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Yemen: Kawkaban

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Kawkaban | Yemen | Asia

[Visited: June 2004]

From San'a, it was a little over an hour's drive to reach Shibam, in the Al Mahwit province, not the more famous town with the same name in the Hadramawt region. Reaching Shibam means reaching a village built on the toes of a table mountain that dominates the surrounding area. Shibam is another example of a town built of stone houses, attractive in itself. Literally the crown on the town is the village of Kawkaban, built high above it on the edge of the mountain. It actually served as an escape refuge in times of trouble. As you walk towards the mountain and leave Shibam behind, the mountain rises always higher up above you and you see some houses apparently on the verge of falling down the edge of the table.

Picture of Kawkaban (Yemen): Kawkaban buildings reflected in the cistern

A path leads all the way up and although there is a road now that can take you, it is strongly advisable to walk. The views are superb, but most importantly, you develop a real admiration for the brave people who built a village on top of this steep mountain. On my walk up, I saw a group of girls coming down. They were all covered in black veils, and I walked past them until they saluted me and I turned around. I was amazed to find that they had taken off their veils, they were laughing, started shouting things at me and making gestures of kissing. One of them asked me to come to them, but when I made a move in their direction, they started to run down.

Picture of Kawkaban (Yemen): Looking down from Kawkaban

I stood on one of the many rocks with a perfect view over Shibam and the area below, and saw my first female Yemeni friends disappearing in their descent. Walking further up took me to Kawkaban, through a majestic town gate. The village was never conquered by any enemy, but it was finally partly destroyed in the 1960s because it had no defence against bombs falling down from planes. Still, many buildings are intact and a walk near the edge of the mountain gives you a good impression of the defiant nature of this proud village with its pleasant climate.

Picture of Kawkaban (Yemen): Kawkaban: some of the buildings reflected in the water basin
Picture of Kawkaban (Yemen): Kawkaban mountain
Picture of Kawkaban (Yemen): Stone minaret in Kawkaban village
Picture of Kawkaban (Yemen): Stone arch in Kawkaban
Picture of Kawkaban (Yemen): Gate of Kawkaban

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