By Tamjid Alkohali
“House without Alghemriaat is a house without blessing!” This is what Yemenis believed for many years. This belief has the making of Alghemriaat “a big hole that looks like half of a circle above the window” an art .B.C, a masterpiece, and the blessing of the Yemeni houses, and it makes Alghemriaat presents in every Yemeni house and public and private installations. Alghemriaat is an essential part and accessory of Yemeni architecture.
There are many reasons for Yemenis’ interest in Alghemriaat. These reasons differ among religious beliefs from the past, and cultural reasons that people believe still sticks out.
On al-Safyah Street where there are many factories for Alghemriaat, National Yemen newspaper met one of the Alghemriaat makers, Zahir Zabid who has worked for over 30 years in making Alghemriaat.
Zabid spoke about Alghemriaat history’s, stating that: the name “Alghemriaat” taken from the Alghemriaat’s function which is allowing the different rays of light to enter the rooms from outside through the stained glass like the sun or the moon when it’s completed.
“When we go back to hundreds of years, we found that Alghemriaat has a religious purpose or meaning. In the past, a Yemeni person looked for something that connects between him and his moon to help him become closer with God far from the temple. Alghemriaat achieved this aim, and it was giving them the blessing for the house and its members. However, people stopped believing this, and the purpose of Alghemriaat became for decoration and it was loved by the Yemeni heritage from many people and an architectural culture until today”. Zabid explained.
In a Scientific study entitled (Sana’a’s buildings and materials are a document of the eighteenth century AD), the British engineer Tim Mackintosh Smith said that the using of Alghemriaat began from 4000 years ago, and it belongs to Sheba’s kings era, and Ghamdan Palace.
From other side, Zabid spoke with us about the way of making Alghemriaat; he stated “when anyone sees Alghemriaat he would think that Alghemriaat is made by using modern tools, but in fact Alghemriaat makers use very simple tools such as; knives, compass and some other primitive drilling machines, besides the relying on the talent and imagination or artistic sense.” Zabid complemented “in the beginning, Alghemriaat maker would expand plaster paste on a large mold and leave it till it was dry. After that they would form the colored glass with the dry plaster to different shapes and then put the colored glass onto the inner half circle shape of the plaster, thus having Alghemriaat ready to be put in the building.
About the formation of colored glass, Zabid said that the most accurate stage in making Alghemriaat is the drilling and formation of the colored glass. We have to satisfy all desires. Today the types of inscriptions and decorative shapes reached to hundreds of types and they still develop day after day.
He added “although of the multiplicity of types, there are prominent decorative shapes such as the geometric shapes like the six-pointed star which spread while the Jews were working in making Alghemriaat, as well as decorative shapes which are like some plants in the Yemeni environment and some animals.
Actually, the craft of making Alghemriaat are not taught in the institutes or colleges, but it is acquired by practicing, as well as it is inherited within the family.
Moreover, Yemenis choose Alghemriaat in different sizes and shapes, according to the excellency of the house and the status of its owner. Therefore, the prices of Alghemriaat differ according to the sizes, and the types of Alghemriaat.
Alghemriaat has two types, the Indian type that is cheap, and the German type that is the most expensive for it contains excellent colored glass that its color can’t be removed while the Indian one loses its luster with the passage of time by the sun’s rays.
A Yemeni architect said that using Alghemriaat passed in two stages. In the first stage, people have used the alabaster, and after a period the colored glass appeared and it loved by most people, because it allows to the light to enter the house to form art paintings on the floor and walls.
“ only the important and the rich people were using the colored glass in Alghemriaat for it was so expensive, but in the beginning of the fifties colored glass became cheap and it was used by most people which led to the disappearing of alabaster.” The Yemeni architect emphasized.
In the last years, the interest of people in Alghemriaat started reducing, because some people began preferring the aluminum in making the windows rather than Alghemriaat. However, most of the people consider Alghemriaat from the basics of the house. The natural colored light that enters the house through the colored glass gives happiness and spiritual ambience to the family members. In addition, Alghemriaat prevents the insects to enter the house because it’s thick. Until today, there are no statistics for Alghemriaat stores in Yemen, and this indicates that there are a lot of shops for Alghemriaat around Yemen.