No. 91—SANA’A

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One of the oldest continuously occupied settlements in human history, Sana’a is located over 7000 feet above sea level. Serving as the capital city of a unified Yemeni state since 1970, Sana’a is nestled within mountainous territory that has defined Yemeni culture and shaped its long history. The Yemeni mountain sides and valleys have kept various communities distinct and secure enough to resist internal—and external—attempts to unify the region and its scant resources under a single ruling authority. This has also made the task of fomenting a cohesive national identity nigh impossible.

Sana’a’s proximity to Houthi rebel strongholds in the north of the country has forced the internationally recognized government to flee to Aden, the erstwhile capital of the former People’s Democratic of South Yemen. The city is now ground zero for Saudi attempts to learn the ins-and-outs of airstrike-warfare.

For more on Yemen’s future and Chapter 6 in The Absent Superpower.