The perched villages in the Haraz mountains
One of the ”must-do” excursions around Yemen is the one on Haraz Mountains, a spectacular area in the heart of the country characterized by its villages perched on the majestic mountains and surrounded by beautiful terrace fields. We start our trip at the bottom of Al Khutayb Sanctuary, located on top of a hill about 6 kilometres from Manakha. Arriving in the tiny village of Hoteib, the first thing that attracts attention is the different colours of women clothing, compared with other areas of Yemen, where black is the primary colour. During our walk around the village, we are so lucky to bump into the guardian of the sanctuary. He allows us to climb up the hill and visit the mosque!
The small sanctuary is dedicated to a preacher of the twelfth century and it’s worshipped by the followers of the Ishmaelitish sect attracting pilgrims even from India. The tiny “white mosque” is significant for this Islamic current, and every Ishmaelitish must visit the holy religious place before going to Mecca. The view from the top is breathtaking, and the sanctuary location is awe-inspiring! After the visit, it’s time to start our hike throughout the mountains. We walk for several hours in the middle of nature surrounded by beautiful landscapes, crossing scenic small villages perched on the rock like Kahil and Al ‘Ayn, watching farmers in terrace fields and women that wash their linen in natural water pools.
At the end of this enjoyable trek, in front of us a stunning view: the village of Al Hajjarah. This ancient village, dated back to 11th century, is considered one of the most beautiful of all Yemen, thanks to its location and its stone tower houses. The old Jewish and Muslim neighbourhoods are particular, and it’s unique to see how the inhabitants take the most out of the mountainside creating cultivated terraces.
After getting through the narrow streets and tall houses, we are ready to jump into the jeep and go back to Manakha. This city is the starting point for all the trekking around the Haraz Mountains and is the biggest in the area. We visit the town and the local market, very folkloristic, plenty of stalls selling fruit, vegetables, meat and fish and where people proudly show us the typical local products and the ”most-wanted” Khat (qat), a flowering plant used by all the Yemeni males as a stimulant. The stand where they sell the khat is crowded, and dozens of Yemenites scream and contract to get the best price. It seems to be back in time!
After enjoying the sunset, we return to our “funduq” where a typical Yemeni dinner and a great surprise are waiting for us. The locals have arranged a demonstration of traditional Yemeni dancing with the jambiya, a typical local dagger. Our beautiful day is gone, it’s time to sleep and be ready for another great day through this incredible country.