A day on the Jabal Shahara visiting the highest village of Yemen
About 160 km from Sanaa, proceeding towards the city of Sadaa, it lies the most beautiful and fascinating mountain village in all of Yemen: Shaharah.
Situated at 2600 meters on the top of the magnificent mountain Jabal Shaharah, the village was once known as a stronghold for the Imams or religious leaders of the Zaidi faith. Shaharah is also known as the home of Zainab al-Shahariah, one of Yemen’s famous female poets.
Walking surrounded by curious kids through its multi-story stone houses often decorated with coloured natural stones and its huge cistern where the inhabitants get water, the main attraction is a famous arch-shaped stone bridge that connects two rocky cliffs of the mountain.
This bridge, 20 meters long and around 3 meters wide, was built in the 17th century to connect the village to the other mountain and allowed the inhabitants to escape in case of an attack by the Turkish invaders.
One folktale says the bridge could be destroyed in just a few minutes in case of an imminent attack by invaders. Residents often pass through the bridge as part of their daily routine, and the view from here is spectacular because the bridge is built over a canyon more than 200 meters deep.
The village was conquered only once at the beginning of the 17th century when it came under the domination of the Ottoman Empire. It was unfortunately bombarded in 1962 by the Yemenite air force.
Some of the beautiful constructed old stone houses showed the destruction that bombs had caused, a reminder of the civil war in 1960.
The only accommodation we found during our visit in 2006 was a Funduk, an old four-story house made of stone, with traditional bars, also made of stone, some of them with traces of glass between the bars.
To reach this small mountain village, surrounded by a beautiful terraced valley, the locals waited for tourists at the mountain slopes, bringing them inside the back part of old Toyota 4×4 vehicles, then driving along the steep road on the side of the mountain at full speed!
An experience to be tried and that -if you do not ”die of fear” as the jeep goes over speed brushing against the roadside lining the vertical cliff- you will keep forever in your heart!