"Mountain towns and villages" Manakhah by dutchwindmill
Manakhah Travel Guide: 18 reviews and 66 photos
Capital of a district and market town Manakha is not particularly scenic compared to many mountain top villages in the area. It boasts a number of rather basic 'tourist hotels'. To get there you turn south at Lower Manakha, located at the top of a Mountain pass, halfway between Sana'a and Hodeidah (two hours from there to either city). From the junction at the pass it's another 5 minutes by car. Some hotels are at the entrance to the village, on the left and righthand side.
The town itself is junction as well: continue straight for about 10 minutes over a newly constructed road (paid for by the EU) towards Al-Hajjarah (see below) or turn left into and through the village to the very clean little ismaili village at the end of the road (paid for by the ismaili community itself). There is accommodation at the ismaili village, but I suspect it's only intended for visiting ismailis from abroad (India in particular).
Al-Hajjarah is a beautiful walled village (for directions: see above under Manakha). If one is not going to Al-Hajjarah itself, but travelling from Sana'a to Hodeidah (or v.v.) make sure to look south: it will be visible in all its glory, just after the mountain pass (going from Sana'a to Hodeidah). Visible that is, if it's not in the clouds, as is usually the case in the late afternoon.
Al-Hajjarah has only one entrance gate, as is the case with all but the biggest cities in Yemen. At night the animals are driven within the walls and find refuge on the ground floor of the tall houses with their white decorations. Walk around the village. There will be kids wanting to guide you and tourist shops quickly opening because of you. The stuff you can buy there is nice, but not unique.
Al-Hajjarah is also an excellent place to start your exploration of the Harraz mountain area. There are guides in the village who will gladly come with you (I pay 3000-4000 rials [15-20 usd] for a day). You could ask for Noman or his brother Ali at the Al-Hajjarah Tourist Hotel. They will be able to select a route of the required duration and arduousness: there are countless possibilities from one hour to days or even weeks. Even though this a very safe area, a good reason to take a guide is that you will be trespassing a lot and then it's better to have someone with you who is from the area.
For those having their own transportation I have the following tips for an excursion.
1) Follow the road from Manakha past Al-Hajjarah. Upon reaching Al-Hajjarah (it will be on your right-hand side), follow the bend to the left. After 16 kms (an hour and a half: this part of the road is not yet paved!) you'll reach a meadow at the edge of which stands a very beautiful walled village, overlooking a deep valley. The village looks like it would slide down into the abyss if there was the slightest earthquake.
2) Two hundred metres before reaching Al-Hajjarah from Manakha, turn right. The road goes down and passes Al-Hajjarah a couple of hundred metres below the village. Before you, beyond a deep valley, you'll see a 3700 metres high mountain. Go down into the valley and up that mountain. There is a nice walled village (indeed, of the very many) with, beautiful views from cliffs that are hundreds of metres high. On the way to the top one can stop and start a hike. Best to take a guide: he'll know which little roads to take to the mountain (even though the destination is clearly visible, this is not so obvious as there are many dead-end roads), he will be able to talk to the soldiers on the mountain (such elevated places are considered strategic locations in Yemen) and he will know where to stop to start a good hike.
- Pros:magnificent scenery, but it's really Al-Hajjarah where you wanna stay
- Cons:basic accommodation, but that works for me
- In a nutshell:This is one of the best places to visit in the country and it's close to Sana'a.
Go the extra mile, in this case from Manakha to Al-Hajjarah - definitely worth it. There is one bad stretch of road when... more travel advice
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