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صنعاء / Ṣanʿāʾ
Sanaa (Yemen)
Coordinates 15 ° 21 ′  N , 44 ° 12 ′  E Coordinates: 15 ° 21 ′  N , 44 ° 12 ′  E
Basic data
Country Yemen

Capital District

City of Sanaa
height 2200 m
Residents 2,575,347 (2012)
Old City of Sanaa
UNESCO world heritage UNESCO World Heritage Emblem

Contracting State (s): YemenYemen Yemen
Type: Culture
Criteria : iv, v, vi
Reference No .: 385
UNESCO region : Arabic states
History of enrollment
Enrollment: 1986  (session 10)

Sanaa ( Arabic صنعاء, DMG Ṣanʿāʾ [ sˤɑnʕaːʔ ], sometimes also written Sana'a ) is the capital of Yemen with 2,575,347 inhabitants (2012 calculation).

Sanaa is the country's political, economic and cultural center. The city of Sanaa is the capital district (محافظة أمانة العاصمة / muḥāfaẓat amānat al-ʿāṣima ) at the same administrative level as the governorates of Yemen and is also the capital of the governorate of Sana'a , which surrounds the city.


The city is located 2200 meters above sea ​​level at the western foot of the Nokum Mountain, famous for its iron mines, 320 kilometers north of Aden and 152 kilometers east of the Red Sea coast . The built-up area of ​​the city covers an area of ​​almost 200 square kilometers, the use of land is increasing rapidly. The population density is 20,439.3 inhabitants per km².

City structure

The capital district is divided into ten districts.


The oldest inscriptions mentioning Sanaa as a city date back to the first century. It is assumed that this place was settled earlier. In the 10th century, Muhammad al-Hasan al-Hamdani named the Sabaean king Sha'r Awtar as the founder of the city, who is also said to have built the famous Ghumdan Palace . Sha'r Awtar lived in the second half of the 2nd century.

A founding legend names Noah's son Sem as the founder of the city ( Madinat Sam , the city ​​of Sems ), the old name of the city Azal supposedly going back to Usal , a descendant of Sems. In addition, the Sabatean empire is held responsible for founding the city.

As the capital of Himyar (since 520), Sanaa was fought over between Persia and Abyssinia in the 6th century . During the fifty-year rule of the Abyssinians (see: Abraha ), a large cathedral was built with the help of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I , which was considered to be the largest south of the Mediterranean .

In 628 Yemen converted to Islam , and the Prophet Mohammed himself is said to have given the instructions for the construction of the first mosque in Sanaa. In the twelfth century, the area fell under the rule of the Ayyubids . The city of Sanaa was ruled at this time by an imam , who united the worldly and spiritual power, and whose dignity was hereditary (see Zaidites ). The penetration of the Pasha from Egypt into Yemen - Sanaa became an autonomous sultanate in 1517 - gradually  limited the power of the imam to the city of Sanaa and a few other places, until the ruling family was ousted in the mid-1850s and the imams were elected. and withdrawable sheikhs stepped.

In the 18th century Carsten Niebuhr was the first modern European to walk into the city. His expedition was commissioned by the Danish King Friedrich V. The Ottomans ruling from 1872 to 1890 initiated a modernization program for the city. Towards the end of the 19th century, the city had a fort and walls with towers, 50 mosques, caravanserais, public baths, gardens and vineyards, lively trade (especially in coffee), and around 30,000 inhabitants. Among them were 1,500  Jews . A water pipe carried water from Mount Nokum to the city.

Shortly thereafter, Sanaa became the capital of Imam Yahya Muhammad Hamid ad-Din (1904–1948). After his murder in 1948, his son, Ahmad ibn Yahya (1948–1962), moved the capital of the Kingdom of Yemen to Taizz . After his death in 1962, the Yemen Arab Republic ( North Yemen ) was proclaimed. The civil war broke out , which lasted until 1969. The allies of North Yemen , Egypt and the Soviet Union , undertook major urban development projects. After the reunification of the two Yemen in 1990, Sanaa became the capital of all of Yemen.

