04/2005 - Yemen 3rd part, the north-east regions

14-day trip to Yemen visiting Sana’a, Wadi Dhar, Village Gabel , Baraqish , Mar’rib , Arsh Bilqis (Temple of the Moon) , Mahram Bilqis (Temple of the Sun), Desert Ramlat As Sabatayn, Shabwah, Say’un, Tarim, Aynat, Shibam ( the “Manhattan” of the desert), Al- Hajjarayn , Sif , Ribat Al Mukalla, Bir Ali, Ibb, Jiblah, Taizz, Al- Makha, Tihama, Zabid, Bayt Al Faqih, Al Hudaydah, Village Assudi, Hajjah, Khulan, Amran, Thila, Hababah, Kawkabar, At- Tawila, Al Mahwit, Manakhah, Al Hajjara, Al Khutayb

We returned to Sana’a by plane to begin the journey that would take us to visit the towns and villages of the highlands of Yemen, with a stop on the Red Sea coastal area.

We visited the city of Ibb which is almost at two thousand meters above sea level and is located on top of two hills.

The old city is very interesting with its tall and characteristic stone houses.

We went on to the small town of Jiblah made ​​famous during the eleventh century by Queen Arwa , buried in the homonymous great mosque which is still today a place of pilgrimage from the distant India. The white Qubbat Bayt Az- Zum Mosque is smaller than the Queen Arwa Mosque but is very beautiful.

Taizz is now a modern city which is characterized by a spectacular fortress, the white Al- Ashrafiya Mosque, with twin minarets and harmonious architectural lines, and an interesting souk .

We arrived on the shores of the Red Sea , near the town of Al – Makha  (Mocha), which is the well-known port for coffee export.

We saw a well where the camel caravans came to drink: the caravans carried the coffee from the inner zone of production ( Manakhah ) to the coast to be shipped by sea to Europe.

Along the coast (Tihama plain) there are numerous villages built with reeds by the Yemenis of African origin.

We reached Zabid , the city of 236 mosques (now reduced to 86) and in each one there is a Koranic school .

In one of the “ancient” mosque, it was taught a mathematical system called al- Jabr , that is “algebra”.

The walls of the old city are still well preserved and the interior presents splendid views of everyday life.

In the town of Bayt Al Faqih we could only see the remains of a Turkish fortress and an incredible collection of plastic bags , which are present throughout Yemen, but there in huge proportions!

Al Hudaydah is the capital city of Tihama , but the only interesting thing is the visit to the rich and colourful fish market.

I wish to highlight the sharks without fins that will be sold to the Chinese and Japanese markets .

Before going northward towards the highlands, we visited the farmers’ village of Assudi .

It has a rich countryside, poor houses, but beautiful people, especially children .

We arrived at the almost 2.000-meter high village of Hajjah along a road with spectacular views as well as it is wonderful the panorama which we could enjoy from atop of the citadel:  mountains with terraces on the peaks and slopes with numerous villages. In Hajjah, there are some nice palaces and interesting views .

Following a winding and extraordinary road that goes up and down several mountains, we reached the village of Kuhlan located at more than 2.200 meters, atop of a mountain.

We saw flying hawks and eagles and could enjoy the wonderful view of terraced fields and breath taking views .

After passing a Pass situated at 2.800 meters , we reached the town of Amran. It is surrounded by beautiful walls and is full of houses characterized by a stone ground floor while the upper floors are made of mud bricks.

The town of Thila has numerous stone tower-shaped houses, recently restored.

It is dominated by a fortress.

Near the southern gate of the city there is a large water tank still very well preserved.

It is scenic the Hababah tank, surrounded by high stone houses which are mirrored in the water .

The houses and the tanks gave us wonderful views of beautiful stone houses and troglodyte caves even if the town is located in the plains unlike the other places we had visited.

With a steep and spectacular climb up to 2.850 meters, we reached the fortified city of Kawkabar which dominates the highland overlooking Shibam and Thila .

The village of At- Tawila has characteristic houses built on tall cylindrical rocks.

The old town has the usual interesting views and gives us the joy of many beautiful shouting and cheering children .

Al Mahwit , town capital of the governorate , has stone whitewashed houses and is scenically interesting even because it is positioned on top of a hill.

Due to the heavy rains, it was impossible for us to follow the planned route because we could not cross a wadi . The alternative route took us under the Jabal An- Nabi Shu’ayb, the highest mountain in Yemen with its 3.660 meters high.

We crossed a 3.050-meter high Pass making a very interesting climb more than 30 kilometres long and driving through beautiful landscapes.

Manakhah is the place that was home to the largest coffee trade in the world.

From there, the camel caravans departed carrying coffee to the port of Mocha (see). The place where the trading took place has been declared a national monument.

With a picture, I show the Yemeni inventive to solve the problem of the lack of electricity.

On the top of the Haral mountains, at nearly 3.000 meters above sea level , there is the picturesque village of Al Hajjara . The peculiarity of its beautiful and tall houses is that the stones are positioned one over the other without being “attached” with clay or mud.

The last visited village in the highlands of Yemen is Al Khutayb .

It is a pilgrimage place for a Ismailia sect originating, mainly, from India.

I cannot close the presentation of this wonderful journey in Yemen without describing through my pictures the cultivation, the trade and the consumption of the QAT , the social drug of Yemen.

It is called “social” because it is consumed in common in the afternoon in the  ” Mafraj ” , the room located in the higher place in the Yemeni houses .

The cultivation of Qat are numerous and well attended , and in the morning there is a long bargaining for the choice of the Qat quality .

The afternoon consumption allowed us to see almost all of the men with one of the two cheeks swollen in any situation.