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For the coastal trading vessel, see MV Shibam.
شبام حضرموت
Shibam Wadi Hadhramaut Yemen.jpg
Shibam is located in Yemen
Location in Yemen
Coordinates: 15°55′36.98″N 48°37′36.01″E / 15.9269389°N 48.6266694°E / 15.9269389; 48.6266694Coordinates: 15°55′36.98″N 48°37′36.01″E / 15.9269389°N 48.6266694°E / 15.9269389; 48.6266694
Country  Yemen
Governorate Hadhramaut
District Shibam
 • Total 7,000
Time zone GMT+3
Official name Old Walled City of Shibam
Type Cultural
Criteria iii, iv, vi
Designated 1982
Reference no. 192
State Party  Yemen
Region Arab States

Shibam (Arabic: شِبَام‎‎) (often referred to as Shibam Hadhramaut) is a town in Yemen. With about 7,000 inhabitants, it is the seat of the Shibam District in the Hadhramaut Governorate. It is famous for its mudbrick-made high-rise buildings.


The first known inscription about the city dates from the 3rd century.[1] It was the capital of the Hadramawt Kingdom.


The town is located in the central-western area of Hadhramaut Governorate, in the Ramlat al-Sab`atayn desert. Its main road links Sana'a and other cities of western Yemen to the far eastern territories. Nearest towns are Seiyun, seat of an airport, and Tarim, both in the east. Another road, departing from the village of Alajlanya, in the west; links Shibam to Mukalla, governorate's capital, located by the Indian Ocean.



Shibam, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is known for its distinct architecture.The houses of Shibam are all made out of mud brick and about 500 of them are tower blocks, which rise 5 to 11 stories high,[2] with each floor having one or two rooms.[3] This architectural style was used in order to protect residents from Bedouin attacks.[citation needed] While Shibam has been in existence for an estimated 1,700 years, most of the city's houses originate from the 16th century. Many, though, have been rebuilt numerous times in the last few centuries.

Shibam is often called "the oldest skyscraper city in the world" or "the Manhattan of the Middle East" and "the Chicago of the desert".[1] It is one of the oldest and best examples of urban planning based on the principle of vertical construction.[4] The city has some of the tallest mud buildings in the world, with some of them over 30 meters[5] (100 feet) high, thus being early high-rise apartment buildings. In order to protect the buildings from rain and erosion, the walls must be routinely maintained by applying fresh layers of mud.

The nearby town of Tarim contains the tallest structure in the Wadi Hadhramaut valley, the mudbrick minaret of the Al-Mihdhar mosque. It stands at a height of approximately 53 meters (175 feet.)[3] This is the tallest minaret in the southern Arabian peninsula.[6]


The city was heavily affected by flooding in 2008.[7] The foundations of many of the buildings in the city were compromised by the flood waters, eventually leading to their collapse.[8] It was also the target of an Al Qaeda attack in 2009.[9][10]



  1. ^ a b "Wadi Hadramowt and walled city of Shabam". Retrieved 2010-01-03. 
  2. ^ Helfritz, Hans (April 1937). "Land without shade". Journal of the Royal Central Asian Society. 24 (2): 201–16. doi:10.1080/03068373708730789. 
  3. ^ a b Jerome, Pamela; Chiari, Giacomo; Borelli, Caterina (1999). "The Architecture of Mud: Construction and Repair Technology in the Hadhramaut Region of Yemen". APT Bulletin. 30 (2–3): 39–48 [44]. doi:10.2307/1504639. JSTOR 1504639. 
  4. ^ Old Walled City of Shibam, UNESCO World Heritage Centre
  5. ^ Shipman, J. G. T. (June 1984). "The Hadhramaut". Asian Affairs. 15 (2): 154–62. doi:10.1080/03068378408730145. 
  6. ^ Bamford, James (2009), The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America, Random House, Inc., p. 9, ISBN 0-307-27939-1 
  7. ^ "Death Toll Mounts In Tropical Storm". 2008-10-26. Retrieved 2008-10-26. 
  8. ^ "Historic Town of Shibam Hadramout Escapes Flooding Largely Unscathed". ITN Source. November 3, 2008. 
  9. ^ "Al Qaeda blamed for Yemen attack". CNN. 2009-03-16. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  10. ^ "Al-Qaeda in Yemen:Political, Social and Security Dimensions". Yemen Post. 2009-04-12. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 

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