2018 World Monuments Watch
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.
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 National Museum 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 supports 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.
Following the Watch
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 will involve working with the General Organization of Antiquities and Museums (GOAM) of Ta'izz to carry out emergency repairs at the National Museum and Qubbat al-Husayniyah, an important Ottoman era mausoleum. Work began spring 2019 and is scheduled to conclude in December 2019.
In February 2020, Watch Day was held at the National Museum to celebrate the conservation of the facades of the Qubbat al-Husayniyah. 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 trainees of the Museum.