Landmarks of Yemen

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Sanaa, the ancient capital of Yemen
Sanaa, the ancient capital of Yemen / F. Reus, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Most interesting landmarks of Yemen

Below are listed the most amazing natural and man made landmarks of Yemen.

Natural landmarks of Yemen

Ecosystems

  • Jabal Bura forest – Al Hudaydah. One of the last subtropical forest in the Southern Arabia, located in the granitic mountains and with five altitude zones. Here are found numerous endemic plants.
  • Rokeb di Firmihin – Soqatra. The best stand of some of the most unusual looking trees in the world – Dragon’s Blood Tree (Dracaena cinnabari Balf.f.).

Other natural landmarks

  • Bir Ali – Shabwah. Volcano with a crater lake with unusual, green water.
  • Dinosaur footprints near Madar – Sana’a. Site with 150 million years old footprints of 11 sauropods and one ornithopod.
  • Giniba Cave – Soqatra. The longest known cave system in Socotra, one of the many cave systems on the island. Length of the explored passages is 13 525 m.
  • Waterfall near Hullat Bani Fadhl – Dhamar. Large waterfall with two vertical plunges. Total height of falls may exceed 400 m.

Man made landmarks of yemen

Petroglyphs

  • Eriosh petroglyphs – Soqatra. Group of petroglyphs of unknown age (possibly the first millenium BC) on the flat surface of desert. Some petroglyphs resemble symbols of unknown writing, there are also cross-like figures which may be created by early Christians in the 4 – 6th centuries AD.
  • Hoq Cave – Soqatra. Comparatively large, approximately 3 km long cave with beautiful stalactites and stalagmites, endemic cave fauna. In the cave have been found ancient ceramics, cave art and wooden tablet with writings dated from the 258 AD. Writings on the walls of cave have been left by Arabs, Indians (Brahmi script), Greek.
  • Petroglyphs at Bab al-Yémen – Sada. Neolithic petroglyphs in rock shelters. Drawings depict humans and animals, such as ibex. Site contains also Sabean writings.

Other archaeological landmarks

Remnants of the Great Dam of Ma'rib, Yemen
Remnants of the Great Dam of Ma’rib / Yousef Hussain, / public domain
  • Al-Mahwit tombs – Al Mahwit. Large group (hundreds) of rock-cut tombs from the Paleolithic age, with embalmed mummies and relics.
  • Al-Tihamah megaliths – Al Hudaydah. Seven groups of giant megaliths (including the impressive rows of standing stones at al-Muhandid) from the time period between 2400 BC and 1800 BC. Tallest standing stone was some 6 m tall but now is slanting. Stones are some 20 tons heavy.
  • Great Dam of Ma’rib – Ma’rib. One of the engineering wonders of the ancient world, built in the 8th century BC or earlier. Oldest known dam in the world. The original dam was 580 m long and 4 m high, later it became larger. There are also other ancient dams with similar age nearby. Dam suffered often but nevertheless has left profound influence on the development of South Arabian civilization.

Abandoned ancient cities

Mahram Bilqis near Ma'rib, taken in 1986, Yemen
Mahram Bilqis near Ma’rib, taken in 1986 / Bernard Gagnon, / CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Baraqish – Al Jawf. Ancient city which was built before the 450 BC, capital of Minaean kingdom in the 4th century BC. City was abandoned in the 1960ies and now here are ruins over an artificial hill consisting of the cultural layer. Parts of the ancient, 14 m tall city walls still exist.
  • Old Ma’rib – Ma’rib. Ruins of the former Saabean capital city, flourishing in the first millenium BC. A distinct culture developed here, including a specific writing. Near the city are found ruins of Mahram Bilqis or Awwam Temple with a row of rectangular columns. This temple of Moon god had huge importance in the region.
  • Sirwah – Ma’rib. Ruins of once important center of the Kingom of Saba’. Flourished in the 1st century BC. City was enclosed with a wall. Site includes an important Sabaean inscription as well as Almaqag Temple which is built over an very old temple from the 7th century BC.
  • Zafar – Ibb. Remnants of prehistoric city, which was founded in the 2nd century BC or earlier and abandoned in the 6th century AD. Former capital of Himyarites in the 1st century BC – 6th century AD. Site includes rock-cut tombs. Fortification walls were some 4 km long.

