Memories of a trip through a fantastic country 

In late 2005, our journey through Yemen led us to the Hadramawt Governorate. In the central-western part of this vast and old region, there is a town famous for its mudbrick-made high-rise buildings:  Shibam,  known as the ”Manhattan of the desert”. 

Shibam, Hadhramawt
Shibam, the view from the facing hill

Here, time has stopped by. Everything appears like centuries ago. Having a stroll through its narrow alleys crowded by cattle and market stalls surrounded by the ”mud-skyscrapers”, it’s an indescribable emotion.

Yemen, main square of Shibam
Yemen, the main square of Shibam

Located in the middle of the desert, Shibam was the old capital of the Hadramawt Kingdom, and it is still known as the oldest skyscrapers city in the world, gaining the nickname ”Manhattan of the desert”.

This small town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, has been inhabited for over 2,000 years and the peculiarity of its fantastic bricks and mud skyscrapers make it unique in the world.

These buildings are also regularly checked to avoid collapses and, if necessary, repaired with additional layers of dried mud on the facade.

Yemen, Shibam mud houses
Yemen, Shibam mud houses

The inhabitants, which are about 7.000, populate these high-rise buildings, which in some cases reach 11 floors, forming within the boundary walls, narrow streets typical of the Middle East.

Usually, the people use the ground floor as a warehouse or cattle shed, and you can get it walking through its peaceful streets by the strong smell of livestock.

The upper floors are those where daily family life takes place and looking upwards, you could always see some kids playing and greeting, women hanging up the washing, or some curious staring at you and always ready to come up and welcome you.

Yemen, Shibam mud houses
Yemen, Shibam mud houses

After strolling through the buildings and exchanging a few words with old gentlemen in the main square, and buying some pieces of incense from the stalls, a must-do is to walk outside of the boundary mud walls to climb up the hill facing the town and enjoy the view on the top.

Yemen, high mud skyscraper in Shibam
Yemen, high mud skyscraper in Shibam

Without a doubt, the view from the hill is the highlight of the town was, and we’ll never forget the incredible emotion we felt. Looking at this incredible architectural masterpiece, surrounded by palm trees and the golden sand of the desert, it was a clear example of how wonderful it was to travel through the marvellous Yemen!

Have you visited Shibam and Yemen? Did you experience the same emotions and you want to share with us? Leave us a comment below!


  1. That’s cool! Never thought it could exist a mud building like that!

    • Cristiano Reply

      Yemen is an incredible country, one of the most amazing i’ve ever visited! Unfortunately in this moment is not possible to go around due to the dangerous situation.

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