Exclusive: Families struggling to survive in war-torn Sanaa, Yemen’s ancient capital

In the last of five reports from war-ravaged Yemen, FRANCE 24’s reporters take us to the heart of the old city of Sanaa, the country’s ancient capital, which has been blighted by more than four years of war. FRANCE 24 brings you an exclusive report by Cyril Payen and Amar Al-Hameedawi.

For more than 2,500 years, the old city of Sanaa has stood proud on the high plateau of northern Yemen. But as war has blighted the country, swathes of the ancient city have now been pummelled into ruins.

"When the war broke out, even though I survived the bombings, I lost everything, my job, my life,” says Sami Saleh al-Sayani, a tour guide in Yemen’s Old City. “At one point there was hope for Yemen. But the tourists are gone, everything has collapsed."

Sami leads us through the heart of the old city, where families struggle just to survive amid the ruins of bombing raids.

“We are not interested in politics, we are not Houthis,” residents say, referring to the Shiite militia that controls much of northern Yemen, including the capital city. “We are simple people of the Old City. We have lived here for generations, why are we bombed?”

In 2015 UNESCO placed the old city of Sanaa on its list of endangered World Heritage Sites.

"UNESCO rules are very clear in terms of world heritage protection, to prevent a protected city from becoming a war zone, otherwise it constitutes war crimes,” says Amat Alrazaaq Jahaf, at the Sanaa heritage centre. “But five years have passed, and I have never seen any UN official come to witness these crimes."