A Yemen Reality: Architecture Sculptured in Mud and Stone

Salma Samar Damluji


A Yemen Reality provides a visual guide to the architectural context of life in southern Yemen. Over 650 colour photographs illustrate the range of architectural styles and building methods to be found along the coast and deep in to the heartlands, from Aden and Yafi in the west to Al Mahrah on the eastern border with Oman. The architecture of Yemen not only holds an important place in the history of architecture in Arabia, it also holds an important message for modern architecture worldwide. Unlike that of many of its more affluent neighbours, Yemeni architecture has not yet been seriously influenced by the development of modern materials and technology. For the most part the Yemeni master builders have kept alive the building methods and styles practised for many centuries, while adapting them to the current requirements of modern living. This ongoing proof of the practical value of traditional techniques and the aesthetic quality of design possible using indigenous materials and simple tools is clearly and beautifully demonstrated by this book. The traditional building methods used are initially dictated by the availability of local materials: stone, limestone used for waterproofing, shale and – most notably – mud formed into oven-baked or sun-dried bricks. With these materials the builders can construct skyscrapers of mud brick, minarets over a hundred feet/30 metres high, and palaces of outstanding elegance, all of which are set against the extraordinary landscapes of southern Yemen. But most significant of all are the outstanding skills of the master builders, passed down from generation to generation over many centuries, and still being practised with consummate virtuosity, as these photographs show. Material for this book has been drawn from the author’s firsthand experience and knowledge of the country and from her copious records, made during a number of visits over the last ten years.

Salma Samar Damluji is an architect and specialist in Islamic and vernacular architecture of Arab countries. After studying at both the Architectural Association School of Architecture and the Royal College of Art, London, Dr Damluji also taught at the Royal College of Art as both a Research Fellow and then a Tutor, and later at the Architectural Association School of Architecture. She has also curated exhibitions to accompany publications of her books. She lives in London and works as architect and consultant and lectures widely, in the UK and abroad. She is author of several articles in journals and academic publications.