The Social Fund for Development, Yemen, supports and assists the IVBC in the complex conservation work in the Jami Al Kabir mosque, the oldest and most important monument in the city of Sana’a. But above all, he allowed to transform this conservation intervention in a cultural and educational project starting up with a training program for young Yemeni workers.
Yemeni restorers training
The restoration project started six years ago and since then has included the education of young local workers intended to support the Italian restorers at work, delegating their growing responsibilities in relation to their professional growth.
A diversified didactic paths have been applied compare to ones which usually find in Italy where the conservation training is articulating on five years. In Yemen, the theoretical training part has been riduced to focus primarily on the practical formation, taking the old road training on site, accompanied by ongoing courses.
The training course was launched in Sana’a in November 2007 with about forty students. In the first phase of teaching have been proposed 400 hours of theoretical lessons. The second phase provided a direct approach to the work, with a 500 hours of practical application on the field.
Restoration of the wooden ceiling of the Mosque
So in 2005, we were invited to make a first visit to Sana’a to prepare the polychrome wooden ceilings restoration in the Great Mosque. That monument of great beauty, the oldest known Muslim religious building, whose foundation, according to tradition, dating to 630 d. C., was already built when the prophet Muhammad was still alive.
The parallelogram plan of the monument totaling 3,000 m2 covered – enclosing a large central courtyard, where are preserved ancient copies of the Koran, and two minarets. The interior consists of four wings, divided into a variable number of aisles: five in the north, four to the south, three east and three west. The coffered ceiling is composed of 5,200 parts painted and / or carved.
After several months of tests on the field, carried out by our own experts to verify the feasibility of the project, the methodologies to be adopted and quantify time and cost, we started the selection of Yemeni students to be admitted to the training course. It seems important here to underline the participation request of women also, a important signal in a poor country still imbued by strong traditions of men.
The restoration of the mosque wooden ceiling is divided into eight phases corresponding to the same number of years of work. The first three phases, already completed, began with the pilot project followed by the restoration phase undertaked with the collaboration of Yemeni students.
In March 2011, for safety reasons due to political instability in the country, our Italian team had to leave Yemen, thus leaving the restoring responsibility to our Yemeni colleagues. Fortunately, today the situation seems improved and in fact the work will restart shortly.