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Throne of Bilqis: Symbol of Power of Yemen's Ancient Kingdom of Saba

Throne of Bilqis: Symbol of Power of Yemen's Ancient Kingdom of Saba

Friday, 20 May, 2022 - 06:00
The Throne of Bilqis. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

The Temple of Awwam, known as the Throne of Bilqis, is one of the most famous landmarks of the ancient Kingdom of Saba in Yemen.

The landmark was a symbol of power of the Sabaen religious authority, and a pilgrimage site for peoples and tribes that presented offerings in supplication.

Asharq Al-Awsat toured the temple, which is viewed as the most important in ancient Yemeni history.

The site lies neglected due to the current conflict and the successive wars that have plagued the country over the decades.

Dr. Abdullah al-Tam, of the archeology department at the University of Saba Region in Marib, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Temple of Awwam was one of the most famous pilgrimage site for ancient Yemenis and non-Yemenis.

The pilgrimage had its own rituals and it was performed during specific times of the year. People could perform a mass pilgrimage or an individual one and each was held during different times of the year, he revealed.

The temple is located in an isolated region so that it could be solely be visited for religious purposes.

The temple may have first been built as a grave before being developed in a massive complex that brings together buildings related to the temple, such as the houses of the clergy, astrology rooms and a cemetery.

Geomorphic studies have revealed that the temple was built on elevated ground, giving it a grander appearance to visitors.

As soon as we arrived at the temple, we encountered a boy of no older than ten years of age manning the gate.

When we asked that he grant us passage, he demanded payment of no more than a dollar, which he said is unofficial payment for guarding the site.

After being allowed in, we approached the temple's eight columns. Despite the beauty of the landmark, we could not ignore the signs of neglect in the area. Ruins were strewn haphazardly and the columns have been marred by graffiti and writings left behind by visitors.

Dr. al-Tam said the temple was constructed so that it would face the rising sun.

It is composed of eight columns that give way to a large rectangular hall and a large wall that leads to outer temples and the cemetery.

Statues of bronze bulls, horses, and humans used to be attached to the entrance gates of the temple. It was decorated with geometrical and figural paintings, sculptures, finely carved inscriptions painted red, and beautiful ornamental friezes on the wall's exterior were meant to impress visitors and fill them with awe in the presence of gods.

An alabaster canal used to pass through the main hall pouring water in a bronze basin that was used for purification.

The temple used to be enclosed by a 757 meter-long wall with a height of 13 meters. Little can be now seen of the wall due to the years of neglect.

The cemetery dates back to the 7th century BC and held around 20,000 graves.

The graves themselves could be built to up to four levels. They were build with limestone and the outer walls would be decorated with friezes, with the face of the deceased sometimes engraved into the stone.

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