Is Yemen and not Jordan, the cultural capital of Arabia? Since UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee met in Canada in July, Yemen now has had four internationally recognised sites, and no other country in Arabia has more, according to the Yemen Tourism Promotion Board.
These sites are:
• The Old Walled City of Shibam in Wadi Hadhramaut, inscribed by UNESCO in 1982, is known as the Manhattan of the Desert, because of its ‘skyscrapers’ that literally rise out of the sand. The 16th Century city is one of the oldest and best examples of urban planning based on the principle of vertical construction anywhere in the world.
• The ancient old city of Sana’a at an altitude of more than 7,000 feet has been inhabited for over two and a half millennia and was inscribed in 1986. Sana’a became a major Islamic centre in the 7th Century and the 103 mosques, 14 hammams and more than 6,000 houses that survive all date from before the 11th Century.
• Near the Red Sea the historic town of Zabid, inscribed in 1993, was Yemen’s capital from the 13th to 15th Century, and is an outstanding archaeological and historical site. It played an important role for centuries due to its university, which was a centre of learning for the whole Arab and Islamic world.
• The latest addition to Yemen’s list of World Heritage sites is the Socotra Archipelago. Often described as the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean, this remote and isolated Archipelago consists of four islands and two rocky islets near the Gulf of Aden. The site is of universal importance, because of its rich biodiversity.
About 37 per cent of Socotra’s 825 plant varieties, 90 per cent of its reptiles and 95 per cent of its snails are unique and do not occur anywhere else in the world.
For the World Travel Market, Yemen has brought together a selection of its industry players including the Yemen Ministry of Tourism, Yemen Airways (Yemenia) and six tour operators.
See them on stand ME4700.
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