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Zabid

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The Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecture What is This? Provides in-depth historical and cultural information on over a thousand years of Islamic art and architecture

Zabid

City in Yemen about 20 km from the Red Sea. Located in a fertile area of the Tihama Plain where the pilgrimage route from the south of Yemen to Mecca crosses the Wadi Zabid, the city was founded in 820 by Muhammad ibn Ziyad, emissary of the Abbasid caliph al-Ma῾mun (r. 813–33) and progenitor of the semi-independent Ziyadid dynasty (r. 819–1018). The Ziyadids were responsible for erecting Zabid's congregational mosque, which has a hypostyle plan, and for the first city wall, erected in 1001 by Husayn ibn Salama. The congregational mosque was remodeled under the patronage of the Ayyubid dynasty (r. 1174–1229), under whom the building was given its present form and a brick minaret. Zabid became the winter capital of the Rasulid dynasty (r. 1229–1454) and flourished as an important center of Islamic learning, particularly for the Shafi῾i school of law, which was dominant along the Yemeni coast. The multi-domed al-Iskandariya Mosque (later incorporated in the citadel) appears to have been built under the Rasulids, although its modern name refers to Iskandar Mawz, governor for the Ottomans from 1530 to 1536. Zabid continued to flourish under the Tahirid dynasty (r. 1454–1537), who were responsible for major renovations to the congregational mosque in 1492, but it began to decline during the first Ottoman occupation of the Yemen (1537–1636), as the traditional overland trade routes were displaced. The city walls, which were rebuilt in 1805, were removed in the 1960s, but the four gates, which also probably date from the early 19th century, still stand. Several important buildings and houses in the traditional style remain in the city. They have exteriors enlivened with small, tablet-shaped bricks laid in patterns and usually covered with whitewash or stucco, creating baroque effects. Pottery shards of widely varied place and date of manufacture have been found in and around the city, testifying to a tradition of local production as well as long-distance trade with Iraq and China. The arrival of imported machine-made goods in the 20th century led to the decline of such traditional handicrafts as weaving, dyeing and leatherwork. Since 1982 the Royal Ontario Museum has conducted a multi-disciplinary project to study the city and its environs.

Bibliography

  • J. Chelhod: “Introduction à l’histoire sociale et urbaine de Zabîd,” Arabica, xxv (1978), pp. 48–88
  • S. Hirschi and M. Hirschi: L’Architecture au Yémen du Nord (Paris, 1983)
  • E. J. Keall: “The Dynamics of Zabid and its Hinterland: The Survey of a Town on the Tihama Plain of North Yemen,” World Archaeol., xiv/3 (1983), pp. 378–91
  • E. J. Keall: “Zabid and its Hinterland: 1982 Report,” Proc. Semin. Arab. Stud., xiii (1983), pp. 53–69
  • E. J. Keall: “A Preliminary Report on the Architecture of Zabîd,” Proc. Semin. Arab. Stud., xiv (1984), pp. 51–65
  • E. J. Keall: “A Few Facts about Zabid,” Proc. Semin. Arab. Stud., xix (1989), pp. 61–9
  • P. Bonnenfant and J.-M. Gentilleau: “Zabid classée au patrimoine mondial de l’UNESCO,” Madina: Cité du Monde, i (1995), pp. 32–7
  • C. Ciuk and E. J. Keall: Zabid Project Pottery Manual 1995: Pre-Islamic and Islamic Ceramics from the Zabid Area, North Yemen (Oxford, 1996)
  • N. Sadek: “The Mosques of Zabīd, Yemen: A Preliminary Report,” Proc. Semin. Arab. Stud., xxviii (1999), pp. 239–45
  • A. Regourd, ed.: Catalogue cumuli des Bibliothèques de Manucrits de Zabid, 1 (San῾a, 2006)
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