Expo 2020 Dubai: Yemen Pavilion is a fascinating learning experience

The pavilion showcases various sustainability features of the country’s long and illustrious history



A view of Shahrah e Sitteen, Sana’a, Yemen, circa 2009. Photo: Mahwash Ajaz
A view of Shahrah e Sitteen, Sana’a, Yemen, circa 2009. Photo: Mahwash Ajaz

By Mahwash Ajaz

Published: Mon 10 Jan 2022, 11:30 AM

Yemen is a beautiful country with beautiful people. I remember landing in Sana’a, Yemen, in 2009, surprised at how quaint it was. I had a brief stopover from Dubai and felt a sharp contrast between the two. Sana’a’s weather was much colder than Dubai, and while I heard the familiar lilts of Arabic around me, Dubai and Sana’a were very different cities. Therefore, it was a delight when I spotted the Yemen pavilion at the Sustainability Pavilion at the Expo 2020 Dubai.

I wanted to relive all the memories of Yemen and learn so much more about this beautiful country that I may have missed in the two years that I lived there.

The entry to the Yemen pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. Photo: Mahwash Ajaz
The entry to the Yemen pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. Photo: Mahwash Ajaz

Located near the entrance of the Sustainability Gate at the Expo 2020 Dubai, the Yemen pavilion begins in a circular room, and you see a library to your left and some important artefacts in the front.

The pavilion is divided into three circular rooms, with each room holding various facts about the historical country.

The informative walls in the Yemen pavilion. Photo: Mahwash Ajaz
The informative walls in the Yemen pavilion. Photo: Mahwash Ajaz

One of the key reasons for positing Yemen in the sustainability pavilion at the Expo 2020 Dubai is possibly because of how the people have achieved water conservation.

The Great Dam of Marib was built in the 8th century in Wadi Saba’. It irrigated over 4000 acres it also established a community in the town of Marib.

One of the rooms inside the Yemen pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. Photo: Mahwash Ajaz
One of the rooms inside the Yemen pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. Photo: Mahwash Ajaz

The city of Aden is known for its lofty windmills. The sun-drying method was used to manage coffee in post-harvesting and maintain the storage life of crops.

The city of Shibam is also noted for sustainable architecture.

It had one of the world’s ‘earliest skyscrapers’, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1982.

A glimpse of Dar al Hajjar, the Rock Palace in Yemen. Photo: Mahwash Ajaz
A glimpse of Dar al Hajjar, the Rock Palace in Yemen. Photo: Mahwash Ajaz

The materials used to build in Yemen were all locally sourced. Stained glass of Qamaria was used for windows, and stone-based qudad used for insulation.

Yemen is also known for terrace farming, which dates back to 3000 BCE.

Through terrace farming, Yemenis could farm in the mountain areas and hills and maximised their terrain for benefiting their lives and their society. It also helped prevent soil erosion and water loss.

The library wall at Yemen Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. Photo: Mahwash Ajaz
The library wall at Yemen Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. Photo: Mahwash Ajaz

The pavilion also pays homage to various writers and poets such as Dr. Abdul Aziz Al Maqaleh and Abdullah Al-Baradouni.

Displays at the Yemen pavilion at the Expo 2020 Dubai. Photo: Mahwash Ajaz
Displays at the Yemen pavilion at the Expo 2020 Dubai. Photo: Mahwash Ajaz

Artefacts shown in the pavilion included Jambiya (dagger) under Marib and a sword from the 14th century under Socotra and exquisite jewelry under Hadramout.

Displays at the Yemen pavilion at the Expo 2020 Dubai. Photo: Mahwash Ajaz
Displays at the Yemen pavilion at the Expo 2020 Dubai. Photo: Mahwash Ajaz

Ancient coins are also displayed under Aden and a bronze lion with a rider is made by Qatabanians circa 75-50 BCE are displayed under Sana’a.

jewellery at the Yemen pavilion at the Expo 2020 Dubai. Photo: Mahwash Ajaz
jewellery at the Yemen pavilion at the Expo 2020 Dubai. Photo: Mahwash Ajaz

There is a small seating area or a ‘majlis’ where you have a traditional set-up, as you would see in many restaurants or houses in Yemen.

At the end of the pavilion, a gift store sells prayer beats, miniature models of Yemeni historical sites, and jewellery.

Yemen is known for silversmithing. Beautiful jewellery is sold with stones such as agate, pearls, amber and emeralds. It reminded me of Shahrah e Jamal, a street in Sana’a, Yemen, which was filled with jewellery and clothes across the street.

Jewellery at the Yemen pavilion at the Expo 2020 Dubai. Photo: Mahwash Ajaz
Jewellery at the Yemen pavilion at the Expo 2020 Dubai. Photo: Mahwash Ajaz

The vendor was delighted to find out that I had spent a lot of our time in Sana’a. While it was a nostalgic experience for an expat such as myself, it is a great learning experience for anyone who wants to know more about Yemen and a wonderfully nostalgic experience for any Yemeni.

Fahsa and mulawwa bread at Maraheb, an authentic Yemeni restaurant at Expo 2020 Dubai located in the Opportunity District. Photo by Mahwash Ajaz
Fahsa and mulawwa bread at Maraheb, an authentic Yemeni restaurant at Expo 2020 Dubai located in the Opportunity District. Photo by Mahwash Ajaz

Pro tip: there is a wonderful Yemeni restaurant at the Expo 2020 called Maraheb, which serves authentic fahsa, mulawwa bread and is relatively easy on the pocket.

Authentic Yemeni cuisine at the Maraheb restaurant is an experience you want to pair with your visit to the Yemen Pavilion at the Expo 2020 Dubai.


More news from Expo 2020