Did you know?: The Old City of Sana'a

Old City of Sanaa, Yemen © Oleg Znamenskiy/ Shutterstock.com

We invite you to join us each week for Did you know? articles which adhere to preselected themes. Knowledge and appreciation of these subjects helps to preserve, diffuse, and promote elements of our common heritage of the Silk Roads.

“A trip down the ancient route is not only a glimpse into history – it is a preview of the future"  - Andrew MacLeod

Understanding the exchanges between different cultures and people along the Silk Roads, is not possible without the knowledge about major cities that were considered as centres for commercial, cultural and other reencounters. Situated at the crossroads between the Indian Ocean, Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, Sana’a in Yemen, is one of the major cities that has played an important role as a hub for commercial and cultural interactions in the Arabian Peninsula where frequent travellers, traders and scholars met their peers.  

The unique and authentic urban architecture of the Old City of Sana'a is a result and a testament to the cultural interactions that occurred over two millennia. Initially founded in the 2nd century BC, the urban design of the city was continually enhanced, thanks to a diversity of designs and materials that were imported into the city by travellers and visitors. By the 8th century C.E, Islamic culture displayed a significant role in the development of urban architecture and cultural life of this city.

The typical Sana’a houses, called “tower houses”, the Great Mosque of Sana’a (Mosque Al-Kabir) and the Ghamdan Palace all represent this cultural diversity. It is believed that the latter has been founded by the son of Noah (Sam).

Moreover, Sana’a has been a city that hosts people of different cultures and religions. This is evident in the urban planning of the city, which is designed in a way that has been divided into three parts corresponding to different cultural communities. The largest was the eastern part of Sana'a where there were public houses and markets. The central part of the city was comprised of the Palace and gardens, and the western part was mainly Jewish.

Thanks to these exchanges along the Silk Roads, over centuries, Sana’a has retained its importance as one of the most influential commercial and cultural centres in the Arab World and beyond. 


See also:

World Heritage Convention: The Old City of Sana’a

Izmir and the Silk Roads

Baghdad and the Silk Roads

The Perception of Astrology

Astronomy along the Silk Roads

Mapping and Compilation of the World Maps along the Silk Roads

Muslim Presence in the Korean Peninsula

Muslim Monopoly along the Silk Roads

The Interconnections between Portuguese and Malay languages

Oman region, a Hub on the Maritime Trade Routes

Interactions between Indian Subcontinent and Western Land during Roman Empire

Trade Routes in Himalayan India

Pakistan and the Silk Roads

The Anatolian Silk Roads

The Silk Routes of the Mongols

The Southern Silk Roads

The Great Silk Roads


This platform has been developed and maintained with the support of:


UNESCO Headquarters

7 Place de Fontenoy

75007 Paris, France

Social and Human Sciences Sector

Research, Policy and Foresight Section

Silk Roads Programme


Follow us