UNESCO Produces a Video Series Celebrating Yemen’s Rich Culture Heritage

In collaboration with the European Union, UNESCO and RNW Media produced five-episode video series titled Turathna, Our Heritage, to highlight the historical cities targeted in the UNESCO EU cash-for-work project to a larger audience. The series is part of a large cultural awareness-raising campaign to celebrate Yemen’s rich cultural heritage. The video series reflected Sanaa, Aden, and Shibam. The videos were hosted by a well-known Yemeni female travel vlogger Somaya Jamal who have explored traveling outside of her home country and has longed to produce content explore its diverse historic cities. Her return home after a number of years in the diaspora was to produce the video series. The episodes mainly focused on providing information about the cities, their handicrafts, traditions, investments in cultural heritage, and calling for the preservation of cultural heritage.

The initial plan was to highlight the four targeted historic cities of Aden, Sana’a Shibam and Zabid. However, for limitation of access and security, the filmmaking crew was not able to create a video from the city. Two additional videos were added to show the rich cultural heritage of Dar Al-Hajr and Al-Mahweet.

The popularity of the video series reached one million views as of March 2020 and resulted in requests by local Yemeni TV channels to rebroadcast them for much larger viewers.

Episode 1: Old Walled City of Shibam

The Walled City of Shibam is a unique desert town of mud-built tower houses. It is one of the oldest and best examples of urban planning based on the principle of vertical construction. Its impressive tower-like structures rise out of the cliff and have given the city the nickname of ‘the Manhattan of the desert’.

The dense layout of Shibam surrounded by contiguous tower houses within the outer walls expressed an urban response to the need for refuge and protection by rival families, as well as their economic and political prestige. As such the old walled city of Shibam and its setting in Wadi Hadramaut constitute an outstanding example of human settlement, land use and city planning. The domestic architecture of Shibam including its visual impact rising out of the flood plain of the wadi, functional design, materials and construction techniques is an outstanding but extremely vulnerable expression of Arab and Muslim traditional culture.

Episode 2: Old City of Sana’a

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.

Episode 3: Historic City of Aden

Aden is situated along the north coast of the Gulf of Aden and lies on a peninsula enclosing the eastern side of Al-Tawāhī Harbour. The peninsula enclosing the western side of the harbor is called Little Aden. The city holds historical significance as a former colonial city in South Arabia which has affected the architectural style of the city.

Episode 4: Dar Alhajar Palace

Dar Alhajar Palace was built top a tall natural rock spire by the late Imam Yahya Muhammad Hamiddin. The tall castle was intended to be the Imam’s summer home, and featured a number of facilities including appointment rooms for his highly appointed guests and separate spaces for cooling water in earthen jars. Currently, the palace is being used as a touristic attraction and a hub of cultural heritage income-generating activities.

Episode 5: Old Town of Al Mahwit

Al Mahwit is an old town situated in the northern highlands of Yemen. The town’s unique architectural style and use of building materials is influenced by the surrounding environment. The episode takes the audience to explore the town’s cultural heritage and the people who have inhabited it for centuries.