The capital city of Yemen, Sana'a is one of the oldest populated cities in the world. Historically, its strategic location has allowed it to control the movement of trading networks, governing access from the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean to the Red Sea ports. Sana'a has been a site rich in Islamic architectural history since the seventh century, when Islam was largely adopted in Yemen. Sana'a's architectural heritage is a culmination of influences and styles; containing elements of Umayyad, Rasulid, and Ottoman architecture. Particular to Sana'a is a vibrant tradition of vernacular architecture, known for its use of carved timber, stone, and stepped masonry in multi-level houses. The western city has historically been the site of palatial architecture, including the notable Ayyubid "Sultan's Garden." Other notable complexes include a number of caravanserais and public hammams. In 1974, legislation required that all new buildings be executed in accordance with the traditional Yemeni styles. In 1986, the old city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Much of the Old City has since been destroyed, as a result of bombings throughout 2015.
The Mosque of al-Bakiriyya dates to 1597 during the first Ottoman occupation in Yemen. It was built by the governor of Sana'a, Hasan Pasha, as a tribute to one of his friends who is buried next to the mosque. Nearby, off of the public square in front of the citadel gate, Hasan Pasha also commissioned the Baths of al-Bakiriyya. This hammam served as the waqf to provide the income to support the mosque. With its grand size and detailed carved ornamentation, al-Bakiriyya is a spectacular example of classical Ottoman architecture.
The Mosque of al-Bakiriyya consists of a large prayer hall preceded by a three-bay portico and a rectangular enclosed courtyard. Covering the main prayer hall of the mosque is a large dome, a feature that is unknown in Yemen prior to the Ottoman period. One enters the complex through a small domed portal off of the western wall of the courtyard. Once inside, the square tomb of Hasan Pasha'a friend is located on the same side, accessed through an entrance off of the portico. To the south, the courtyard extends into an ablution area at its furthest end. Parallel to the courtyard on the east runs a narrow corridor that leads to the minaret. To the north, one passes into the prayer hall through the center bay of the portico. The interior of the prayer hall is richly decorated with geometric patterns and Quranic inscriptions in carved gypsum.
In 1872, during the second Ottoman conquest, the mosque underwent restoration and significant new developments, including an elevated diwan in the prayer hall and a marble mihrab and minbar.
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