By Tamjid Alkohali
Traditional Yemeni architecture looks like independent museum which reflects the ancient history of Yemen. One of these tradition, is the art of doors in which Yemenis excel is the carpentry of doors. Either in the people’s houses, palaces, mosques or other buildings, the old traditional doors are characterized by the safety, accuracy of work, beautiful design, wonderful decoration and sculpture.
Ahmed al-Khawlaani, the owner of the oldest carpentry shop of doors in old Sana’a, said that carpentry in Yemen has changed completely. “In the past, everything was local made, the tools, designs, and workers.”
According to al-Khawlaani, the main material for making those traditional doors was wood and even the gate of houses were made of wood. “For manufacturing the doors, we used special kind of wood, the most famous ones is al-Taulab. It’s strong , smooth and it featured by its dark color. It was available with plenty in the past but now it is extinct.”
Al-Khawlaani, who has worked in carpentry since his childhood, said that the style of doors differs according to region. For example, in Sana’a doors are filled with decoration, while in Hadramout they contain little decoration and some Quranic verses.
“Jews were the best at carpentry as a result of their ability and skills to sculpture and decorate. In most provinces, the gate is characterized by the presence of a piece of iron in the middle used for knocking. The keys of the doors were also very traditional. They were very heavy, big, and made of iron.”
Yemeni architecture is characterized by the existence of many doors, and there is a smaller door inside in the different rooms that lead to another place in the house. Door decorations could reflect the high status of certain families. Yemenis were very interested in the doors of mosques and palaces, and they are considered relics that reflect the talent of old Yemeni carpenters.
One of the most famous old gates is on Alndharyh School, which was built in 1361 AD in the city of Ibb, the gate of the Ahmed Bin Alwan mosque, which was built in 1515, as well as the doors of the Great Mosque in the old city of Sana’a.
Al-Khawlaani confirmed that the old traditional door has become extinct today. He said that the main reason behind this is the big quantity of imported material. “Importing materials leds to vanishing of traditional designs and dependence on modern styles in manufacturing the doors.”
Al-Khawlaani continued to say, that they stopped manufacturing traditional doors a long time ago, even when there was tourism in Yemen; they were facing difficulties to provide traditional doors for tourists who were demanding. “Because of the low living level of people, some were selling the doors of their houses for tourists.”