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Towering skyscrapers in the ‘Manhattan of the desert’

Posted by on October 17, 2013

Rising from the valley floor like a mirage, the 450-year-old mud brick towers of Shibam in Yemen are the world’s first skyscrapers – dubbed the Manhattan of the Desert.

The 500 tower houses, made from mud mixed with chaff and hay, have withstood 113F (45C) heat, floods and, last Sunday, an explosion caused by suspected Islamic militants that killed four South Korean tourists and their local guide.

Inside the walled fortress, a Unesco World Heritage Site, the streets are eerily quiet in spite of the 7,000 residents.

Enlarge The historic city of Shibam in Yemen

The 450-year-old mud-built skyscrapers of the desert city of Shibam in Yemen

Families pass silently from building to building high up along connecting corridors – built to protect early inhabitants from attacks by Bedouin nomads.

To the right of the picture, a gateway is one of only two entrances cut through the city’s protective outer wall.

The mud walls of the tower houses – five to eight storeys and up to 130ft high – are thickest at the bottom for stability.

By law, any rebuilding must follow the shape of the original structure.

The arched window frames are made from the leafless nabaq tree and some towers are whitewashed with lime to slow down erosion by heat and rain – the crumbled house to the left shows why this is needed.

The city’s design serves as a giant air-conditioning unit, creating maximum shade.

Each building is usually used by one family. Food and cattle are kept on the ground and first floors.

The second storey upwards is a living area, with kitchens and entrances to the corridors on the fourth floor.

Mike Nelson took this picture at sunset from a vantage point 1,500ft above the city.

 Take a tour by clicking the following link  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iaR2XkeD_c

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1163719/THE-WIDER-VIEW-Towering-skyscrapers-Manhattan-desert.html#ixzz2i0Xj7c6b
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