Zabid Historical Town – World Cultural Heritage in Yemen

Zabid’s domestic and military architecture and urban planning make it an outstanding archaeological and historical site. Besides being the capital of Yemen from the 13th to the 15th centuries, the city also played an important role in the Arab and Muslim world for centuries because of its Islamic university.

Accreditation year: 1993
Criteria: (ii)(iv)(vi)
Province of d’al-Hudayda
Heritage in peril

Outstanding global value

Zabid is one of the coastal towns in the Tehama region of western Yemen, perched on a hill that rises above the confluence of rivers and fertile floodplains. It was a circular fortified town with four remaining gates, fed by extensive canals. It flourished when Islam was established in the region in the 7th century. Its growth was attributed to Ibn Ziyad (founder of the Zyadite dynasty), who was sent to the area by Caliph al-Mamun. in 820 AD to quell a rebellion.

The core of the town is its first mosque, Asa’ir. The Grand Mosque is located on the west side of town, where souq is spread. Zabid has the highest density of mosques in Yemen, about 86 in total, mostly simple brick structures but some with intricately carved brick and mortar decoration. Fourteen of these date to the Rasulid period – all madrasa – and are the largest group of works from this period in Yemen.

A network of narrow alleys stretches across the town and its indigenous buildings, typical of the southern Arabian peninsula, give the town outstanding visual qualities. The houses, built of burnt bricks, have a similar plan with the reception room, the murabba, opening onto a closed courtyard. Larger homes span two or three stories and have beautiful, sophisticated interiors with intricately carved brick walls, alcoves and ceilings.

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The city with its narrow streets, traditional houses and minarets is an outstanding example of a homogeneous architectural ensemble that reflects the spatial character of the early years of Islam. Around town are cemeteries, notably the one in the northwest with a mosque, a well, and shady trees.

Zabid played an important role in the spread of Islam thanks to its Islamic university (ancient mosques and madrasa received students from all over the world to acquire Islamic knowledge). religion and the study of various sciences (significantly developed by Islamic scientists that contribute to the advancement of science).

Criterion (ii): Zabid has special archaeological and historical importance thanks to its domestic and military architecture as well as urban planning (the only city in Yemen built in harmony with the layout of the city). of a typical Muslim town with its mosque and central bazaar, along with houses providing privacy). Its architecture profoundly influenced the architecture of the coastal plain of Yemen.

Criterion (iv): The domestic and military architecture of Zabid, the layout of its urban structures and defenses is reflected in the ruins of the city walls, watchtowers and citadels, as well as indirect entrances that serve as making it an outstanding archaeological and historical site. Zabid’s domestic architecture is the most distinctive example of the Tihama courtyard house style, found over a large area in the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula.

Criterion (vi): The historic town of Zabid is closely related to the history of the spread of Islam in the early years of the Hijra as evidenced in the archaeological remains in the Alash’ar Mosque, attached associated with Al-Alash’ari, one of the companions of the Prophet Mohammad, who built it to become the fifth mosque in Islam. Besides being the capital of Yemen from the 13th to the 15th centuries, the town played an important role in the Arab and Muslim world for many centuries as it was one of the important centers for the spread of knowledge. Islamic knowledge.

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Integrity (2010)

The right size of the property represents all the necessary elements and components of domestic and military architecture, urban structural layout and defense, making it a great location. Archaeological and historical highlights. However, the recent construction of concrete buildings, the installation of electrical systems with overhead cables, and the increasing use of modern materials such as concrete and corrugated steel sheets, also such as encroachment on open space, is seriously eroding that integrity.

The visual and physical integrity of the property is so threatened by these new developments and encroachments that up to 40% of structures are vulnerable. There is an urgent need to halt this decline and reverse unwanted changes.

Authenticity (2010)

Properties that convey Outstanding Universal Value, such as mosques, city layouts and traditional buildings are susceptible to decay, changes in the form and materials of buildings, as well as the spread of new, inconsistent developments north and east of the city. However, even under threat, a certain degree of authenticity persists and can be enhanced if traditional urban layouts and buildings are restored to allow for Outstanding Universal Value to be recognised. more complete transmission. There is an urgent need to reverse downtrends.

Requirements for protection and management (2010)

The historic town of Zabid is protected by the Antiquities Law of 1973. A Master Plan for the entire city was approved in 2004 and an Urban Conservation Plan is currently being prepared. The management plan for the property will follow the preparation of an Urban Conservation Plan. The Law on Conservation of Historic Cities will be unified and enforced in the near future.

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The body responsible for the property is GOPHCY (General Organization for the Conservation of Historic Cities in Yemen), established in 1990 with the aim of managing and protecting all of Yemen’s historic cities.

Since 2007, the local branch of GOPHCY in Zabid has been consolidated, with the support of a project managed by German Technical Assistance (GTZ), which aims to tackle the severe deterioration of the country’s economy. city ​​and improve its overall economic, social and physical conditions. through the operation of a home improvement program and an infrastructure improvement project.

To be able to fully meet the requirements for long-term and sustainable conservation of the site, and in the medium term to reverse the downward trends that are threatening the Outstanding Universal Value of the site, GOPHCY will need substantial support, resources, capacity building, as well as technical and financial support.

Map of the historic town of Zabid

Video of the historic town of Zabid

See also: UNESCO World Cultural/Natural Heritage Sites

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