“Al-Natef” is a village perched on one of the peaks of Mount Sabr in the city of Taiz, southern Yemen. It was once a mine for extracting gypsum used in the construction and restoration of famous historical landmarks and sites in Taiz, such as “Al-kaherah Castle” and others. Its name is “Al-Natef,” and it is an area in “Buran” in the district of “Sabr Al-Mawadem,” currently inhabited by dozens of families.
This area represents one of the oldest gypsum mines in Yemen, where gypsum materials were extracted from the soil deposits on the mountain peaks, and it has cavities from which it is extracted. It has become habitats for humans and rare birds.
These mountains were once a mine for extracting gypsum, where workers in this field would burn the gypsum material, crush it, and then mix it with other solid materials until the final result was a bright white color.
A Yemeni Citizen Ali Rawah says: “It was called ‘Al-Natef’ because rain and floodwater continuously descended from it and continued to drip for a period ranging from one to two months. It continued to flow from the ‘Al-Khashabah’ dam to this area, and that’s why it was called Al-Natef.
“At the bottom, there is a valley filled with floodwater that needs to be drained. There is an irrigation canal that runs through the middle of this mountain and passes beneath our houses to the ‘Boran’ mosque. In this mosque, there used to be a pool and canals with water wheels. There was also a board for King Turan Shah, the brother of Saladin Ayyubi, and another board in his castle in the ‘Al-Hawat’ area next to the house of Sheikh Mohammed Abdo Ahmed.
“In his board, they would have lunch and food and drinks prepared in the ‘Boran’ area and brought down using a ‘trolley’ or elevator and chains to the palace, called ‘Akmat Al-Salsalah’. King Turan Shah also had recreational trips where he would leave his castle in ‘Al-Hawat’ for leisure activities. It was said that one day, King Turan Shah went to Egypt and then died.
“Over time, the palace collapsed, and currently, there is a buried floor in the palace that was opened about five or six years ago, and we found gypsum material that appeared to be no more than a month old.”
Ahmed Bishr, a tribal leader, says: “We have known this place since we were children, and it used to receive a lot of floodwater, which made it a place for sedimentation. Our fathers used to exploit it and extract gypsum for whitening houses and making water canals. The last extraction of this material was done by the Antiquities Office in Taiz Governorate for the purpose of renovating “Al-kaherah Castle”. There was a tender financed by the World Bank or an international organization, in my belief, for the purpose of renovating the “Al-kaherah Castle” in 2000, and they extracted a large amount of gypsum from this place, enough for the renovation of the castle or the targeted areas within the castle.”
Ahmed adds: “The place remains as it was from that period, despite the scarcity of floods that used to carry sedimentation materials from upper places.”
Additionally, Al-Natef is considered one of the beautiful villages covered with greenery throughout the year, even in the winter season. It also has historical significance, as it contains ruins from the Ayyubid state, which ruled Yemen for about 60 years.