21st century

As the capital of the new republic, Sanaa is home to the presidential palace, parliament, the Supreme Court and the ministries. The government is the biggest employer. The massive immigration is a burden for the underdeveloped infrastructure, especially for the water supply. The Arab League selected Sanaa as the cultural capital of the Arab world in 2004. In 2007, the German and French embassies organized the cultural event “Sanaa - City of Lights”. 2008 was Saleh - mosque completed. It offers space for more than 40,000 believers.

Violence in Sanaa

In the recent past, Sanaa has been the scene of violent clashes and a target of terrorist attacks. In 2011, numerous people died in skirmishes between government soldiers and supporters of opposition groups (see Protests in Yemen 2011/2012 ). A suicide bombing on May 21  , 2012 killed more than 120 people.

In October 2013 , a security official of the German Embassy was shot. In November 2013 , a military advisor from Belarus was shot dead in Sanaa and another injured. Dozens of people died in an attack on the Ministry of Defense on December 5, 2013 , including development workers from GIZ .

In September 2014 brought zaiditisch -schiitische Huthi rebels forced the city under their control. In January 2015 they stormed the presidential palace, whereupon President Hadi fled to Aden shortly afterwards . On March 20, 2015, while praying, suicide bombers carried out bomb attacks on two Zaidi-Shiite mosques in the city, in which, according to the UN, 140 people were killed and 350 wounded. The Yemeni branch of the Islamic State terrorist militia confessed to the crime.

During the military intervention in Yemen in 2015 , according to UNESCO in the old town of Sanaa , historical buildings such as old mud houses, mosques and mosques were destroyed during "massive air strikes" by a Saudi- led military coalition supported by the USA and Great Britain Hamams dating from before the 11th century "badly damaged". On October 8, 2016, more than 140 people died, with several hundred other injured, in an attack by the Saudi Arabia-led military coalition on a funeral service. On October 15, 2016, a commission of inquiry named “false information” as the reason for the attack.

Population development

In 1975 Sanaa only had 135,000 inhabitants, in 1985 the number was already 400,000 due to immigration and general rural exodus. In 2008 there were already over two million. The population growth is uncontrolled, the mostly simple settlements are spreading in all directions. The often self-built, relatively spacious houses do not give the impression of emergency shelters, as they are known from South America or India. The classic old town is inhabited by less than 50,000 people. The following overview shows the population figures according to the respective territorial status.

year Residents
1911 20,000
1921 23,000
1931 25,000
1940 80,000
1963 100,000
1965 110,000
year Residents
1975 134,600
1981 280,000
1986 427.505
1994 954.448
2001 1,590,624
2005 1,937,451
2012 2,575,347

Culture and sights

Typical tower houses
The "Gate of Yemen" (bab al-Yaman) in the city center is the only remaining city gate of the eight old city entrances.
Audiovisual installation "Sana'a - City of Lights" as a German-French-Yemeni cultural project 2007

Sanaa is world famous for its unique architecture . The National Museum is now housed in a recently renovated former palace of the Imam (ruler). It is located in Tahrir Square in the center of the city, which is also where the National Library of Yemen is located.

The old town is surrounded by a city wall that was originally interrupted by eight gates, only one of which has survived today: the Bab al-Yaman (Yemen Gate), built in 1875 and given its present form by the Turks in 1905 . It consists of thousands to high to eight floors tower houses in clay construction that were built hundreds of years ago.

The old town of Sana'a was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986 and subsequently restored. The restoration project won the 1995 Aga Khan Award for Architecture . In the old town there are various museums and a bazaar where jewelry, silver, silk, leather goods and carpets are sold.

On July 2, 2015, the old town of Sanaa was put on the Red List of World Heritage in Danger due to the destruction and endangerment caused by the armed conflict .


