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Desert skyscrapers

Shibam..................................(2438.jpg)

Sometimes writing for Been-Seen makes me realise how little of the world I've seen. I haven't, for example, been to Yemen – but looking at these pictures, I wish I had. Maybe I'll add it to my bucket list. The city in this amazing picture is Shibam in southern Yemen. It's a cluster of over 400 towering buildings in the middle of the flat, dry landscape of the Valley of Hadhramout. They were built in the 16th century (back when skyscrapers were decidedly unfashionable), a fact that has since earned the city the nickname, 'the Manhattan of the desert'.

Shibam..................................(2439.jpg)

In 2000, the Shibam Urban Development Project was launched to preserve the city's stunning and highly unique high-rise, mud-brick architecture, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Shibam..................................(2436.jpg)

And, it seems, their work is going well. Last year Shibam made the news when it won a prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture – for preserving its unique setting, in a manner that supports the economic and social structures of the community. In other words, the heritage site is being conserved using only the city's master builders and local laborers, boosting the appearance of the city while also boosting the local economy.

Shibam..................................(2435.jpg)

More than half of the buildings have been restored so far, and only about 40 remain ruined. Looking at the scale of the city, it's clearly an ambitious project – but well worth the effort. RM

Shibam..................................(2437.jpg)

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