Although the Yemeni government adopted a modern planning system and sustainable development strategy for Sana’a three decades ago, the capital city continues to face uncontrolled, rapid urban growth. The study examines Sana’a’s development (1980–2010), analyses the challenges facing the city today, and identifies growth management problems and alternatives to future development. Using personal interviews with state and non-state actors, appraisal of previous urban planning efforts, and a review of existing academic studies and reports on Sana’a’s urban planning strategies and development issues, it explores how the city’s rapid growth has been affected by factors that include a lack of comprehensive planning vision; land challenges; a fragile state; weak law enforcement; the absence of coordination and conflicts of interest among various local and national authorities; and a lack of professional capacity and donor interest. The study emphasizes the need to revisit existing urban planning policies, redefine urban development strategies for Sana’a, build government capacity, and encourage participatory planning and community involvement in government policies and programmes.