Yemen, we hardly knew ye!

Part of a town in Yemen. (

Part of a town in Yemen. (

Jules Pitt has sent to TradArch an extraordinary photo of a town in Yemen, which he notes is in the news. So it is. I suppose the civil war there (now it’s a civil war; what has it been these several years?) prevents journalists from traveling to sites like this, which suggest the Yemenis aren’t the antediluvian folk that the world makes of them from news of that benighted “country.” Pirates, rascally sects of nomadic villains grappling with what we are invited to conclude are equally rascally villains in the “capital” of Sana’a – Insana’a one wants to murmur under one’s breath. The president has fled the capital and is begging for help from fellow Arab leaders confabulating this weekend in Cairo. Saudi Arabia has sent in its jets, and hankers for the bomb, which the Iranian mullahs seem set to get their hands on first. Good grief! So no, let us not gild the lily, let alone the turd.

Yet with such loveliness sprung clearly from the aesthetic, architectural and urbanistic intuition of a backward population, a fond wish that the Yemenis transcend their travails must be in order. Click the link. As endearing as is the photograph Jules chose to send, the many others posted in “The Secret Cities of Yemen” in 2011 on the Kuriositas website are difficult to imagine in the context of what we think we know of Yemen. They are heart-rendingly sad given what we certainly do know of the fate of other works of art and architecture in lands contested by ISIS (though Yemen is contested by the other side, the Shia, at least for now).

Go to and then go figure.

About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy,, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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