Climbing Yemen’s Everest (Part two)Historical and natural landmarks in Malhan
In a high, rugged area, some 300 meters above sea level and on top of Malhan Mountain is Shahir Fortress. All that is left of the fortress is an open courtyard with stone ruins facing east. Square-shaped stones are scattered around the courtyard.
On the south side stand the remains of a holy mosque that was mentioned by Abu Al-Hassan Al-Hamadani in his book, Sefat Jazerat Alarab (Description of the Arab Peninsula). To the north stand a mass of square-shaped buildings named Turbat Ali Eisa. The largest part of the fortress still standing is a rectangular-shaped veranda where horses and other animals were kept; later it was used for (Alistsqa) prayer.
The road linking Shaher fortress and Al-Khodhaia fortress is marked with ruins, lined by cliffs dotted with ancient cemeteries dating back to the pre-Islamic period.
The Al-Sabahi fortress was an impregnable, tightly-established rugged fortress in the Malhan district. Standing on the Altawaq Bin Al-Sabahi Alhimiary Mountain it overlooks the Tihama and was used as a military fortress to repel invaders in the Al-Rasoli era and earlier.
Al-Khofaia was mentioned in many historical references as one of the impenetrable fortresses which included strongholds, castles, mosques and high tops that were used as military garrisons during the era of the Othman empire. Imam Yahya Hameed Al-Deen destroyed many of the fortress’ strongholds and castles in the fourth century AH as the people of Malhan rebelled against him.
Al-Khofaia is distinguished by its lavish architecture, which suggests that it was repeatedly renovated, particularly after demolitions carried out by troops of Imam Yahya Hameed Al-Deen, backed up by historical references.
Al-Yamani Fortress is located in the Al-Shamriah village in a place called Rahqah. It was built on a mountaintop overlooking Wadi Bani Maleek, Bait Al-Soraih and Otoma. The mountain can be accessed via a steep, stone-paved track to the north-east of the fort. It includes a square mosque to the west, built from stone and what is locally known as Qadhadh.
To the south of the courtyard stand the remains of more buildings, which made up the main part of the fortress. Beside this, there is stone-lined pool decorated with Qadhadh and an eight-pointed star.
Qarn Said fortress
Qarn Said is located on the western side of Bani Hajaj, at the top of Qarn Saif Mountain and overlooking a number of villages, a jagged stone wall and a number of square-shaped defensive towers. Remains of ruined building foundations are centered the wall as well as three stone-lined pools. The fortress is also characterized with a tunnel craved in rock in the western direction which leads to the outside of the fortress.
Al-Sharaf was erected at the top of Al-Sharaf Mountain located along the Bani Malik valley. The fortress is a towering rocky protrusion that overlooks the nearby valley and villages.
It is a square-shaped defensive tower that was built with solid stones and includes three floors that are marked with outlets for shooting. It is accessed from the north side via stone-paved stairs, and appears to have been renovated in the late Islamic era.
Overlooking the districts of Bani Hajaj and Souk Al-Khamees, Okaibeer now only consists of building blocks, as well as ruined and scattered clay buildings on the southwest side of the fortress. At its entrance, there is an inscription indicating that the fortress was built in the period from 1361-1377 AH. Its varied remains also suggest that the fortress was built on the ruins of another, older fort.
In addition to the forts and castles mentioned above, the landscape around Malhan is dotted with garrisons, fortresses and reinforcements, many with peculiar or interesting ruins, inscriptions and unique mosques.
With more than 700 active and defunct mosques, Malhan has many that date back to the era of the Prophet Mohammad (Peace be upon him). Shahir and other mosques were built by a companion of the prophet, as Al-Hamadni mentioned. Shahir now stands in ruins, but some signs can be found.
Some mosques, such as Anamah and Bariq Al-Matar in the village of Bani Wahab, date back to the second, fourth and fifth centuries.
Valleys of Malhan
Tabab is a wide valley, pouring into Al-Qanwis area and its neighborhoods. Tabab is a standard Arabic word which means loss, end and collapse. The valley was given this name as it has many curves, forests and wild animals, inspiring fear in locals.
Tourism in Malhan
Allah granted Malhan a green-covered natural beauty. Actually, Malhan is a unique undiscovered tourist resort. It is an attractive scene that inspires with its divine splendor. It is impossible to compare the white peaks of Everest with Malhan’s green peaks.
In a bid to boost tourism to the area, a number of roads are currently being paved. Undoubtedly, the stability of Yemen’s situation, an end to the current crisis and the return of natural life will all benefit the country’s tourist industry. It is hoped that tourists would flow to Malhan to enjoy the area’s natural beauty and rich history.
Far from the noise and bustle of the city, high in the towering mountains of Raishan, you can see the mountains of Hajja, Dhamar, and Sana’a with the naked eye.
Looking closer, the peaks of Malhan overlook coffee, banana and qat plantations as well as dense trees – even more so since Malhan was declared a natural protectorate. In Malhan you can find exotic, rare plants and herbs that are unique to the region. Among them is sandalwood, considered among the most expensive and rare incense, as well as ebony.
Markets of Malhan
If you want to experience Malhan’s community life as well as its nature, its numerous weekly markets are the main meeting points for socializing as well as shopping. All the produce comes locally from Malhan and among the most prominent markets are Al-Khamees, Al-Waljah, Al-Ahad and Al-Arjain.
Malhan is an experience you will not forget; while some slopes are dotted with remote villages, the heart of the region is largely unpopulated so be prepared for a lack of hotels, rest areas and restaurants.
A trip to Malhan is distinguished by its pristine natural attractions. You will see the smiles on the faces of Malhan’s modest people, under mountains that embrace the sky.
Many of the area’s mountains that can be accessed only by ropes and as you ascend, you will discover a changing world of shepherds speedily traversing steep peaks, surrounded by unique scenery.
Source: Al-Jumhoria newspaper