"Spectacular Shibam" Shibam by janiebaxter

Shibam Travel Guide: 26 reviews and 82 photos

The Star of the Hadramaut

Shibam is spectacular from whichever angle you approach it. You can fly from Sana’a to Seiyun, or drive across the desert from Marib. We had to fly because of the Foreign Office advising Brits not to travel to Marib. However disappointed we were at not driving across the desert, we were not disappointed with the view of Shibam from the plane.

The ladies in the picture were looking for a lost goat, just by the back wall of the city. The tall hats are a feature of the Hadramaut area - we didn't see them anywhere else in Yemen and I was lucky to get this picture

Manhattan of the Desert

Shibam is a walled city, dating from the 4th century, set against the backdrop of the mountains and very spectacular for photographs. Dame Freya Stark named it The Manhatten of the Desert. It was important on the old overland spice and incense route, and was established about the 3rd century BC. The population of Shibam were the first in the Hadramaut to convert to Islam.
It is quite compact in area, but the 500 or more houses are up to 9 storeys high, built very close together and made of mud brick. The tallest house is 30 metres. They are in various states of repair and also vary in their age. As the city has grown, storeys have been added to the houses making the town very higgledy piggledy looking, which adds to its charm. The doors and windows are lovely and highly decorated, again in various states of repair, with many shuttered windows. Some doors even have graffiti on them.

A Grand Entrance

You enter Shibam through the main gate which is extremely grand and well preserved. It is painted with limewash to protect it from termites and water penetration, as mud brick is prone to decay very quickly. Limewash is very expensive so only wealthy people can afford to limewash the house. Some of the houses in Shibam are Limewashed only on the top floors.
Internally the houses are set out in a similar way to those in Sana’a with the lower floors for animals and grain and the upper floors for living. Shibam was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Wonderful architecture, incredible location
  • Cons:None
  • In a nutshell:A stunning must-see, in a dramatic location
  • Intro Updated Mar 15, 2008
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janiebaxter

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