Sana’a’s Maqashim, the green spaces in old city of Sana'a

Published on 27 May 2014 in Photo Essay
Ezzaddin Al-Zain (writer), Ezzaddin Al-Zain (photographer)

Ezzaddin Al-Zain


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Ezzaddin Al-Zain


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Al-Amri Miqshama still has a green spot‭. ‬Formerly‭, ‬it used to be called Qubt Al-Mahdi‭. ‬Al-Qads said the Maqashim are named after the mosques and neighborhoods‭.‬

Al-Amri Miqshama still has a green spot‭. ‬Formerly‭, ‬it used to be called Qubt Al-Mahdi‭. ‬Al-Qads said the Maqashim are named after the mosques and neighborhoods‭.‬

The Old City of Sana'a is a listed world heritage site and home to thousands of centuries-old buildings—many of them several stories high—built in distinctive traditional styles.

The architectural integrity of the Old City is impressive, and according to UNESCO there are 103 mosques and over 6,000 houses dating back to the middle ages.

A unique feature of the Old City is its Maqashim (singular Miqshama), the green open spaces of land subdivided into plots for growing crops.

Mahdi Asba, 80, a resident in the Old City, said that water for the Maqashim traditionally comes from wells or Mosque fountains.

Some residents grow vegetables and herbs, including arugula, radishes, coriander, peppermint, and parsley, to consume and sell.

“These green spaces are not owned by particular individuals. The spaces are considered part of the mosques,” Asba said.

These days, many of these spaces are not as green as they used to be. The majority of them have gone dry due to a lack of water and residents' neglect.

Yahia Al-Kads is responsible for providing water to the Old City's mosques. He said the green spaces have dried up because some underground water supplies have run dry.

“Most of the artesian aquifers depleted. This has to do with the fact that the Saila (a drainage system that doubles as a road) has been paved and this has blocked the rainwater from reaching the aquifer,” he said.

These artesian aquifers depend on the rainwater and ground water, Al-Kads said, indicating that there is still one main aquifer located close to one Miqshama, called Al-Amri, which is greener in comparison with other Maqashim in the Old City.

Surrounded by buildings‭, ‬Al-Qasimi Miqshama is located in the old city‭. ‬Along with his sons‭, ‬Al-Qasimi takes a great deal of care tending their Miqshama‭. ‬They try to keep it green even when other Maqashim are dry‭.‬

Surrounded by buildings‭, ‬Al-Qasimi Miqshama is located in the old city‭. ‬Along with his sons‭, ‬Al-Qasimi takes a great deal of care tending their Miqshama‭. ‬They try to keep it green even when other Maqashim are dry‭.‬

Asba collects his crops and sells them for YR5,000‭ ($‬23‭) ‬per week‭.‬

Asba collects his crops and sells them for YR5,000‭ ($‬23‭) ‬per week‭.‬

The water canal of Al-Amri Maqshama is clogged with dirt and litter‭.‬

The water canal of Al-Amri Maqshama is clogged with dirt and litter‭.‬

The workers of a well distribute water to houses and mosques including the Grand Mosque in the Old City‭.‬

The workers of a well distribute water to houses and mosques including the Grand Mosque in the Old City‭.‬

Al-Qads said the bulk of the Maqashim are too dry due to water scarcity‭.‬

Al-Qads said the bulk of the Maqashim are too dry due to water scarcity‭.‬