The desert city of Shibam is known for its high-rise multi-storey buildings formed of mud, sometimes being referred to as the “Manhattan of the Desert.”
The structures date back to the 16th century. After a big flood destroyed the unprotected settlements the new city was built on a hill. The sun-dried mud high-rises provided protection against the elements and an advantage for the city’s defense. Shibam’s location as the convergence point of Asia, Africa, and Europe made it an important stop for traders going through the spice routes. Over time, fresh layers of mud must be applied to the eroded walls to keep the edifices strong and stable.
Today, Shibam has 7,000 thriving residents and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.