In Yemen’s ancient walled city of Sana’a mud skyscrapers soar high into the sky. The towering structures are built entirely out of rammed earth and decorated with striking geometric patterns. The earthen buildings blend into the nearby ochre-coloured mountains.
Sana’a’s mud architecture is so unique that the city has been recognised as a Unesco World Heritage site.
“As an outstanding example of a homogeneous architectural ensemble reflecting the spatial characteristics of the early years of Islam, the city in its landscape has an extraordinary artistic and pictorial quality,” Unesco writes in its description of Sana’a. “The buildings demonstrate exceptional craftsmanship in the use of local materials and techniques.”
Even though the buildings in Sana’a are thousands of years old, they remain “terribly contemporary”, says Salma Samar Damluji, co-founder of the Daw’an Mud Brick Architecture Foundation in Yemen and author of The Architecture of Yemen and its Reconstruction. The ancient structures are still inhabited today and most remain private residences.