Welcome to Taiz, a city located in southwestern Yemen and the capital of Taiz Governorate. Despite being a battleground and war zone due to Yemen’s civil war, Taiz was once known as the cultural capital of Yemen, boasting a rich history and architectural heritage. Let’s explore this city and discover its landmarks, economy, and notable people.
Taiz’s history dates back to the first half of the 12th century. It first became an urbanized area during the days of Ali bin Muhammad al-Sulayhi, brother of the sultan of the Sulayhid dynasty. Its expansion accelerated during the Rasulid dynasty, which ruled Yemen from 1229-1454, and made Taiz its capital. Taiz was said to have reached its golden age during this time, with lavishly built mosques, palaces, and madrassas. In 1516, Taiz came under Ottoman control. In more recent history, Taiz has been a battleground and war zone during the Yemeni uprising and civil war.
Taiz is located in the Yemeni highlands, near the port city of Mocha on the Red Sea, at an elevation of about 1,400 metres (4,600 ft) above sea level. The city has a hot semi-arid climate, with an average daily temperature high during August of 32.5 °C (90.5 °F). Taiz is also home to one of the best-known mountains in Yemen, Jabal Saber, almost 3,000 metres (1.9 miles) above sea level), which affords panoramic views over the city.
Taiz has many old quarters with brown brick houses and whitewashed mosques. The Ashrafiya, Muatabiya, and Mudhaffar mosques are the most famous in the city. Other landmarks include Cairo Citadel, which looms above the city from the south, and the governors palace, which rests on top of a mountain spur 450 m (1,480 ft) above the city centre.
Historically, Taiz was known for coffee production, with Mocha coffee considered some of the finest in the region in the early 20th century. Today, it remains a major part of the economy, along with the production of mango, pomegranate, citrus, banana, papai, vegetables, cereals, onions, and qat. Taiz is also known for its cheese, produced in rural areas and sold in Bab al-Kabeer and Bab Musa markets. Industries in the city include cotton-weaving, tanning, and jewelry production. However, since the outbreak of the civil war in 2015, Taiz’s economy has been devastated by the fighting and siege by Houthi rebels.
Tawakkol Karman, Yemeni Nobel Laureate, journalist, politician, and human rights activist, hails from Taiz. Other notable people include Amat Al Alim Alsoswa, journalist and Yemen’s first female ambassador, Abdel Karim al-Khaiwani, politician and human rights activist, and Ali al-Muqri, novelist, among others.
While Taiz may currently be a war zone, its rich history and cultural heritage are worth exploring. From its landmarks and natural beauty to its coffee and cheese production, there is much to discover in this breathtaking city, once known as the cultural capital of Yemen.