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Book a flight to Sanaa with Qatar Airways and you’ll find yourself transported to a city that could have leapt out of the pages of The Arabian Nights. With a rich bounty of history and culture behind those uniquely patterned buildings, built from rammed earth with their distinctive qamariya windows, you’d be forgiven for expecting to see magic carpets zooming overhead!
Sanaa is one of the oldest, continuously inhabited cities in the known world and was believed to have been founded by Noah’s son, Shem. As a result, it has the incongruous nickname of ‘Sam City’. Fly to Sanaa for the chance to explore a city that is steeped in the past, but has its sights set firmly on the future.
In many ways, a trip to Sanaa is like walking through a living museum. At every turn, you’ll be confronted with something that looks as though it could have been built for one of the old, epic movies of yesteryear. The Rock Palace (Dar al-Hajar) is situated about 15kms from the city centre and is Sanaa’s most iconic attraction.
In addition to being an exceptional example of Yemeni architecture, what makes it so appealing is its location. Set in a tranquil oasis of unexpected greenery, Dar al-Hajar seems to be growing out of the imposing rock on which it is built.
However, if you’d rather stay inside the bustling city walls, no trip to Sanaa would be complete without a visit to Bab al-Yemen, the gateway to the Old City. The gateway’s evocative structure and detail are made even more atmospheric with the smells and sounds of the nearby souk drifting through the arch itself. Alternatively, take a trip to the Great Mosque of Sanaa, which is one of the oldest and most spectacular mosques in the world – and the one in which the oldest written copy of the Holy Quran was found.
Travel to Sanaa and very quickly you’ll find that you’re soaking up the culture like a sponge.
The Old City itself is like stepping back in time, made up of a network of ancient-looking streets, housing tiny little shops that sell fruit, gold, jewellery, shoes, clothes and the ubiquitous jambiya: a traditional dagger.
You’ll learn very quickly that coffee is a huge part of Yemeni culture. The shops, souks and bazaars are all thick with aroma of rich, dark coffee brewing and almost every doorway will feature people sitting, talking and drinking the earthy brew. When it comes to food, the must-try dishes are salta Fahsa and fasuulia.
Salta Fahsa is a thick, meaty soup spiced with hot peppers and fenugreek, best eaten with a sourdough-style bread called kudem. Fasuulia is a stew made from kidney beans and eaten with fresh vegetables and kudem. You’ll often find yourself having this last dish for breakfast, as it’s both filling and nourishing.
You can’t travel to Sanaa and not visit a souk. These are the thrumming, vibrant pulses that make the city a feast for the senses. The souk just by Bab al-Yemen is one of the most popular, where you can buy virtually anything from food to jewellery. If buying a jambiya makes you feel uneasy, this is the place to buy necklaces with pendants in the shape of the ornamental dagger.
It’s also worth remembering that haggling is part of the shopping experience and you’d be well advised to try and barter for the ‘Yemeni price’.
However, Sanaa has also embraced the world of malls and the Sana’a Trade Centre (Libyan Centre) is where you’ll find designer goods and both national and international brands.
Flights to Sanaa with Qatar Airways will bring you into Sana’a International Airport, located within the city itself. There are plenty of taxis and car-hire facilities available but, if you’d rather travel local style, then there are plenty of vans, which double up as the city’s bus service.
Visa restrictions for entry into the country will depend on your country of origin, length of stay and whether your trip is for business or pleasure. So before you fly to Sanaa please check the visa and passport requirements.
Currency: Yemeni Rial (YER)
Voltage: 220 / 230 V 50 Hz
Plugs: Type A / D / G
International dialing code: +967
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