalled a day he was taking pictures of the long lines of cars waiting to fill up with petrol when “the owner of the petrol station came out with a machine gun threatening that if we did not leave he would open fire”.

“They consider cameras fatal weapons.”

There is clearly a significant difference in terms of the experiences of people taking pictures of the Arab and West, between Yemen and other Arab countries. But there are many reasons for this; culture and education both play a role while Yemen’s traditional, conservative society plays a big role, as Mohammd Al-Sayaghi, a photographer with the state news agency, Saba, explained.

Being a photojournalist in Yemen is a difficult and dangerous profession that needs a lot of focus and the ability to accommodate people with different perspectives and views – but in a country with a photo opportunity on every corner, Yemen is also one of the most rewarding places to work.

Cheaper houses make random cities

6 Dec

Most buildings in Yemen do not get the final touches of urban style. People believe it is extravagant to spend money on materials to decorate the outward look of their houses.By: Malak ShaherPublished:06-12-2010
The first thing to be noticed by someone having a tour around the cities of Yemen is the unorganized and random style of the buildings. In fact, it is not only the random style of the buildings which disturbs the final look of the city, but also the urban planning of Yemeni cities.Unfortunately, the organization of buildings in Yemeni cities suffer from a severe deficiency of urban planning. People have been competing to buy cheaper plots of land which are not included in the designs of the General Authority for Urban Planning.In Sana’a there has been an increasing problem in terms of residential expansion. With the passage of the time and the rapid increase in population, new houses are eating away at the green lands surrounding Sana’a. Lands that are not included in the authority’s design of the city, according to a study by Mohammad Al-Toloo’ titled ‘Residential expansion in Yemen, Sana’a is an example.’

During the last 30 years, people from all Yemeni governorates have been flowing into Sana’a looking for work and opportunities. After the First Gulf War in the early 90s, Yemeni expatriates returned to their homeland in droves. The population, especially in Sana’a, rapidly increased. In fact, it has increased from 162,000 in 1977 to more than 1.7 million in 2010.

The study stated that Yemen’s population is increasing by 3.7 percent. In Sana’a, a mere 555 square kms, the population is increasing by 7.7 percent.

Nevertheless, the buildings in Sana’a do not cover the whole ground area of Sana’a, as there are some vacant spaces yet to be filled. The study claims that the area of Sana’a could support 5 million people, while the current population has not yet exceeded 2 million.

Since many of those looking for opportunities in Sana’a had very little money, they bought cheap plots of land in the suburbs surrounding the city. Many built cheap houses on the land with little, if any, planning approval. These suburbs had no public services and were not included in the plan of the city.

“This explains why people tend to go to further areas which are not planned yet. They simply prefer to go further and pay less money, than buying a land plot in a planed area inside the city of Sana’a with more expensive prices,” according to Al-Toloo’.

Sana’a threatening to absorb nearby village land

There is a common belief, especially among the poor, that there is no use in paying a lot more money for land in expensive planned areas.

“This is the only place I managed to get a house. It is very expensive to buy a house in the city center because the land there is very expensive,” said Mohammad Al-Ubaidi, a resident on Airport Street which is an hour from the city center.

For Al-Ubaidi, who used to live in a village near Sana’a, it is cheaper to have a house near his village which is also considered ‘in the city’. He said that he wanted a better opportunity for his children in the city.

In Sana’a, this is also the case for hundreds of thousands of people who came from surrounding villages and other governorates.

This has become a challenge for the government, as these randomly erected suburbs have spread widely, sometimes even absorbing villages near Sana’a. Eventually, these outlying areas and villages become part of Sana’a city, and should be provided with public services such as electricity and water.

Sometimes when a design for a new road is outlined, the location of the main road is already occupied by houses. Therefore, the government needs to pay money to compensate people whose houses are destroyed when the land becomes part of the road system. Many other unplanned houses have had to be knocked down to make way for planned urban development.

Buildings in Sana’a are stretching to the north and south, as Sana’a is surrounded by mountains on the east and west. These residential expansions are increasingly threatening the green plains in villages adjacent to Sana’a to the north and the south of the city.

Problems of current city planning

Sana’a city doesn’t only have unplanned buildings, but also some buildings that are included in the plan of the city, but are badly deteriorating due to old age. According to Toloo’, there are also 35 slums around the planned city of Sana’a, which were established by residents in a totally unplanned way.

“In my point of view, Sana’a city is not only suffering from an unplanned residential extension, but also from deteriorating houses inside the city, and slums around the city,” said Al-Toloo’.

Moreover, the houses are not numbered and often the only way to get to a place in these areas is by memorizing a well-known place or landmark that is nearby.

The buildings are not erected based on any style outlined by the Supreme Council for Urban Planning. In fact, they are built according to the design that pleases the owner of the house, which often is the cheapest design. This has resulted in houses with the most “common random unplanned design,” said Al-Toloo’.

The council has been negligent for years in not outlining the limits of residential expansion. In general, most of the plans for urban areas are made after the area is already full of unorganized buildings, the study said.

It was recommended that the Ministry of Labor and General Works should implement rules for erecting buildings and planning streets such that the final look of the city looks more developed.

Sana’a in 2005
Sana’a in 2020

Questions remain for Sana’a University students

28 Nov

Malak Shaher

Yemen Times


Sana’a, Nov. 27 — Students of Sana’a University are worried about resuming study at the headquarters of Sana’a University, where protesters have been demanding an end to Saleh’s regime.

Arbil Nasr, a sophomore student at the Faculty of Languages, said that she is concerned as she does not know where she and her colleagues are going to study in the coming days.

The Student Union at Sana’a University and the Teachers’ Syndicate said yesterday that lessons at Sana’a University’s headquarters are to be resumed on Monday.

According to Ma’een Al-Towaity, a soldier with the defected First Armored Division, they were told they would be evacuating Sana’a University and other schools within the next month.

However, Khaled Tumaim, the President of Sana’a University, told state news agency Saba that studying would not resume until the soldiers had first evacuated the university.

“Study should not be involved in any kind of political conflict. I want to focus on my studies and I do not know if we are going to continue studying in tents or at Sana’a University,” said Nasr.

Since September, Sana’a University students have been studying in tents in Sa’wan as an alternative while the university is occupied by soldiers of the defected army.

The union and the syndicate said at an opening ceremony at the Faculty of Law and Order on Sunday that study should resume.

Khalil Al-Ma’mari from the Student Union said that both the union and the syndicate have given Sana’a University’s leadership two weeks to decide whether or not study will resume on the grounds of the university.

If they do not respond, the union and the syndicate of the teachers in Sana’a and Amran will hold elections to appoint new faculty deans, according to the Student Union.

Al-Ma’mari said that Ali Muhsen Al-Ahmar, the leader of the defected first Armored Division, agreed to withdraw all soldiers from the university.

But to date, neither the presidency of Sana’a University nor the Student Union, who joined the revolution, have met to discuss a mechanism for resuming study.

“It has become a matter of conflict between the regime and the opposition. Each wants to make students study in the place they choose,” said Shady Yaseen, a junior student at Faulty of Mass Communication and member of the revolution.

Yaseen said that he would not be able to attend a lecture by professors who have been campaigning against revolutionaries.

“I respect everyone’s political affiliation but I cannot attend a lecture with a professor that has been against me as a revolutionary,” he said.