ATLAS OBSCURA

SHIBAM HADHRAMAUT -SHIBAM, YEMEN

Shibam, in the desert of central Yemen, is home to about 7,000 people. Located at the crossroads of Asia, Africa, and Europe, the small town was once a stopping point for traders traveling along the frankincense and spice routes.

The walled city of “skyscrapers” was built on a hill in the 1530s after a mighty flood destroyed much of the existing settlement. Its five hundred huddled buildings, ranging from five to eleven stories high, are the tallest mud buildings in the world and provided protection against the elements and deterred potential attackers. They continue to shelter the residents of Shibam.  

Like Manhattan, the high-rises of Shibam were built on a rectangular grid of streets and squares. Unlike Manhattan, the skyscrapers are made of mud, date back to the 16th century, and the dusty streets are often overrun with goats.

Learn more about upkeep on these mud structures and get a little dirty at Atlas Obscura.