Mahmoud Assamiee , Saba,, Almotamar.net - Zafar, the historical city known as the ancient capital of Himyarite Kingdom is located on the top of Raidan Mountain in Assadah district, Ibb governorate. The area has witnessed the establishment of the Himyarite Kingdom by King Dhu Raidan in 115 BC and lasted for nearly 650 years.
As the strongest kingdom in the Arabian Peninsula at that time, Himyaris extended their role to the south and the east. They invaded Hahramout kingdom in the south east of Yemen with Shabwa as their capital.
Then they continued their incursion to the east where Saba Kingdom was dominating the area, Mareb was the capital. They unified with the Sheba Kingdom and formed the "Kingdom of Sheba and Thu Raidan" under the role of Himyrite King Shorahbil Bin Yafor Abu Karb Asa'ad and named Zafar as the capital of the United Kingdom.
Choosing Zafar as the capital was based on wise decision as the area was controlling the trade road extended from the south of Yemen to Mecca and to Asham area (area includes countries of Palestine, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.)
Zafar also is considered the highest area in the Southern Arabian Peninsula with 2700 meters high of sea level. This made it a strategic location to build military castles. It is surrounded by vast and fertile valleys rich in water comes from surrounding dams and waterfalls.
The kingdom economy was based on trade and agriculture. Incense, frankincense and medical products like myrrh were the famous exports of the Kingdom to the east and west.
For the importance of Zafar, it was mentioned in many Arab and foreign historical references. It was mentioned in Greece references which gave it the name "Zafar".
What remained from the capital are ruins of the castles, remains of a palace, temple, long tunnel, cemetery and dams.
As the capital to the Kingdom of Sheba and Thu Raidan, kings constructed high palaces like Raidan Palace, the famous one. The palace was surrounded by seven fences as it was the stronghold of the leadership.
What remain of the palace are only seven meters, curved stones in the top of the mountain and a hole closed with amazing stone shines like gold if a visitor sees it from a distance.
Under Raidan Palace and from the south east, there is a ruin of a temple. This temple was discovered only three years ago. The area of the temple is estimated at 170 square meters.
The floor of the temple is paved with flagstones. What is remained from the temple is only two walls; eastern and northern walls. The eastern wall is 1 meter high and around ten meters long. While the northern wall is two meters high and around seven meters long.
In the northern wall, there is a row of stones with inscriptions for heads of animals like ox and above this row, there is another row, of stones forming grapes tree.
In the middle of the northern wall, a shape of man with a stick in its hand was shaped in big stone. The shape was curved on the same level of the row of stones of the wall. It is covered with a frame from glass and wood.
There was a roof of metal was put on the temple. In front of the temple, there is a dog tied to a corner of small room, it seems that it is built to the guard of the temple.
Cemetery of Himyaris
In the opposite area of Zafar, there are two mountains, Al-Asabi and Al-Irr. They were used as a cemetery to Himayris. They are still known in the area as tombs of Himyaris. These tombs are exposed to digging by those who search for antiquities as there is not enough protection.
Under Raidan Mountain, there is still deep tunnel thought to be a long market linking the mountain with the city. It contains shops and stores curved in rocks.
Under the Palace, there is deep water pool or water store used to supply the palace with water.
Zafar Museum was established in 1978. It is located in the entrance of Zafar village. In the museum, there are 300 antique pieces collected by locals.
The stones contain inscriptions of face-like shapes, drawing of birds and animals and calligraphies. The museum also contains old coins and adorning things.
There are 5000 antique pieces are kept also in a nearby warehouse. According to Tawfiq Sa'ad Al-Anabi, the guardian of the historical places in Zafar, these antique are exposed to destruction as the museum and the warehouse are vulnerable to collapse.
He said that concerned bodies do not pay attention to the whole area. People are digging for antiques and sell them to antique sellers as they do not get rewards from concerned bodies.
According to him, there is no budget for the museum from concerned bodies to take care of and that the director of the museum, who is also the director of Assada historical places, is always absent and does not take care of the museum.
"We buy even the locks of the doors from our own pockets," said Ali Al-Zabidi, the guardian of Zafar Museum. The museum and the area are protected by these two persons, Al-Anabi and Al-Zabidi. They receive the visitors, open the museum to them and show them every thing in the area.
According to Al-Anabi, there is one German researcher and professor who is taking care of the museum. He has exerted great efforts to collect the museums belongings. Every year he comes to visit the museum and inspects it.
The historical area is not well protected
Although the whole village and the nearby places announced by the General Authority for Preserving Antiquities as protected area, historical places are exposed to ruin and looting.
According to Tawfiq Al-Anabi, the guard of the historical places, people are digging for antiquities in Himayrite tombs and sell their findings to antiquities traders.
He said the whole area lacks guards and that only he and his sons, besides the dog are guarding the area. He added that people from inside and outside the area are digging for antiquities in every part of the supposed protected places in the absences of tough protection from concerned bodies.