14-day trip to Yemen
Visiting Sana’a, Wadi Dhar, Village Gabel, Baraqish, Mar’rib, Arsh Bilqis (Temple of the Moon), Mahram Bilqis (Temple of the Sun), Desert Ramlat As Sabatayn, Shabwah, Say’un, Tarim, Aynat, Shibam ( the “Manhattan” of the desert), Al- Hajjarayn, Sif, Ribat Al Mukalla, Bir Ali, Ibb, Jiblah, Taizz, Al- Makha, Tihama, Zabid, Bayt Al Faqih, Al Hudaydah, Village Assudi, Hajjah, Khulan, Amran, Thila, Hababah, Kawkabar, At- Tawila, Al Mahwit, Manakhah, Al Hajjara, Al Khutayb.
We thought that the trip to Yemen would have been more difficult due to the climate and the environment, than it turned out to be.
The matter was that, since we requested first-class services, the Italian operator should have chosen a better specialized local correspondent agency.
Not all the cars and the drivers were suitable and the local guide was nice but poorly prepared.
As a matter of fact we visited a beautiful country with unimaginable natural and monumental beauties.
For this reason, I decided to include numerous and rich photo-galleries.
Sana’a, the capital: characteristic buildings
First of all, we visited Sana’a, the capital.
It is a city full of characteristic buildings all decorated with windows embellished with stained-glass or alabaster panels.
Sana’a, the capital: the Suk
The Suk, really beautiful, is very large and the market is still frequented by Yemenis and there are very few tourists.
There are numerous typical shops where they sell all kinds of goods.
Sana’a, the capital: the people
Wandering around the town we had many opportunities to take pictures of its inhabitants, always dressed in their typical clothes.
Sana’a, the capital: Wadi Dhar the “Rock Palace”, Sultan’s residence
The emblem of Yemen is the ”Rock Palace”, the Sultan’s residence located in Wadi Dhar, built atop a 50 meters high rock.
It is very nice from a stenographical point of view even because of the green valley full of fruit orchards.
Sana’a, the capital: Gabel village
Yemen, desert area: Baraqish ancient capital of Ma’in Kingdom, Ma’rib (capital of the kingdom of Saba), dam of Ma’rib and Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon
At first, we visited Baraqish, the ancient capital of the Ma’in kingdom (400 BC).
We could visit the mighty city walls, still well preserved. In the ancient town, nowadays, there are only a small mosque, a well and a temple dedicated to the God Athar.
Then, we visited the capital of the Sabaean kingdom: Ma’rib, whose origins date back to the VIII century BC.
In Ma’rib, there are very ancient “mud skyscrapers”.
The importance of the Sabaean kingdom was due to the incense trade but, overall, to the dam which, with a barrage of about 700 meters, allowed to irrigate almost one hundred square km of fields.
The Sabaean kingdom ended with the disaster caused by the collapse of the dam which took place in 570, the same year of Muhammad’s birth!
Near the capital, we visited two interesting Sabaean temples: Arsh Bilqis (or Temple of the Moon) and Mahram Bilqis (or Temple of the Sun).
Yemen, desert area: cross of Ramlat As Sabatayn desert and visit of Shabwah city, ancient capital of Hadhramawt
After a night of thunderstorms, before dawn (at four a.m.), we began the journey through the Ramlat al-Sab`atayn desert. We were escorted by an experienced Bedouin, armed with a Kalashnikovs, who “checked” the sand to indicate to drivers how much they should deflate the air pressure of the jeep’s tires. The wet sand allowed us to cross the desert at high speed: even 120 km/h.
In the mid of our crossing, we met the remains of the city of Shabwah, the ancient capital of Hadhramawt, which was already famous in 700 BC for its sixty temples and its salt mines.
Yemen, desert area: Say’un, capital city of Wadi Hadramawt, Tarim famous for its mosques, the most famous is Al-Muhdar Mosque
Yemen, desert area: Aynat, tombs called “seven domes”, factory of mud bricks
After a stop at Aynat to admire a complex of solemn tombs called “seven domes“, we made a stop at a factory of bricks made of a mud resulting from a mixture of mud, organic waste (as a glue) and straws (to strengthen the mixture).
With those brick they can build houses as high as 30 meters, such as those of Shibam.
Yemen, desert area: Shibam, city of the sandy skyscrapers
We were lucky enough to see Shibam, a town of unique beauty, with the wadi (the river bed) covered by a fast rainwater; then a strong wind raised the tropical desert sand. The external part of the town is wonderful while the interior has been abandoned and flocks of goats wander undisturbed.
Yemen, desert area: Wadi Daw’an, tomb of Alì ibu Hasan, village of Al-Hajjarayn, Doani Honey, Sif, Ribat, palaces owned by Bin Laden family
We began to cross the Wadi Daw’an and, as first thing, we visited the tomb of Ali ibu Hasan, with the nearby market.
Then we stopped at the village of Al- Hajjarayn which is located on the opposite sides of the wadi. It is really beautiful the village situated on top of a rock.
Al – Hajjarayn is famous for being the place where they produce the Doani Honey (Wadi Do’an Honey) which is a powerful aphrodisiac.
We went on towards Sif and, along the way, we met numerous villages all characterized by huge and colourful palaces which were built by the native Yemeni who made their fortunes working in Saudi Arabia.
I present two sumptuous palaces (one is multi-coloured) of the Ribat village; the palaces are owned by the Yemeni branch of the Bin Laden’s family.
