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Yemen’s qamaria window industry at risk


SANAA: The old section of the Yemeni city of Sanaa, which is the country’s capital, always captures visitors’ eyes with its unique architecture of windows which reflect beautiful shining colors made from stained glass and gypsum plasters.

But the ancient architectural handicraft is at risk of disappearing mainly because of the civil war. Instead, many windows are now made of aluminum.

In this Dec. 30, 2019 photo, a man walks near a house installed with qamaria windows in Sanaa, Yemen. XINHUA PHOTO

Locally known as qamaria, derived from Arabic meaning “of the moon,” the window allows moonlight in and blocks prying eyes.

The unique window architecture helps natural light enter the dark rooms of Yemeni houses during the continuous power outages since the outbreak of the civil war more than four years ago.

However, the demand for qamaria has sharply decreased due to the conflict and the needs increased for imported modern aluminum windows preferred by modern architectural styles.

“The war has affected us heavily. Before the war, we used to receive new demands every day for making qamaria windows, but now it becomes rare, while many prefer modern aluminum windows,” Mohammed Al-Wassabi, a craftsman, told Xinhua at his workshop in Sanaa.

Al-Wassabi, whose family has been in the business for hundreds of years, lamented the decline in the traditional industry.

The war erupted in late 2014 after the Iranian-backed Houthis stormed Sanaa and forced the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi into exile.

Local Sanaa residents, however, are strongly in love with the traditional architecture and its geometric patterns that date back hundreds of years ago and they enjoy boasting about their heritage.

“Qamaria is the vital part of the Yemeni cultural and architectural heritage for thousands of years. So we love it,” said Majid al-Awlaqi, a local resident.

Another resident, Amin al-Shami said that comparing qamaria with modern aluminum windows, the latter needs heavy curtains to maintain the privacy of the house which prevents natural light from streaming in.

“Qamaria makes the internal and external view of the house very beautiful and its colored glass lets the streaming of moonlight and sunlight into the rooms, creating a distinctive colorful atmosphere,” al-Shami added.

The Old City of Sanaa is on the World Heritage List of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

The city has been inhabited for more than 2,500 years. The 6,000 mud-brick tower houses decorated with geometric patterns of the qamaria, add to the beauty of the ancient city.


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