Photographer's Note

This is Shibam, popularly known as the "Manhattan of the desert". It's a small town in the Hadhramawt region of south-eastern Yemen, a very long way from the capital Sanaa. Along with the capital it's the most famous town of Yemen and a UNESCO world heritage site.

Shibam has a history of at least a couple of thousand years. Its "skyscrapers", made of mud, are generally five to seven storeys high.

The best views of Shibam can be enjoyed from a slight distance, preferably from the air. As my flight from Sanaa was approaching the nearby airport of Sayun I had a fantastic view of the very tightly packed mud town from a height of just a few hundred metres. My camera was safely stored in my bag in the locker above my seat :-). At least I was sitting by the window.

Inside the town the view was less impressive. I found it a fairly dirty and empty place, full of souvenir shops without any customers. Yemen had been expecting a tourist boom but already in 1998, when I visited this extremely fascinating country, most tourists had been scared away by frequent kidnappings. Nearly all kidnappings happened in a relatively small area in the north of the country, so what I did was to avoid that particular area and never travel with tourist vehicles, only with local transports (and two flights for very long distances). I never felt threatened, quite the contrary: I have probably never experienced a nicer and more helpful people than the Yemenites.

Unfortunately the scenic Hadhramawt region suffered unjustely from the country's bad reputation. Today the situation in Yemen is quite different and I would hardly recommend anyone going there for tourism for the time being. If you don't get into trouble with the al-Qaeda you might get hit by an American rocket fired from the sky.

This is, as you can well see, a pre-digital photo, scanned from a Kodachrome slide. Here is a larger version.

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Additional Photos by Gert Holmertz (holmertz) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 12569 W: 572 N: 24091] (102834)
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