Yemen's ancient art of brickmaking endures war

Tue Jul 26, 2016 8:23am EDT
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By Mohammed al-Sayaghi and Khaled Abdullah

SANAA (Reuters) - Traditional mud brick tower houses have always been a source of pride to Yemenis, and over a year into a devastating civil war, they are also providing some much-needed jobs in the ancient capital Sanaa.

At his traditional mud brick factory outside the city, Ali al-Sabahi oversees the process as it has was always been done, in happier days and now in dire ones.

Workers mix clay with straw, animal dung and water and leave this to dry in the sun for several days before settling it into square moulds.

After drying once more, they are loaded into the kiln to be fired. The burning period ranges between 15 and 20 days.

Yemen, a poor country awash with weapons where the rule of law is weak, is no stranger to conflict. But the war that erupted last year brought widespread destruction in Sanaa and beyond in air strikes led by Saudi Arabia.

The traditional houses of Sanaa, a UNESCO world heritage site said to have been founded by the son of Prophet Noah two and half millennia ago, have been spared - mostly.

Coalition air strikes killed at least six people and leveled several tower houses in the Qasimi quarter, one of the city's oldest, in June.

The war has taken livelihoods as well as lives, but brickmaking is a rare bright spot in Yemen, which has been pushed into a humanitarian disaster by the civil war.   Continued...

Labourers wash up at the end of a work day at a brick factory on the outskirt of Sanaa, Yemen, June 1, 2016. Picture taken June 1, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi