The Rock Palace: An iconic symbol of Yemen built in the 1700s

David Goran
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The Dar al-Hajar or “Rock Palace” is a royal, five stories high palace located in Wadi Dhar, around 15 km from the capital city of Sana, Yemen. It seems to grow out of the rocks on which it is constructed and it has the characteristic painting of its windows and edges.

Perched atop a rock pinnacle at the famous Wadi Dhahr Valley. Photo Credit

Perched atop a rock pinnacle at the famous Wadi Dhahr Valley. Photo Credit

 

The iconic symbol of Yemen. Photo Credit

The iconic symbol of Yemen. Photo Credit

 

According to archeologists, the rock palace was built by al-Imam Mansour, dating back to 1786. Photo Credit1 Photo Credit2

According to archeologists, the rock palace was built by al-Imam Mansour, dating back to 1786. Photo Credit1 Photo Credit2

It was constructed as a summer residence for Imam Yahya in the 1920s, but it seems that he was building atop a preexisting structure that was built in the 1700s by an Islamic scholar. The palace would remain in his family until his grandson was removed from power in a military coup, igniting Yemen’s 1962 revolution.

It is also called the Imam’s Rock Palace. Photo Credit

It is also called the Imam’s Rock Palace. Photo Credit

 

Prior to the 1962 revolution, the palace was a place to summer and vacation for the nation’s ruler at the time. Photo Credit

Prior to the 1962 revolution, the palace was a place to summer and vacation for the nation’s ruler at the time. Photo Credit

Back in the day, Yemen didn’t have a king or a president. Instead, the leadership of the country rested on the shoulders of an Imam (Islamic spiritual leader). Yahya Muhammad Hamiddin (1869-1948) became Imam of the Zaydis (an Islamic religious sect) after his father’s death in 1904. Following the assassination of Imam Yahiya in 1948, his son, Imam Ahmed took over and fled to Taiz and declared the city the administrative capital of Yemen.

It has an ideal location, as it overlooks a Wadi or green valley of sorts. Photo Credit

It has an ideal location, as it overlooks a Wadi or green valley of sorts. Photo Credit

 

An exemplary of Yemeni architecture. Photo Credit

An exemplary of Yemeni architecture. Photo Credit

The palace itself is built like a fortress, with shooting emplacements to defend the place from attackers. The palace also has its own water supply from deep below the rock and could, therefore, have easily withstood a siege.

Around the palace there are five ruined watch towers. Photo Credit

Around the palace, there are five ruined watch-towers. Photo Credit

There are storage areas, sitting rooms for guests, bedrooms, kitchens, and a special room in which the Imam would stay with the wife selected for that day.

Aerial view. Photo Credit

Aerial view. Photo Credit

 

While it is no longer used as a royal residence, the palace has been refitted as a museum and can be toured for a fee. Photo Credit

While it is no longer used as a royal residence, the palace has been refitted as a museum and can be toured for a fee. Photo Credit

It is an iconic part of Yemen’s landscape and is admired for its architecture and history by Yemen enthusiasts around the world.