#870 Shahara, Yemen

At the top of Jebel Shahara in Northern Yemen, a bumpy military escorted pickup truck ride up an ancient cobble-stoned road, lies an old village with timeless traditions that continue much as they would have millenia ago. Women get water from the central cistern every morning, its green cover a sign of its natural state. The multiple story buildings with icing-like whitewash are the same as they were centuries ago, tall buildings for the age they were built and cozy family-centered communities.

The town itself was a mountain fortress because of its inaccessability, and for centuries has been a safe refuge from invadors (Turkish or domestic) for rural people and Imams alike. It was famous for its scholarship, and the beautiful terraced fields allowed it to be self-sufficient in times of crisis.

The Ancient "Bridge of Sighs" a stone arch above a 300 foot canyon built in the 17th Century to connect two mountain towns is still used to carry grain, sheet, and other local products like the addictive narcotic leaf qat and of course, coffee.

This spectacular place is 2600m above sea level and it is a magnificent journey just to get there. Despite being an important tourist site, there are no restaurants and barely a handful of homestay hotels. The military escort on parts of the road is required by the government due to the likelihood of kidnapping militias, and many cars will not stop en route due to the danger. A really amazing place -- I feel lucky to have been here!


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