Yemen's ancient art of brickmaking endures war

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Yemen's traditional brick making
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Yemen's traditional brick making
A labourer stands with his legs covered with mud at a brick factory on the outskirt of Sanaa, Yemen, May 29, 2016. Picture taken May 29, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi 
A labourer puts mud in a mould to make bricks at a factory on the outskirt of Sanaa, Yemen, May 28, 2016. Picture taken May 28, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi 
A boy arranges mud blocks at a brick factory on the outskirt of Sanaa, Yemen, May 29, 2016. Picture taken May 29, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi 
Boys arrange blocks at a brick factory on the outskirt of Sanaa, Yemen May 28, 2016. Picture taken May 28, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi 
Labourers carry dried bricks to be stacked inside a kiln, where they will be fired, at a factory on the outskirt of Sanaa, Yemen, May 29, 2016. Picture taken May 29, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi 
Labourers stack dried bricks inside a kiln, where they will be fired, at a brick factory on the outskirt of Sanaa, Yemen, June 1, 2016. Picture taken June 1, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi 
A labourer puts on his clothes at a brick factory on the outskirt of Sanaa, Yemen June 1, 2016. Picture taken June 1, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi 
A worker stands on bricks as he works at a kiln on the outskirt of Sanaa, Yemen, June 1, 2016. Picture taken June 1, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi 
A labourer plays a flute as other labourers listen at a brick factory on the outskirt of Sanaa, Yemen, June 5, 2016. Picture taken June 5, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi 
Labourers wash up at the end of a work day at a brick factory on the outskirt of Sanaa, Yemen, June 1, 2016. Picture taken June 1, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi 
Labourers load mud bricks onto a truck at a brick factory on the outskirt of Sanaa, Yemen May 29, 2016. Picture taken May 29, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi
Labourers work on a kiln as they make bricks at a factory on the outskirt of Sanaa, Yemen, June 1, 2016. Picture taken June 1, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi
A labourer looks at bricks being fired in a kiln at a factory on the outskirt of Sanaa, Yemen, June 1, 2016. Picture taken June 1, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi 
A labourer sleeps in a dorm at a brick factory on the outskirt of Sanaa, Yemen, June 5, 2016. Picture taken June 5, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi 
A labourer uses a head torch as he rests after a work day at a brick factory on the outskirt of Sanaa, Yemen, June 1, 2016. Picture taken June 1, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi 
A labourer smokes a cigarette as he rests at a brick factory on the outskirt of Sanaa, Yemen, June 1, 2016. Picture taken June 1, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi 
A general view shows the Old City of Sanaa, Yemen, July 11, 2016. Picture taken July 11, 2016. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah 
A general view shows the Old City of Sanaa, Yemen, July 11, 2016. Picture taken July 11, 2016. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah 
The al-Saleh mosque is seen in the background of a view of the Old City of Sanaa, Yemen, July 12, 2016. Picture taken July 12, 2016. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah 
A detail of a mud-brick house is seen in the Old City of Sanaa, Yemen, July 11, 2016. Picture taken July 11, 2016. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
A mud-brick house stands in the Old City of Sanaa, Yemen, July 11, 2016. Picture taken July 11, 2016. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah 
Houses stand in the Old City of Sanaa, Yemen July 12, 2016. Picture taken July 12, 2016. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah 
Damage is seen in a house allegedly caused by a Saudi-led air strike in the Old City of Sanaa, Yemen, July 11, 2016. Picture taken July 11, 2016. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah 
A view shows the Old City of Sanaa, Yemen, July 11, 2016. Picture taken July 11, 2016. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah 
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SANAA, July 26 (Reuters) - Traditional mud brick tower houses have always been a source of pride to Yemenis, and over a year into a devastating civil war, they are also providing some much-needed jobs in the ancient capital Sanaa.

At his traditional mud brick factory outside the city, Ali al-Sabahi oversees the process as it has was always been done, in happier days and now in dire ones.

Workers mix clay with straw, animal dung and water and leave this to dry in the sun for several days before settling it into square molds.

After drying once more, they are loaded into the kiln to be fired. The burning period ranges between 15 and 20 days.

SEE ALSO: Citizens of Sanaa yearn for end to Yemen's war

Yemen, a poor country awash with weapons where the rule of law is weak, is no stranger to conflict. But the war that erupted last year brought widespread destruction in Sanaa and beyond in air strikes led by Saudi Arabia.

The traditional houses of Sanaa, a UNESCO world heritage site said to have been founded by the son of Prophet Noah two and half millennia ago, have been spared - mostly.

Coalition air strikes killed at least six people and leveled several tower houses in the Qasimi quarter, one of the city's oldest, in June.

The war has taken livelihoods as well as lives, but brickmaking is a rare bright spot in Yemen, which has been pushed into a humanitarian disaster by the civil war.

Working in a brick kiln in Sanaa, 25-year old Ibrahim al-Omari is able to support his parents and family with his wages.

SEE ALSO: Uprooted by civil war in Yemen, families struggle in barren camp

"This work doesn't need a certificate or qualification. It needs muscles to be able to work here," he said.

"It's the work we've inherited from past generations ... I've been working here since I was 12."

Despite the threat of destruction, a decades-long spread of concrete construction and tight wartime budgets, the appeal of the ancient art remains strong.

"The brick's flexibility and ease to be customized for geometric shapes makes it attractive for customers for construction and decoration," said brickmaker Mohammed al-Amari.

Through his efforts the city's homes might yet maintain its distinctive beauty - its ochre walls glow amber and their whitewashed shining white at sunset - for generations.

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