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Experience the Rich Heritage and Cultural Treasures of the Shaharah, Yemen

Shaharah or Shehara is a large mountain village and seat of Shaharah District of the ‘Amran Governorate, Yemen.  If you look at Yemen’s 10-rial coin, you will see one of the most beloved landmarks of the nation: the Shaharah bridge, a narrow stone construct that somehow, almost impossibly, spans a deep ravine to reach the village of Shaharah in one of the most important historical districts of the country. The bridge was built in 1904 to link Jabal (Mt.) Al-Emir with Jabal Faish to ensure safe travel on and defense of the precipitous slopes. The bridge itself is near the summits of the peaks. Hundreds of tourists from all over the world come to Shaharah each year to explore the rich heritage and cultural treasures of the city, with the famous bridge being just the starting point.
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Shaharah is presently designated a district of the Governorate of Amran, about 120km north of the local capital. It was previously part of the Governorate of Hajjah.

The two mountains of Shaharah, now known as Al-Emir and Faish, have had a number of names through history. One name, Al-Mu’attiq, is probably related to its height and inaccessibility. Some sources say that the name Al-Mu’attiq comes from the story of a slave who took the mountain as a refuge from his master. The slave’s master was unable to reach the heights, and so hence the name.
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The mountain was also called Al-Mashtur because it was divided in two, with a gap in between extending along the north side under the Nahir gate, one of the four main gates into the city.

Prince Mohammed, whose nickname was Dhi Al-Sharfin, chased the Sulaihins here in the 5th century AH and defeated them in battle, taking the city as a shield. He built 511 houses and brought about the name Al-Emir’s Shaharah.
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Shaharah was also known as Faish City because one of its doors was named for a Himyarite ruler, Al-Qil Dhi Faish Al-Himyari.

Shaharah is distinguished for its attractive scenery and historical treasures. The city is divided into 16 old residential districts, each with a mosque and cistern. In the center of the city, the main market is very much like Suq Al-Milh in Old Sana’a.
The most famous sight is the bridge, which had a defensive purpose. It was built by Al-Asta Saleh Al-Suaidi 200 meters above the valley floor. It is 20 meters long, built by traditional means.

The city also has a number of ancient castles, citadels and mosques. The Jamaa Al-Kabir (Great Mosque), which is in the center of the historic city, is considered unique in terms of architecture alone. It was built by the Imam Al-Qassim, who died in 1028 AH. It is still used as a gathering place for Friday prayers every week. Outside the mosque are three domes, the tombs of eminent scholars and ancient rulers of Shaharah.
Among Yemeni cities, Shaharah stands distinguished for its cultural value because of the contributions in has made to literature, poetry, and the judiciary system. One of the most prominent poets to originate there was Zainab Al-Shahariah (1114 AH). Shaharah was also a home and training center for many famous revolutionaries and warriors.
Despite being on top of a mountain, it was not historically invulnerable to invasion, so the wise residents found means of defending themselves. A high long wall was built around the city covering a total length of about 8km. Every access-point had a door and a guard tower with weapons stores for soldiers. The wall has eight gates, four of them major portals and four of them minor.
The main gates are named Bab Al-Nasser, Bab Al-Naher, Bab Al-Silal, and Bab Shaharah Al-Faish. Visitors to the city had to enter through these doors. The sub-gates are Bab Al-Haram, Bab Al-Jazir (the Bridge-Gate), Bab Al-Suaid, and Bab Al-Sirueh.
Most of the old buildings of Shaharah are four stories high; the Shaharah Citadel has fifty rooms, towers at its east gate, a mosque and a pool. The strong, thick wooden gate of the citadel is especially awe-inspiring. The citadel includes underground granaries carved into the stone of the mountain, a bakery, a small barracks with secret passages, and a pool used for swimming and irrigation.
Elsewhere in the city, visitors can enjoy the sights of a number of other famous buildings, all featuring the distinctive architectural style of this wonderfully attractive city.

Source:  yobserver.com


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