1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Sana

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SANA (Senā‘a), a town in S. Arabia, the capital of the Turkish vilayet of Yemen. It is situated in 15° 22′ N. and 44° 10′ E. in a broad valley running nearly N. and S., 7250 m. above sea-level, on the E. slope of the great meridional range, over which the road runs to Hodeda, on the Red Sea coast 130 m. distant, crossing the Karn al Wa‘l pass, over 9000 m., about 25 m. W. of the city. The mean temperature of the year is 60° F., with a summer maximum of 77°, and a regular rainfall which falls chiefly during the S.W. monsoon from June to September. The usual cereals, fruits and vegetables of the temperate zone, wheat, barley, apples, apricots, vines, potatoes, cabbages, beans, &c., are abundant and excellent.

The town consists of three parts — (1) the Medina, the old city, now the Arab quarter, on the E. containing the principal mosques, baths, &c., with the citadel, el Kasr, at its S.E. corner at the foot of Jebel Nukum on the crest of which 2000 m. above the valley are the ruins of the old fort of el Birash, traditionally attributed to Shem the son of Noah, and the Mutawakkil, formerly containing the palace and gardens of the imams, covering its W. face; (2) the Bir Azab W. of the city, consisting of detached houses and gardens, chiefly occupied by the higher Turkish officials, and (3) on the extreme W. the Ka‘el Yahud or Jewish quarter. The city with the Kasr and Mutawakkil is surrounded by ramparts built of clay and sun-dried brick, 25 to 30 m. high and of great thickness. The Bir Azab and Kafel Yahud are enclosed in a similar enceinte but of more recent construction, connected with that of the city by the Mutawakkil; the whole forms a rough figure of eight, some 2½ m. long from E. to W., and ¾ m. in breadth. The walls are pierced by several gates; the principal are the Bab esh Shu‘b and the Bab el Yemen in the N. and S. faces of the city respectively, and the Bab es Sabah in its W. face leading into the Mutawakkil, and thence by a broad street through the Bir Azab and Kafel Yahud to the Bah el Ka’, the main entrance to the town from the Hodeda road. The city itself has narrow, paved streets, with massive, flat-roofed houses of several storeys, and many extensive groups of buildings, mosques, serais and baths. The Jāmi ‘Masjid, or principal mosque, stands on the site of the Christian church built by Abraha ruler of Yemen during the period of Ethiopian domination, about a.d. 530. It consists of a great rectangular courtyard paved with granite, surrounded by a triple arcade, the domed roofs of which are supported by numerous columns of stone or brick; in the centre there is a model of the Ka‘ at Mecca covered with stone flags of various colours arranged chequer-wise. Among the other mosques, of which there are forty-eight in all, that of Salah ed din with its beautiful minaret is one of the finest. Of the Kasr Ghumdan and other ancient buildings, the splendours of which were sung by the poets of the early days of Islam, nothing but mutilated ruins remain; the old palace of the imams, the Mutawakkil, was destroyed during the years of anarchy preceding the Turkish occupation, and the site is now occupied by a military hospital standing in well-kept gardens. The houses consist generally of a ground floor built of dressed stone, surmounted by two or three storeys of burnt brick; as a rule the lower storey has no openings but an arched doorway; the façade of the upper storeys is pierced by long narrow window recesses, divided into three parts, the lowest of which forms a square window closed by carved wooden shutters, while the upper ones contain round or pointed windows fitted with coloured glass, or thin slabs of alabaster which admit a subdued light.

The valley in which Sana lies is generally sterile, but in places where water is brought from the hill streams on the W. fields of barley, lucerne and market gardens are to be seen, particularly at Randa, the garden suburb, 6 m. N. of the town, and in the deep gorges of the Wadi Dhahr and W. Hadda, the terraced orchards of which are celebrated for their fine fruit-trees. The water supply of the town is derived from numerous wells, and from the Ghail Aswad, a small canal which supplies the military cantonment outside and S. of the walls, and runs through the gardens in the Mutawakkil.

The population was estimated by R. Manzoni in 1887 at 20,000 Arabs, 3000 Turks and 1700 Jews, or less than 25,000 altogether; H. Burchardt in 1891 put it at 50,000; the city has, however, suffered severely from the state of unrest which has been chronic in Yemen since 1893, and more particularly in 1905, when it was taken by the insurgents, and held by them for three months, and the actual numbers at present do not probably exceed Manzoni's estimate.

Arabic writers give many discordant and fabulous traditions about the oldest history of Sana and its connexion with the ancient kingdom of Ḥimyar. But most agree that its oldest name was Azāl, which seems to be the same word with Uzal in Gen. x. 27. A Himyarite nation of Auzalites occurs in a Syriac writer of the 6th century. The better-informed Arab writers knew also that the later name is due to the Abyssinian conquerors of Yemen, and that it meant in their language “fortified” (Bakrī, p. 606; Noldeke, Gesch. d. Pers. u. Arab. p. 187). Sana became the capital of the Abyssinian Abraha (c. 530 a.d.) who built here the famous church (Kalis), which was destroyed two centuries later by order of the caliph Manşur (Azraki, p. 91). Authorities. — Niebuhr, Travels in Arabia (Amsterdam, 1774); R. Manzoni, Il Yemen (Rome, 1884); D. Charnay and A. Deilers, Excursions au Yēmen. Tour du monde (Paris, No. 24, 1898).

(R. A. W.)