Jabal Haraz

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Jabal Haraz is a picturesque mountain region of Yemen, between Sana'a and al-Hudayda. In the 11th century it was the stronghold of the Sulaihid dynasty, many of whose buildings survive.[1]

History and location[edit]

Because of its location between the Tihamah coastal plain and Sana'a, this mountainous area has always been strategically important. A caravan stopping point during the Himyarite Kingdom, the Haraz was later the stronghold of the Sulaihid State which was established in Yemen in 1037. Then and subsequently the population have been Ism'aili Muslims.

Haraz is as famous for the beauty of its landscapes as for its fortified villages clinging to nearly inaccessible rocky peaks. Their imposing architecture meets two needs, defending the villagers while leaving plenty of space for crops. Each town is built like a castle; the houses themselves form the wall, equipped with one or two easily defensible doors. Constructed from sandstone and basalt, the buildings are perfectly integrated into the landscape and it is difficult to tell where the rock and the village begins or ends. The mountain is divided into terraces of a few acres or more, separated by walls sometimes several meters high. On these remarkable terraced fields grow alfalfa for livestock, millet, lentils, large areas for coffee and qat.

Within a day's journey are Banu Mora and other villages located on the ridge overlooking Manakhah. Manakhah is the heart of this prosperous mountain range, a large town whose market attracts villagers from the entire neighbourhood. Al Hajjara, to the west of Manakhah, is a beautiful walled village whose citadel was founded in the 12th century by the Sulaihids. From there, other villages are accessible, such as Bayt al-Qamus and Bayt Shimran . The village of Hutaib is built on a platform of red sandstone, facing a magnificent view of terraced hills which host a score of villages. Here also is the mausoleum of the third Yemeni "dai" Hatim al-Hamdi. Bohras from India, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Madagascar gather here. The local Ismailis have tarred the roads, and paved the streets for their believers, without damaging the landscape.

World Heritage Status[edit]

This area was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List on July 8, 2002, in the mixed (cultural and natural) category, as a site that has "outstanding universal value".[1]

References[edit]