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Yemen: Shibam

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Shibam | Yemen | Asia

[Visited: May 2004]

I arrived from Al Mukallah by 4WD through Wadi Dawan, and after a day of driving and marvelling at the beauty of the region, I managed to arrive in Shibam at around 4. Just in time for a cup of tea and an afternoon stroll in this fairy tale town. Walking through the alleys, it became clear how high the buildings are. Shibam is largely a car-free town because its alleys are simply too narrow to allow for traffic, and it adds to the medieval appeal of clay houses, its quietness and peacefulness, and its dusty streets smelling of animal dung.

Picture of Shibam (Yemen): Shibam skyscrapers in the early morning

Before sunset, I was sure to climb the hill at the edge of the wadi to have a better view over the town and was not disappointed. It was truly marvellous to see the high rise buildings as a not to be missed mark in the wadi, with the sunlight playing hide and seek on the side and top of the village. From a distance, it certainly seems that Shibam is one big house, instead of a collection of some 500 independent houses, and that's mainly because they are built so close together.

Picture of Shibam (Yemen): Shibam skyline with the walls of the wadi in the background

I could not resist coming back to Shibam one early morning, and walked all around the town. Views from the back were truly spectacular, and the absolute silence only interrupted by the barking of a large clan of dogs. The skycrapers defiantly point into the air which they have been doing since some 500 years, although most buildings have been rebuilt in the 19th century. Shibam's origins lie in the spice trade, but its rare beauty have redefined the role of the town as the summum of what clay construction could bring.

Picture of Shibam (Yemen): Shibam: some of the mud skyscrapers in the morning light
Picture of Shibam (Yemen): Shibam from above
Picture of Shibam (Yemen): Backside of Shibam and wall protecting it
Picture of Shibam (Yemen): Walking along the town wall in Shibam
Picture of Shibam (Yemen): Shibam's alleys are narrow and without sunlight
Picture of Shibam (Yemen): Painted clay building typical in Shibam
Picture of Shibam (Yemen): Shibam skyscraper with wooden frames in windows
Picture of Shibam (Yemen): One of Shibam's wider streets
Picture of Shibam (Yemen): A door in Shibam

Around the World in 80 Clicks

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