A Historic City
The historic city of Ta’izz is the third largest urban center in Yemen. Originally a fortified position when the Sulayhid dynasty ruled Yemen in the eleventh century, it later became an Ayyubid stronghold and the site of the Ayyubid treasury. The quarters of the city grew below a fortified citadel, and Ta’izz reached its golden age as the capital of the Rasulid dynasty, which ruled all of Yemen during 1229-1454. Ta’izz occupied a crossroads position in Rasulid Yemen, a state based primarily on trade and commerce. The Rasulid sultans are known to have built lavish palaces in Ta’izz, as well as mosques and madrassas, although only three religious monuments have survived from this period of the city’s history.
The 2018 World Monuments Watch
Ta’izz was a battleground in the civil war that has consumed Yemen since early 2015, and whose origins lie in the mass protests that broke out in major cities in February 2011. The conflict pits Houthi rebel forces and fighters loyal to the country’s former president against Yemeni government forces, backed by a coalition of foreign states led by Saudi Arabia. Since 2015, the conflict has claimed more than 10,000 civilian lives, and has left millions in dire need of humanitarian assistance. In Ta’izz, rebels initially seized the citadel, which was subsequently targeted and damaged by airstrikes in May 2015. For two years, the city has been under siege from rebels seeking to wrest control of it from the government. In 2016, the Ta’izz Museum Complex was shelled and its collection of manuscripts was destroyed, while a historic sixteenth-century mosque was blown up by extremists. More historic buildings have been damaged by shelling and street fighting between rebel militias and resistance forces. The 2018 World Monuments Watch is an expression of concern for the protection of the historic built fabric of Tai’izz, and for the welfare of its citizens. The Watch also supported the efforts of local university students and other volunteers to identify buildings facing critical needs and carry out emergency repairs, and to continue the process of preparing a conservation plan for the old city that was interrupted by the war.
Emergency Repairs and Skills Training
In late 2018, World Monuments Fund and World Monuments Fund Britain were awarded a British Council Cultural Protection Fund grant to support conservation skills training, post-conflict planning and physical restoration in the historic city of Ta'izz, Yemen, building upon earlier support from a private US donor. The project involved working with the General Organization of Antiquities and Museums (GOAM) of Ta'izz to carry out emergency repairs and restoration work at the National Museum and Qubbat al-Husayniyah, an important Ottoman era mausoleum.
In February 2020, Watch Day was held at the National Museum to celebrate the conservation of its facades. Watch Day was joined by staff of the National Museum as well as community members, and included arts presentation, including a short video detailing the restoration process and a ceremony presenting certificates of completion to the GOAM staff.
With support from a second grant from the British Council Cultural Protection Fund, WMF inititiated an additional phase of work at the National Museum to include restoration of all its interiors. The stabilization of Qubbat al-Husayniyah and the restoration of the National Museum interiors are expected to be completed in spring 2021.
Since 2020, a grant from ALIPH Foundation is also supporting the restoration of the Heritage Museum and the preparation for the entire Ta'izz Museum Complex. This phase of the project is expected to be completed by the end of 2021.
Last updated: February 2021.