The musical regional style of Sanaa is the genre of songs al-ġināʾ aṣ-ṣanʿānī , which was created around 1900 . It originated from Sufi songs, the tradition of which dates back to the 14th century, and the style of music that Ottoman officers brought to the country in the 17th century. Singers used to perform the Homaynī poetry, named after the Yemeni colloquial language, with the four- stringed lute Qanbus or the copper gong Sahn Nuhasi as accompaniment. Both instruments have been largely replaced by the Arabic lute oud (ʿud) since the middle of the 20th century . The Qanbus was so connected with the city that it was also called ʿud ṣanʿānī .

Arab Capital of Culture 2004

Logo of the 2004 Arab Capital of Culture

In 2004 Sanaa was the Arab capital of culture. From January 10 until January 17, the German Nobel literature took Gunter Grass on Arab-German novelist meeting part in Sanaa.

On February 15, the Europa Philharmonie from Magdeburg, under the baton of its chief conductor Reinhard Seehafer , played Beethoven , Brahms and Mozart in front of an open-air audience in the old town of Sanaa . It was the first ever concert by a philharmonic orchestra in Yemen.

From May 29th to June 5th the Chur Cölnish Choir Bonn accepted an invitation from Khalid al-Rewaishan, Minister for Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Yemen, and gave three concerts in the cultural center of Mercas al-Thaqqafi . The concert program included German secular a cappella literature from the past five centuries. The trip was supported by the Foreign Office and the Goethe Institute .

Economy and Infrastructure

Villa in a suburb: drawing by Carsten Niebuhr in the 18th century

The city is the most important commercial center in the country. Companies for the textile industry , the craft and ammunition factories are located in the city. Sanaa is located in a region that is predominantly fruit-growing .

The city's economic development took a significant step forward when the first telephone system was put into operation in January 1959 . This system was designed for 800 participants and was built by technicians from the GDR . Using simple tools, around 35 kilometers of underground cable were laid within the city and to the airport. At this time, the first steps towards the electrification of Sanaa were taken.

Most of the drinking water for the city came from the western village of Hadde. In the 1950s, the groundwater level was around 25 to 30 meters deep; today it is likely to have dropped to 150 to 200 meters. This represents a serious problem for the supply of the city. Due to the enormous development and structural expansion, Hadde has become a district of Sanaa today.


Until the 1960s there was no paved road to Sanaa, not even within the city. Even the airport runway was not paved.

Privately operated minibuses and taxis are used in local public transport. There are white and yellow taxis without meters and yellow or red and yellow Rahataxis with meters. The international airport is located about seven kilometers north of Sanaa.


The University of Sanaa was founded in 1970.

Mahwa Aser

Mahwa Aser is a slum area in Sanaa. Around 17,000 people live there in improvised dwellings without water or electricity connections. There is also no school in the city. The local police occasionally counteracts further influx by demolishing the domiciles in order to counter an expansion of the health problems for the city.


Residence of Imam Yahya in Wādī Ẓahr near Sanaa

A popular destination for the people of Sanaa is Wadi Zahr . It is famous for the Imam's Rock Palace and its colorful orchards. On Fridays there are wedding dances on the plateau.

Not far from Sanaa, on a mountain, Baynun is an old fortress from the Himjarite era, of which only ruins are preserved today. The Arab geographer Yāqūt al-Hamawī ar-Rūmī says that the building was built by the Israeli King Solomon and then given to the Queen of Sheba . In 525, at the time of the conquest of Yemen by the Aksumites , the fortress was destroyed (also after Yāqūt) by King Ella Asbeha in order to overthrow the last Himjarite king Yusuf Asʾar Yathʾar , who then also fell.