Medieval cities and towns

Al Hajjarah, Yemen
Al Hajjarah / Franco Pecchio, / CC BY 2.0
  • Al Hajjarah – Sana’a. Fortified medieval village perched on a cliff in the Haraz Mountains, built in the 12th century. The ornate houses are built over an abyss and look very impressive.
  • Al-Khuraybah – Hadramaut. Picturesque town with traditional Yemenese mud houses. Town is located on the bottom of the impressive Wadi Doan canyon.
  • Jibla – Ibb. Mountain city, an ancient capital, which flourished in the 11th – 12th centuries. The beautiful, well preserved city forms a harmonious whole with the surrounding agrarian landscape. Steep streets of Jibla are practically unusable for cars. Houses are adorned with stucco reliefs, in the city are beautiful mosques, Palace of Queen with 365 rooms, medieval aqueduct.
  • Old City of Sana’a – Amanat Al-Asemah. Impressive display of the unique Yemeni urban planning and architecture. Sana’a is founded before 500 BC and here are buildings which are more than 1,400 years old. The city walls are 9 – 14 m tall, the old city contains more than 100 mosques, 6,500 houses. Most of the houses represent highrise buildings and are ornamented.
  • Old City of Ta’izz – Ta’izz. Former capital of Yemen in the 12th – 14th century. Historical core part of the city has been preserved comparatively well and here are found many old, ornate buildings.
  • Sa’dah – Sada. Well preserved medieval city, founded in the 9th century. City was the center of Zaydism – school of Muslim thought. City is enclosed with fortification walls – earthen rampart which is 3 km long and 4 m wide, with 52 watch towers and 16 gates. Here are found 14 medieval mosques, built in the 10th – 16th century. Near the city is large and ancient Zaydite cemetery with rich collection of richly ornamented steles.
  • Shibam – Hadramaut. Unique, fortified city. Shibam is old city, first mentioned in the 3rd century AD. This densely built city has some 500 tower houses, each rising 5 to 11 stories (more than 30 m) high. Most houses have been built since the 16th century. City is enclosed with wall.
  • Thula – Dhamar. Exceptionally well preserved medieval town, one of the most beautiful ones in Yemen. Town was founded in Himyarite period (the 1st century BC – 6th century AD), it is surrounded by nearly intact, 2 km long city walls which are 5 – 7 m tall. City has some 600 well preserved medieval houses which form dense clusters with narrow streets.
  • Zabid – Al Hudaydah. Former capital of Yemen, outstanding medieval center of learning. Founded before the 7th century AD, flourished in the 13th – 15th century. Four gates remain from the former fortification walls. City contains a multitude for ornate buildings, including 86 mosques.

Fortresses and palaces

Ta'izz Governor's Palace, Yemen
Ta’izz Governor’s Palace / Franco Pecchio, / CC BY 2.0
  • Ghumdan Palace – Amanat Al-Asemah, Old City of Sana’a. Remaining part of the ancient fortified palace of Sana’a, built in the 3rd century AD or earlier. Tower of the palace once had many (up to 20?) floors and may be world’s first skyscraper. Architecture of the palace influenced the architecture of city houses in Yemen. Now just ruins remain.
  • Sira Fortress – ‘Adan. Ancient, impressive fortress on a cliff island at the port of Aden. Time of the construction is not known but it existed in the 11th century AD.
  • Ta’izz Governor’s Palace – Ta’izz. Historical palace which is perched on a 450 m tall hill above the city center.

Mosques

Al Muhdhar Mosque in Tarim / Jialiang Gao, / CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Al-Amiriya mosque – Al Bayda’. One of most ornate mosques in this region, constructed in 1504. This large structure is rectangular, adorned with six large domes. Especially impressive are the painted frescoes inside – geometric and floral motifs which are done in exceptionally high quality.
  • Al Muhdhar Mosque in Tarim – Hadramaut. This mosque has very impressive and ornate, 53 m tall minaret which was built in 1914.
  • Great Mosque of Sana’a (Jami’ al-Kabir) – Amanat Al-Asemah, Old City of Sana’a. One of the oldest mosques, could be built in the 7th century AD, most likely during the lifetime of Muhammad. Interior structures have Byzantine architecture features. Site of great historical importance.
  • Great Mosque of Zabid – Al Hudaydah. Very old mosque, built in 820 AD. Central mosque of once very important center of teaching.

Other structures

  • Shahara Bridge – ‘Amran. Medieval bridge, built over some 300 m deep canyon in 1905.

Described landmarks of Yemen

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Rokeb di Firmihin: 12.480190, 54.014032

One of the most exotic countries in Arabian peninsula is Yemen. Many peculiar landmarks are found here but the most interesting ones are:

Shibam, Yemen
Shibam / Jialiang Gao, / CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Medieval cities. The unique historical cities of Yemen are characterized by very tall buildings (up to 16 floors) with unusual ornamentation. Most impressive examples of this striking style in urban planning are Shibam and Old City of Sana’a – but nearly all medieval villages and towns in Yemen are surprising.
  • Archaeological monuments. Several large cultures of antiquity evolved in Yemen, such as Sabaean and Himyarite Kingdom and others. Ruins of ancient cities, temples and, notably, giant dams exist up to this day and the most notable are Great Dam of Ma’rib and the ancient temple – Mahram Bilqis.
  • Natural heritage of Socotra Island. This remote island is a treasure trove of unusual life forms. Some of the most unusual ecosystems in the world are stands of Dragon’s Blood Tree, such as the grove named Rokeb di Firmihin.

Featured: Rokeb di Firmihin

Dragon's Blood Trees, Soqatra
Dragon’s Blood Trees. (possibly taken outside Rokeb di Firmihin) / Rod Waddington, / CC BY-SA 2.0

One of the most unusual forest in the world is located on Rokeb di Firmihin, central part of Socotra Island. This is almost pure stand of rare Dragon’s Blood Trees – legendary trees which look as if they have arrived from another planet.

Recommended books

Yemen: The Unknown Arabia


A country long regarded by classical geographers as a fabulous land where flying serpents guarded sacred incense groves, while medieval Arab visitors told tales of disappearing islands and menstruating mountains. Our current ideas of this country at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula have been hijacked by images of the terrorist strongholds, drone attacks, and diplomatic tensions. But, as Mackintosh-Smith reminds us in this newly updated book, there is another Arabia. Yemen may be a part of Arabia, but it is like no place on earth.

Yemen, A Photographic Journey


The staggering breadth and diversity of Yemen’s landscapes and peoples is not something easily conveyed. Here, in this remarkable celebration of his homeland, Mahmoud Al-Shaibani presents a breathtaking panorama that sweeps in the mountains and valleys, the plains and seas, and the myriad of different communities that live in this ancient land.

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