صَنْعَاء / San’a
The Ottoman Empire entered Yemen in 1538 under the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent. Under the military leadership of Özdemir Pasha, the Ottomans conquered Sanaʽa in 1547. With Ottoman approval, European captains based in the Yemeni port towns of Aden and Mocha frequented Sanaʽa to maintain special privileges and capitulations for their trade. In 1602 the local Zaydi imams led by Imam al-Mu’ayyad reasserted their control over the area and forced out Ottoman troops in 1629. Although the Ottomans fled during al-Mu’ayyad’s reign, his predecessor al-Mansur al-Qasim had already vastly weakened the Ottoman army in Sanaʽa and Yemen. Consequently, European traders were stripped of their previous privileges.
The Zaydi imams maintained their rule over Sanaʽa until the mid 19th-century, when the Ottomans relaunched their campaign to control the region. In 1835, Ottoman troops arrived on the Yemeni coast under the guise of Muhammad Ali of Egypt’s troops. They did not capture Sanaʽa until 1872, when their troops led by Ahmed Muhtar Pasha entered the city. The Ottoman Empire instituted the Tanzimat reforms throughout the lands they governed.
In Sanaʽa, city planning was initiated for the first time, new roads were built, and schools and hospitals were established. The reforms were rushed by the Ottomans in order to solidify their control of Sanaʽa to compete with an expanding Egypt, British influence in Aden and imperial Italian and French influence along the coast of Somalia, particularly in the towns of Djibouti and Berbera. The modernization reforms in Sanaʽa were still very limited, however.