Saturday, December 1, 2012

Dar al-Hajar, the Rock Palace

Perched atop a rock pinnacle at the famous Wadi Dhahr Valley, some 15 km away from the capita city of Sana, Yemen, is Dar al-Hajar, better known as the Imam's Rock Palace. It is an iconic symbol of Yemen, whose picture you can find on postcards and magazines to bills and water bottles.

What makes the building so attractive is perhaps because it is exemplary of Yemeni architecture. It seems to grow out of the rocks on which it is constructed, and it has the characteristic painting of its windows and edges. Furthermore, it stands all alone in an oasis of green and quiet, which is the wadi.

Back in the day, Yemen didn't have a king or a president. Instead, leadership of the country rested on the shoulders of an Imam (Islamic spiritual leader). Yahya Muhammad Hamiddin (1869-1948) became Imam of the Zaydis (an Islamic religious sect) after his father's death in 1904, then Imam of Yemen in 1918 and remained in that post until his assassination in 1948. The palace was built in the 1930s by Imam Yahya as his summer residence. The palace was restored for visitors, but and turned into a museum of sort.

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You can buy a ticket and gain entrance to the palace. The five-story building as lots of rooms and many big and small stairs that seems to take you all around in circles. There is the kitchen, storage rooms, rooms for women, meeting rooms for high placed persons and friends of Imam Yahya. There is a system to cool water in earthware jars, you can see takhrim windows from up close, there is a very deep well, and there are various spots where you can go outside.

The five floors offer enough to see, but walking around at its base is equally impressive and heightens your admiration for the stunning architecture the Yemenis are capable of.

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Sources: Lonely Planet, Travel Adventures

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