See also

sons and daughters of the town

Town twinning


Historical recordings from Sanaa (1958)


  • Jörn Heise: The founding of Sana'a - an oriental-Islamic myth? , Berlin, Klaus Schwarz Verlag, May 2010, ISBN 978-3-87997-373-6
  • Carmen Rohrbach : In the kingdom of the Queen of Sheba , National Geographic paperback, March 2004, ISBN 3-442-71179-7
  • Ronald Lewcock, Robert Bertram Serjeant (Eds.): San'a '. To Arabian Islamic City. World of Islam Festival Trust, London 1983 (631 pages)

Web links

Commons : Sana'a  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Sanaa  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. a b page no longer available , search in web archives: Yemen: The most important places with statistics on their population. World Gazetteer (calculation)@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /
  2. The official German spelling (PDF) is Sanaa (see also Duden, Foreign Office, Meyer's New World Atlas). The spelling Sana'a, which is mainly used in English, may have arisen from a misunderstanding of the scientific transliteration Ṣanʿāʾ and / or the desire to display the supposedly separate pronunciation of two a (where in Arabic only the consonant ع ʿAin and a long a are actually used ) .
  3. Table of Districts ( Memento from August 27, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) (English) Table of Districts ( Arabic  )
  4. Michael RT Dumper, Bruce E. Stanley (Ed.): "Sanaa", Cities of the Middle East and North Africa, Santa Barbara, USA . ABC-CLIO , 2008.
  5. Bloody attack in Yemen El Qaeda admits to suicide bombing - A few days earlier, an American killer drone had killed the Al Qaeda terrorist Fahd al-Quso.
  6. Foreign Minister Westerwelle on the death of a German embassy employee in Yemen - PRESS RELEASE from October 7, 2013
  7. Fatal attack on foreigners in Yemen
  9. Houthi rebels storm the presidential palace in Sanaa on
  10. More than 100 dead in series of attacks in Yemen on
  11. a b R2P Monitor ( Memento from May 18, 2015 on WebCite ) (English), Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect Country, R2P Monitor, Issue 21, May 15, 2015, p. 18f., Archived from the version on reliefweb .int (PDF) on May 18, 2015.
  12. Unesco complains about severe damage to Yemen's cultural heritage ( memento from May 21, 2015 on WebCite ) ,, May 12, 2015, archived from the original .
  13. UNESCO Director-General calls on all parties to protect Yemen's cultural heritage ( Memento from May 21, 2015 on WebCite ) (English). UNESCO World Heritage Convention, May 12, 2015, archived from the original .
  14. Saudi-led naval blockade leaves 20 m Yemenis facing humanitarian disaster ( Memento from June 5, 2015 on WebCite ) (English). The Guardian, June 5, 2015, by Julian Borger, archived from the original .
  15. ^ German press agency : Saudi coalition avows attack on funeral service . Published on on October 15, 2016, accessed on October 16, 2016
  16. Sanaa
  17. Gerhard Heck, Manfred Wöbcke, Arabian Peninsula
  18. a b Yemen's Old City of Sana'a and Old Walled City of Shibam added to the List of World Heritage in Danger ( Memento of 2 July 2015 Webcite ) (English). UNESCO World Heritage Center, July 2nd, 2015.
  19. ^ Jean Lambert: Al-ghināʾ al-Ṣanʿānī: Poetry and Music in Ṣanʿāʾ, Yemen. In: Virginia Danielson, Scott Marius, Dwight Reynolds (Eds.): The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. Volume 6. The Middle East. Routledge, New York / London 2002, pp. 685-690
  20. ^ Sanaa - Capital of Culture 2004
  21. YEMEN: Residents of Sanaa slum battle disease, lack of water accessed May 12, 2011
  22. YEMEN: Police clash with slum-dwellers in Sanaa accessed May 12, 2011
  23. Jacob Lassner, demonizing the Queen of Sheba: Boundaries of Gender and Culture in postbiblical Judaism and Islam Medieval
  24. Ankara Büyükşehir Belediyesi Kardeş - Ankaranın Şehirleri