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Yemeni Kingdom of Saba’, ancient civilization on brink of ruin

The Kingdom of Saba’, an ancient civilization once home to a highly advanced prosperous nation now standing on the brink of ruin, was put on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger, a resolution protecting it from the woes of crises. On the 25th of January, during a UNESCO meeting in Paris and chaired by Saudi Arabia, the congregation decided on protecting the ancient civilization from the detriments of a war-torn country.

Yemeni Minister of Information and Culture Muammar Al-Eryan commented in a press statement that this underscores the individual and authentic nature of the Yemeni civilization. The decision, he added, urged Yemeni government to invite specialists to examine the sites, submit reports and provide necessary materials. Permanent Yemeni delegation to UNESCO mentioned in a statement that this monumental achievement not only holds exceptional global significance but is also an appreciation of the Yemeni civilization.

The sites of Saba’ sprawl across Marib governorate, comprised of seven sites bearing witness to the architectural and technological advancements of a civilization dating back to the first millennia BC and extending all the way to the Islamic era. These sites tell the story of highly intricate centralized management of a trading nation that reigned over Bakhour (Arabian Incense) road across the Arabian peninsula, and contributed to a wide range of cultural exchange prompted by trade with Mediterranean and north Africa.

Standing in the midst of barren lands, rocky mountain and steep valleys, the sites display an advanced irrigation system, unrivaled by any in the area, contributed to establishing the largest manmade oasis in the region. Queen Balqees’ throne, is perhaps the most famed archeological site, was built during her reign in the 10th century BC. The temple was enshrined in sands until 1988 when the sands were swept away unveiling geometric harmonized shapes; six adorned pillars standing 12 meters high and weighing around 17 tons, a front yard with a well in its midst, alabaster seats and a clay wall with towers and a north-facing gate surrounding it.

As for the temple of Awwam, one of the oldest temples in the Arabian peninsula where pilgrims from all over the peninsula flocked to worship the lunar deity, is enclosed by a wall inlaid with stones and carrying ancient Arabian inscriptions, the Musnad script. The Great Dam of Marib, an architectural wonder built in first millennia BC, was erected to capture monsoonal rains and serve around 98,000 square kilometers of farming lands.

The complex design stands 15 meters high extends for about 650 meters with many entryways opening and closing to manage the accumulated waters. The Yemeni war threatening to demolish all the stands in its way, coupled with natural factors, had the Yemeni government determined on protecting its valuable heritage, especially as much of it remains undiscovered. The recent UNESCO resolution, which facilitates international technical and financial aid, could perhaps save history from blowing away into the wind. – KUNA

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