In my last edition of Petit World, I showed a picture of the following structure and asked you to guess its name and its locale. The hint I provided was: the structure is a former palace. It looks as if it has grown from the rocks. An iconic symbol of the country of it’s origin, it is characteristic of the country’s architecture. Many pictures of it can be found on magazines, post cards, etc. Alone, it sits perched in a desert area.

The correct answer is Dar Al Hajar. It is located in Yemen. Of all the responses I received, Lori M. was the first to submit the correct response. Bravo Lori and thank you to all of you who submitted responses!

An assignment for a non-governmental organization I worked for a few years ago took me to Yemen. I went to monitor a few development projects and conduct an assessment for another program proposal. Although beautiful, there are great needs and challenges in Yemen as it is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the Arab world.

As part of my preparation for my visit, I read travel writer Freya Stark’s A Winter In Arabia: A Journey Through Yemen. Ms. Stark was considered one of the most unconventional and courageous explorers of her time. This book recounts her expedition in Yemen in the late 1930’s. I was not able to travel the country as she did, but I understood what Ms. Stark meant when she described the land whose “nakedness is clothed in shreds of departed splendor” and of it’s “perpetual charm.”

Although Yemen has been in the news in recent years due to its civil unrest, little has been said of its charm, beauty, history, delicious food, and remarkable architecture that has survived hundreds of years. Yemen is one of the oldest centers in the Near East. It’s capital and largest city is Sana’a, a city hardly touched by Western influences.

Approximately 15 kilometers from Sana’a is Dar Al Hajar (pictured above). It is an iconic symbol of Yemen that stands alone, perched atop a protruding rock in the Wadi Dhahr Valley—a dry and beautiful land of rocks and sun, with quiet villages and clay-walled orchards. Once a summer residence for Yemen’s Imam (spiritual leader), this Rock Palace is now a museum.

A living museum in itself is the Old City of Sana’a. Sana’a is not a large city by global standards, but it holds a great treasure, the Old City. A UNESCO World Heritage site since the 1980s, it is a magnificent city. Its architectural beauty has been a source of inspiration to many writers, architects and poets. This ancient Old City is truly a hidden jewel of exquisite centuries old architecture.

I loved losing track of time as I strolled through the souk (market) in the Old City. It was filled with old, valuable, and one of a kind treasures—colorful woven baskets, tribal jewelry, accordion lanterns, wood-carvings, vintage spice boxes, grains, honey, oils, and more….

Ahh, every time I think of Yemen I can’t wait to go back. It is a fascinating place that I would like my son to one day see and experience for himself. One day…. Until then, he’ll have to settle for my photos and stories.

5 thoughts on “A Little Piece of Yemen

    1. Hi Ashley, Thank you so much for two blogger awards, it’s so very generous of you! I appreciate it!

      I’m enjoying your beautiful blog with lovely photographs and recipes. So I’m honored to make your list of awardees. Thanks again Ashley!

      Have a great weekend,
      Martine

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