Friday, July 1, 2011

Tent city in Sana'a, Yemen

The tent city at night
Protesters in Sana'a, the capital of Yemen, have set up a tent city where they organize their protests against their repressive president. An article in Spiegel Online International starts,
" What started as a sit-in has turned into an experment in democratic society. In the last four months, between 3,000 and 4,000 tents have been pitched in the streets of the university district in the Yemeni capital Sana'a. The tent city includes pharmacies and a makeshift hospital, four daily newspapers, auditoriums, a garden and hastily constructed cement memorials for the martyrs.

Protesters in a tent

It is a city of citizens, a taste of what Yemen could become, a concrete utopia made of tarps, pallets, satellite dishes and a hodgepodge of power cables the protesters have audaciously connected to the grid in the ancient city. There is a "diplomats' tent" and a tent for actors; there are daily poetry readings and demonstrations; there is even a prison."
This great photo is from: (check out the credit line: "©2011, The New Yemen, Free to be used during the revolution." The photo is by Abdulrahman H. Jaber.

This kind of temporary settlement joins the other examples of "temporary cities" that I blogged about a while ago. These settlements usually attract attention for their main functions (protest and contentious politics in Sana'a, art festival at Burning Man, etc.). But I think we should pay more attention to their urban features, which may have much to teach us about cities and how people form and live in cities.

Media tent for the protesters
I have been interested in traditional Sana'a for some time now. It is a distinctive variation on Arabian/Islamic urbanism, particularly well studied by scholars. Its neighborhoods are fascinating, and the presence of food-producing areas within the midst of high-rise apartment buildings is a surprising feature that may have lessons for urban sustainability and livability elsewhere. You have to cover several languages to resesarch traditional Sana'a, though. For some great photos, go to photographer Abdulrahman H. Jaber's website. and click on "Old City of Sana'a." You'll see some outstanding photos.


Sana'a gardens
Barcelo, Miquel (editor)  (2004)  Les jardins dans la vieille ville de Sanaa, Yémen. Université Autonome de Barcelone, Barcelona.

Bonnenfant, Paul (editor)  (1995)  Sanaa: architecture domestique et société. Editions CNRS, Paris.

Kopp, Horst and Eugen Wirth  (1990)  Beiträge zur Stadtgeographie von Sana'a. Beihefte zum u*binger Atlas des Vorderen Orients. Reihe B, Geisteswissenschaften. L. Reichert, Wiesbaden.

Kopp, Horst and Eugen Wirth  (1994)  Sana'a: développement et organisation de l’espace d’une ville arabe. Translated by Blandine Blukacz-Louisfert and François Blukacz. IREMAM and CFEY, Aix-en-Provence and Sanaa.

Lewcock, Ronald B.  (1986)  The Old Walled City of San'a'. UNESCO, Paris.

Serjeant, Robert B. and Ronald Lewcock (editors)  (1983)  San'a: An Arabian Islamic City. World of Islam Festeival Trust, London.

*** Thanks to Nate Berg''s tweet for the Spiegel story on this!!! Maybe Twitter is useful after all.....
(Nate Berg's website)

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