Dhamar city, the center of Dhamar province, is located within the High Plains region of Yemen. The city's development over time has largely been shaped and augmented by various conflicts and occupations. Textual sources from the twelfth until seventeenth century have thus described the city as a collection of disjointed villages. Unlike other cities in Yemen, Dhamar has historically lacked city walls, though it does have a fortress located to the south of the city.
In the Islamic period, a central market place provided the foundation for the development of three urban districts: Hayy al Hawta, popularly held to be the oldest district, in the southeast, Hayy al Mahal, the site of a fourteenth century mosque, to the north, and Hayy al Jarajish, the later Tahirid settlement, that was later used by the Ottoman military. By the end of the eighteenth century, however, travel literature emerged supporting the observation that Dhamar constituted one comprehensive city, and was home to a sizable population. Much of the architecture in Dhamar is composed of mud-brick, covered in plaster. Among Dhamar's notable architecture is the Great Mosque, located within the city center. The city has been noted for its large, internal gardens, irrigated by drawn ground water. In its early history it was a center for horse-breeding. Dhamar was also an important center of Islamic scholarship, particularly for the Zaidiyyah community, for which it hosted a university.
An earthquake in 1982 had a devastating effect on the city, as well as the larger province. Subsequent reconstruction efforts resulted in the building of 15,000 new, and locally controversial, housing units in Dhamar and the surrounding area. These units were generally made of cement, corresponding to a grid-plan, and situated outside the original settlements.
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