As war destroys Yemen’s present, museums struggle to preserve its past


A bronze statue of the principle god of the dominion of Saba, situated in what’s now the Yemeni province of Marib, lies in a darkish and fortified room of the Sanaa Nationwide Museum.

The piece was made by a person named Hawtar Athat within the first half of the sixth century BC. It has been fortunate sufficient to outlive the most recent conflict in Yemen. Many different artefacts haven’t.

The Sanaa museum miraculously escaped years of bombing by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates of their war in opposition to the Houthi group.

“Different areas across the museum have been focused and that led to the destruction of some artefacts and to cracks within the partitions of the constructing itself,” mentioned Ibrahim al-Hadi, the museum’s director.

Museum Staffers clear a statue on the Nationwide Museum in Sanaa, Yemen. (Supply: REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)

A lot of the assortment was moved to protected rooms within the museum when the Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015.

Collections of Arabian swords, rifles and helmets, some embellished with gold, are packed in packing containers and lined with sheets. Two bronze lions from the pagan kingdom of Qataban, restored on the Louvre in 2008, are snarling on the darkish.

“This storeroom is a mannequin,” mentioned Abdullah Ishaq, an skilled working with the museum. “It has been arrange with scientific, trendy and worldwide requirements.”

However Yemen’s museums, the richest within the Arabian peninsula, are a reminder of the toll that conflict has taken on the nation’s cultural heritage, typically eclipsed by civilian casualties and the dire humanitarian state of affairs.

Within the disputed metropolis of Taiz, nature has mixed with battle to go away the historic Nationwide Museum constructing in ruins.Charred manuscripts, burned cabinets and shattered glass are scattered inside. Acacia timber have taken root and helped to tear down the partitions.

“Shelling destroyed the buildings … the gathering was looted and fires burned down storerooms,” mentioned Ramzi al-Damini, the Taiz museum director.

The Yemeni Basic Authority for Antiquities and Museums has began working with the World Heritage Fund to revive components of the buildings.

However the museum has already misplaced round 70% of its assortment, regardless that some stolen artefacts have been recovered from native markets and volunteers have introduced again different items.

“We all know that lots of these articles have been smuggled outdoors Taiz and even overseas. It’s not straightforward to get them out of Yemen, solely highly effective individuals with worldwide connections can do this,” mentioned Ahmed Jassar, director of antiquities within the Taiz museum.

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