Shibam is an ancient city in Yemen, the first in the world to have buildings that look and are functional as the present ones. It is the oldest city based on vertical construction. Shibam was firstly mentioned in the 3rd century BC, when it was the capital of the Hadhramaut Kingdom.
The city is located in the desert in the Yemeni Governorate Hadramau and became known as the Desert ”Manhattan” and as ”the oldest skyscraper city in the world”.
The town covers an area of 400 x 500 meters, has about 7,000 inhabitants and 500 densely packed ancient buildings that have from 5 to 11 floors, high up to 30 meters.
All of the buildings are made from dried bricks (clay and straw), and the internal structure is made of wood. Last floors are covered with a special coating to prevent damage from rare rains, and the coating must be renewed every 10-15 years.
Most of the buildings in Shibam which can be seen today date from the 16th century. Unfortunately, the city has been the victim of severe flooding in the 1532-1533 when a large number of old buildings was completely destroyed. However, some of the buildings have been preserved and restored, and one of them is the Great Mosque built of clay, dating back to the year of 753.
Shibam was in 1982 included in the UNESCO list as world cultural heritage monument, however it became a safe place for tourists in 2000. In the 2008, the city was again hit by monsoon storms that caused flooding, and severe damage to ancient buildings was inflicted, which therefore threaten to collapse the buildings. It was also the target of an Al Qaeda attack in 2009.