[19/February/2004] Shibam of Yemen... the History's
Pride and civilization's crown
Sana`a,(Saba)- Near the Empty Quarter Desert, and between the rocky folders of the mountains, Wadi (valley) Hadramout extends by stretching its length internally through the surrounding series of mountains, so as to constitute a fabulously natural portrait; the fame of which is been fenced by these mountains; while its drawing lines were shaped by the artistic hands of ancient Yemenis.
Along the whole length of the Wadi, and situated upon a cliffy plateau centering it, Shibam city rises up with vainglory of solidarity, and pride of self-sustaining in the area to represent the first sky-scrappers city in the world made of mud and clay.
The clay-formed houses of Shibam city in Hadramout province rise high up the sky clouds by thirty to forty meters lengths, whilst its floors vary between five to sixteen. The ground floors of such houses vary in wall thickness between one and half and two meters. The higher floors are usually painted by thick layers of white alabster, while the windows were been made of engraved wooden structures artistically sculptured with gometrical designs properly fitted to allow the passing of air currents when being shut. Moreover, immediately beneath the roof tops of such houses, there are small windows with shutters that open and close by the residents with respective to the changes of the weather.
This means that they remain open during every summer season of the year for outflow of warm air and modification of the rooms' weather conditions in each of these houses. While in winters, these windows remain shut in order to block inflow of hot air whilst the cool air inside all rooms remains unchanged!
On the other hand, Shibam city of Hadramout has a surrounding wall fence the height of which is extending seven meters. This encircling wall has only one entrance gate. The streets all around the internal area of the city are narrow, and with curving rounds and turnings. To give an all-round picture of Shibam Hadramout, it is fair to say that the city looks like a splendid portrait that stimulates great attractions for both the citizens and outsiders!
The same city name is known also to two others. These are Shibam of kukaban and Shibam Al-Farras, both of which geographically related to Sana'a, the capital of Yemen. On one hand, Shibam kukaban is situated in a fertile region placed on the kukaban plateau of a highly steep lowland. The plateau lies on the north-west direction of Sana'a, and the region is about 43 kilometers of a distance. The inscriptions of Al- Masnad ancient writings referred to it by the names "Shimum" and "Du-shimum". The were related to ancient kingdoms of both Sheba and Du-Raydan. It was also called by other names such as "Shibam Afian", Shibam Himyar" and "Shibam Tahbus". During the period 225-393 Hijria, again it was known "Shibam Yafer" due to its relation with the Yafer descendants of rulers who resided in the region all through that period. Besides building in it their castles, mosques houses, turkish baths, local markets and other facilities, they had also established the barracks and fencing towers. In particular, they left the Big Jame (Mosque) been situated during their rule which exists till now as one of Shibam's elements of archeology. Al-Yafer in fact chose kukaban the capital of their dynasty in Yemen.
Behind kukaban city, and on the mountain itself known as Dhakar, it is possible to view a number of caves engraved inside the rocks. These have remained till today, and are actually cemeteries of some ancient Yemeni people that lived before the birth of Islam. Such a grave yard area located on a mountain is also common in Shibam Al-Farras and Wadi Dhahr.
On the other hand, Shibam Al-Farras is the third Yemeni region situated 25kilometer north-east of Sana'a. Similar to Shibam kukaban, the area was relatively refereed to in the Masnad writings as "Hijrat Shibum", "Da Shamum" and " Shumum". It has faced an incident of destruction during the fifteen century A.D. when it was known "Shibam Bani-al-Sukheimi". Before the third century B.C, the city was at the height of its prosperity, together with other Yemeni cities located at the basis of the highlands. At that time, its citizens were originating of the Yarsum tribe who were recalled in the ancient records, which dated back to the third century B.C.
Shibam Al-Farras acquired much bigger historical fame than the other two above-mentioned due to the following reasons: -
a) Its location in the eastern edge of the entering point of Al-Surr Wadi. The latter was the jointing link of the eastern lowland regions, Mareb and Sirmah with the highlands e.g. Sana'a and Ibb;
b) Its close location to the agricultural valleys flowing around its directions. This brought for the region abundance of agricultural crops, and improvements of the irrigation facilities adopted by the region's peasants and land-owners; and
c) The industrial and commercial activities; in particular extraction and manufacturing of the alabster paint plaster and sheets of marbles; together with, their exporting to the various neighboring and non-Yemeni regions. It is, however, important to note that these activities to some extent have since then remained till now.