Yemen, the South: Al Mukalla
Yemen, the South: Bir Ali with fish market and nice beach
The road to Bir Ali was long and bumpy with some desert areas.
It was interesting the fish market as well as the nearby beautiful beach where we could enjoy a great lunch of fish.
Yemen, North East: Ibb with high and characteristic stone houses
We returned to Sana’a by plane to begin the journey that would take us to visit the towns and villages of the highlands of Yemen, with a stop on the Red Sea coastal area.
We visited the city of Ibb which is almost at two thousand meters above sea level and is located on top of two hills.
The old city is very interesting with its tall and characteristic stone houses.
Yemen, North East: Jiblah with the tomb of Queen Arwa in the Great Mosque and White Mosque Qubbat Bayt Az-Zum
Yemen, North East: Taizz with Fortress, White Mosque Al-Ashrafiya and souk, on the coast Al Makha (Moka) with Yemenis of African origin
Taizz is now a modern city which is characterized by a spectacular fortress, the white Al- Ashrafiya Mosque, with twin minarets and harmonious architectural lines, and an interesting souk.
We arrived on the shores of the Red Sea, near the town of Al – Makha (Mocha), which is the well-known port for coffee export.
We saw a well where the camel caravans came to drink: the caravans carried the coffee from the inner zone of production (Manakhah) to the coast to be shipped by sea to Europe.
Along the coast (Tihama plain) there are numerous villages built with reeds by the Yemenis of African origin.
Yemen, North East: Zabid (city of the 236 mosques, now 86), once they taught there the “al-Jabr” mathematical system, that is “algebra”
We reached Zabid, the city of 236 mosques (now reduced to 86) and in each one there is a Koranic school.
In one of the “ancient” mosque, it was taught a mathematical system called al- Jabr , that is “algebra”.
The walls of the old city are still well preserved and the interior presents splendid views of everyday life.
Yemen, North East: Bayt Al Faqih with ruins of a Turkish Fortress, Al Hudaydah capital of Tihama
In the town of Bayt Al Faqih we could only see the remains of a Turkish fortress and an incredible collection of plastic bags, which are present throughout Yemen, but there in huge proportions!
Al Hudaydah is the capital city of Tihama, but the only interesting thing is the visit to the rich and colourful fish market.
I wish to highlight the sharks without fins that will be sold to the Chinese and Japanese markets.
Yemen, North East: farmers’ village of Assudi
Before going northward towards the highlands, we visited the farmers’ village of Assudi.
It has a rich countryside, poor houses, but beautiful people, especially children.
Yemen, North East: village of Hajjah, village of Kuhlan, Amran
We arrived at the almost 2.000-meter high village of Hajjah along a road with spectacular views as well as it is wonderful the panorama which we could enjoy from atop of the citadel: mountains with terraces on the peaks and slopes with numerous villages. In Hajjah, there are some nice palaces and interesting views .
Following a winding and extraordinary road that goes up and down several mountains, we reached the village of Kuhlan located at more than 2.200 meters, atop of a mountain.
We saw flying hawks and eagles and could enjoy the wonderful view of terraced fields and breath taking views.
After passing a Pass situated at 2.800 meters, we reached the town of Amran. It is surrounded by beautiful walls and is full of houses characterized by a stone ground floor while the upper floors are made of mud bricks.
Yemen, North East: Thila, water tank of Hababah, fortified city of Kawkabar with a view on Shibam and Thila
The town of Thila has numerous stone tower-shaped houses, recently restored.
It is dominated by a fortress.
Near the southern gate of the city there is a large water tank still very well preserved.
It is scenic the Hababah tank, surrounded by high stone houses which are mirrored in the water.
The houses and the tanks gave us wonderful views of beautiful stone houses and troglodyte caves even if the town is located in the plains unlike the other places we had visited.
With a steep and spectacular climb up to 2.850 meters, we reached the fortified city of Kawkabar which dominates the highland overlooking Shibam and Thila.
Yemen, North East: At-Tawila, Al Mahwit
The village of At – Tawila has characteristic houses built on tall cylindrical rocks.
The old town has the usual interesting views and gives us the joy of many beautiful shouting and cheering children.
Al Mahwit, town capital of the governorate, has stone whitewashed houses and is scenically interesting even because it is positioned on top of a hill.
Yemen, North East: Jabal An-Nabi Shu’ayb, Manakhah place of the world most important coffee trade
Due to the heavy rains, it was impossible for us to follow the planned route because we could not cross a wadi. The alternative route took us under the Jabal An- Nabi Shu’ayb, the highest mountain in Yemen with its 3.660 meters high.
We crossed a 3.050-meter high Pass making a very interesting climb more than 30 kilometres long and driving through beautiful landscapes.
Manakhah is the place that was home to the largest coffee trade in the world.
From there, the camel caravans departed carrying coffee to the port of Mocha (see). The place where the trading took place has been declared a national monument.
With a picture, I show the Yemeni inventive to solve the problem of the lack of electricity.
Yemen, North East: peculiar village of Al Hajjara, village of Al Khutayb (pilgrimage place for a Ismailia sect of Indian origin)
On the top of the Haral mountains, at nearly 3.000 meters above sea level , there is the picturesque village of Al Hajjara. The peculiarity of its beautiful and tall houses is that the stones are positioned one over the other without being “attached” with clay or mud.
The last visited village in the highlands of Yemen is Al Khutayb.
It is a pilgrimage place for a Ismailia sect originating, mainly, from India.