"The Curse of Unesco?" Top 5 Page for this destination Shibam by TheLongTone

Shibam Travel Guide: 27 reviews and 91 photos

I think that a photo of Shibam was probably among the selection that fisrt made me want to visit Yemen. Since then I have become increasingly interested in mud architecture: so Shibam, with it's mud buildings of up to eight stories high, was a definate 'must' on my itinerary.

Sadly I was most disappointed. True, the town is astonishing seen from a distance: and the view from the clifftop hanging over it to the South must be astonishing. But it doesn't feel like a town: it feels like a museum exhibit.

Inside the walls there was no sign of life apart from the goats and an occasional child. I know that the streets of other towns in the Hadramout aren't teeming with life during the daytime (most people are either indoors if female or working in the fields if male) but this was ridiculous. The only shops were those selling 'antiques' (inverted commas because you are not allowd to export anything over forty years old from Yemen) or honey. Ouside the walls there is a small number of shops: one juice stall, one chicken-with-rice diner, one tea stall.

All the real life is across the wadi in New Shibam. On my first visit it had rained heavily the previous night:by eight o'clock the road was awash and almost the first thing that happened to me after I had squelched my way across was an encounter with a glum German who told me that since the river was still rising I wouldn't be able to make the return crossing. Possibly for days. I occupied myself being a tourist in Shibam, found somewhere to have lunch, and settled down in the shade to watch almost every child and a good proportion of the men making the most of this opportunity to have a swim. Just like Clacton. Made me feel right at home. Kids mucking about in water are the same the world over.

  • Last visit to Shibam: May 2007
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Comments (4)

  • travelinxs's Profile Photo
    May 29, 2010 at 6:28 AM

    I understand what you mean about it being a museum exhibit. I found some of the architecture further east into the valley more stunning - and natural.

  • craic's Profile Photo
    Jul 2, 2008 at 8:05 AM

    i can only say what grets said

  • angiebabe's Profile Photo
    Nov 12, 2007 at 2:57 PM

    Interesting, thats pretty much how I feel about Ait BenHaddou. nice to see your tips and pics though thanks.

  • grets's Profile Photo
    Oct 31, 2007 at 1:34 AM

    You don't expect to be stranded due to floods in the desert.....


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