On my first visit to Tarim, I explored the city of Tarim on foot, visiting the market and several of the mosques of this deeply religious place. Like the other cities in Wadi Hadramaut, it is built just under the high cliffs of the canyon. Palm groves surround the city on the other side. For centuries, Tarim has been the centre of the Shafi'i school: one of four branches of Islamic school of Sunni Islam. According to an official count, it has 365 mosques: one for each day of the year. A remarkable feat for a town. The most outstanding building of Tarim is the mosque of Muhdar, mostly because of its iconic minaret. It is not much more than a hundred years old. Even years after seeing the tower for the first time, I could easily pull the image from my memory. I did not enter the mosque, so I did not climb the tower either.
Today, seventeen years after my first visit, I am on the way back to Tarim. I have visited several other places that only existed in the back of my memory, and it is exciting to be back in this part of Yemen. The tall, slender, white minaret of the Al Muhdar mosque is all that I am looking for. But first, we have a local breakfast, and drive through town and past a market I must have seen on my first visit. Looking around Tarim, I am appalled by the neglect and dirt that is strewn all over the streets. Not just your everyday rubbish and dust, but also stacks of discarded airconditioners and other machinery that is resting on the sidewalks under a thick layer of dust. We walk the streets of Tarim, which are mostly quiet today as it is a Friday. Most shops are closed. At first sight, the houses look dilapidated and neglected, but when you look closer, you see they once were beautiful.
We turn a corner, and high above us, I finally see that tall, white and slender tower above me, again. It is exactly how I remembered it. It still looks fragile, it is still square, well maintained, with several floors. It is still the symbol of Tarim: its iconic look can be found in a much smaller version in souvenir shops far from Tarim itself. The morning sun shines mercilessly on the white mosque, making us squint our eyes. We cross the street and climb the stairs, and when we stand right at the foot of the tower, we fully appreciate its size. A busload of women dressed up in black parks, and they enter the mosque through a side entrance. We are not supposed to enter, so again, we will not climb the tower to enjoy the views from its top that must be awesome. After exploring Wadi Hadramaut further east of Tarim, we come back and stop to enjoy the view of the minaret from a distance again. The question is: when will I see the minaret again?
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Al Muhdar minaret (Yemen). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Al Muhdar minaret. Read more about this site.