"ZABID" Zabid by janiebaxter

Zabid Travel Guide: 21 reviews and 57 photos

Mosques and Madrassas

Zabid was a medieval Islamic university city and is one of the oldest towns in Yemen. It is said to be founded in 820AD by Abhullah ibn Ziyad, who later came to rule the whole of the Tihama area.

Teaching took place in various mosques around the city, the oldest being founded in the 9th century. The colleges or “Madrassas” were sponsored by wealthy individuals and students came from many countries to study the Sunni muslim religion in Zabid, as well as maths, history and poetry.
Zabid’s heyday was under the rule of the Rasulids from 1229 to 1454 when over 5000 students studied in over 200 schools. At this time there were 236 mosques in Zabid.
The arrival of the Ottomans was the start of Zabid’s decline, when they closed a lot of the Madrassas, and although there are still 86 mosques and some Quran schools, they are not university standard.

The Tihama Area

As well as the Madrassas, Zabid’s position as the main town on Wadi Zabid made it an important stop on the North South trade route.
Zabid is located in the Tihama area in Arabic known as "Bal al Mabab" - door to the red sea. It is a short distance from Ethiopia and Eritrea, and more African influenced than other parts of the country, with reed huts and people in colourful clothes.
A lot of the Tihama outside of Hodeidah is still very traditional and has not adapted to the modern age. The Tihama landscape is very flat with acacia trees and the climate is very hot and humid with only a small amount of rain in spring and summer. For this reason most of the villages are located close to Wadis, near the coast or wherever there is water.
There is a strong tradition of handicrafts which can be seen at the local weekly markets – woven cottons, hats, baskets and pottery.

The Old Town of Zabid

The main old part of the old town and the suq are a maze of winding alleys with qat and smoking cafes, shops and tearooms. It is very hot in Zabid and there is little shade.
Zabid was famous for its indigo in old testament times but this has gradually died out very recently with the importation of textiles to replace the local products.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Flat landscape, great architecture, very hot
  • Cons:Not much shade
  • In a nutshell:Dusty, atmospheric, friendly and totally charming!
  • Last visit to Zabid: Nov 2007
  • Intro Updated Mar 7, 2008
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janiebaxter

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