The national museum reopens, stronger than war and looting

On May 18, the opening ceremony took place with three different exhibitions. The act aroused the interest of the inhabitants of the capital and neighboring cities. Many students and fans visited it. An attempt to restore the former splendor of the building, after bloody years of conflict and the theft of up to a million objects.

Sana’a () – After 10 years of closure due to the war, which only in the last phase seems to have cooled down while mediation attempts to reach a stable truce continue in parallel, the national museum of Yemen in Sana’a has reopened its doors in recent weeks. A new step towards lost normality, which returned to its former splendor pieces and objects of great historical and cultural value that were in danger of being lost, looted or destroyed, and which attracted the attention of a large number of citizens and fans. The official reopening took place on May 18, coinciding with World Museum Day, and was a (rare) moment of celebration after a long period of suffering.

The conflict in Yemen erupted in 2014 as an internal clash between pro-Tehran Houthi rebels and Saudi-backed government forces; Over the months, it escalated into open warfare with Riyadh’s intervention in March 2015 at the head of a coalition of Arab nations, claiming almost 400,000 lives over the years. According to the UN, it has caused the “worst humanitarian crisis in the world”, on which the Covid-19 has had “devastating” effects; Millions of people are on the brink of starvation and children – 11,000 killed in the conflict – will suffer the consequences for decades. The internally displaced have exceeded three million, the majority living in conditions of extreme misery, hunger and epidemics of various kinds, including cholera.

Cultural heritage has also suffered, including the National Museum of Yemen in Sana’a, founded in 1971 in the so-called “Palace of Gratitude” near the Qubbat al-Mutawakkil Mosque in Al-Tahreer Square in central Yemen. the city. Recently, the museum moved to a nearby building, the “Palace of Happiness”, which has more space to house an increasing number of objects and artifacts -in 2007 there were already 30,000- that testify to the centuries-old history of the country and its inhabitants. The building has four floors and it exhibits objects up to a thousand years old that were found in different archaeological sites and that survived the devastation.

The war has focused (little) international attention on the humanitarian situation, largely neglecting and for too long the conservation of historical artifacts that have suffered theft, looting and, in some cases, demolition. The tourism sector, once thriving and then collapsing as a result of the violence of the war, also suffered. With the inauguration, the inhabitants of the capital took the opportunity to rediscover the beauty of the museum, and also welcomed visitors from neighboring cities. In the days that followed, high school students, university students, history and art buffs arrived, as well as families who wanted to rediscover its beauty.

UNESCO has repeatedly expressed concern in the past about endangered sites and heritage in Yemen, not least because many buildings had suffered collateral damage from the fighting. The reopening marks an important milestone, to the point that three different exhibitions were set up at the opening ceremony: the first included some 800 artifacts that had been stolen and later recovered; the second, artifacts from Jawf province; the third, “only” photographs of artifacts that had been smuggled or stolen. Items include copper plates, axes, and a sword. Although there are no official figures on items stolen or looted, it is unofficially estimated that the number of items smuggled abroad or hidden within the country amounts to up to one million, and there is still a long way to go to fully recover the heritage.

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Written by Editor TLN

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