The 2 thousand years old MANHATTAN in the DESERT

Hidden in the desert is an ancient city whose buildings are reminiscent of the New York skyscrapers


Hidden in the desert is an ancient city whose buildings are reminiscent of the New York skyscrapers. The “Manhattan of the Desert” has existed for two thousand years, and is still inhabited. Let’s see where it is.

The 2 thousand years old MANHATTAN in the DESERT

# Shibam: the two thousand years old city

Shibam has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982, but its origins are much older. The city is one of the oldest examples of vertical urbanism: even before Europeans arrived in America, Yemen had already built buildings of 11 floors.

Today’s buildings have been built in 1532 but the area has been inhabited since 300 A.D. Even today 3,000 people live a traditional lifestyle in mud brick buildings of 5 floors. Each building is inhabited by a family of about 40 people, which a very different use than the one of the apartments in New York.


# Skyscrapers in the desert

Identified as the first home of skyscrapers, Shibam has become a symbol of resilience for the inhabitants of territories that are no longer in favor to human life.

The inhabitants do not escape from the desert, on the contrary they keep on building up by adapting to difficult environmental and climatic conditions. UNESCO has declared the city one of the oldest examples of perfect vertical urbanism, this is why its tall buildings have managed to survive over time.

Although the structure is very different and the buildings much smaller, the visual result made it to be defined as the Chicago or the Manhattan of the desert. Palaces of 11 floors are rare in the Middle Eastern deserts, because it’s difficult to build them in unstable ground conditions.


# Thousands of years old Buildings

The ruins of buildings much older than the sixteenth-century city are still visible, among them have been recognized a mosque dated back to 904 A.D. and a castle built in 1220.

This is what remains of the settlements prior 1532. The ancient houses, in fact, were razed to the ground by a terrible floodwater, which brought the region to its knees.

In the same year Shibam and its tall buildings were founded, which can be admired still today. As per the other antiquities in the region of Yemen, today Shiba’s integrity is being endangered by the civil war, which is destroying not only the population but also the country’s cultural heritage.



(Original article by Sarah Iori )

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