The entrance to a “chiefs” compound (chief was used by the British to describe men of ‘high’ status in many African societies, although they weren’t necessarily chiefs), the mounds in front are shrines for guardian deities/ancestors, with detail on portico. Photo taken by missionary G. T. Basden, early 20th century.

Shibam is often called “the oldest skyscraper city in the world” or “the Manhattan of the Middle East” and “the Chicago of the desert”. It is one of the oldest and best examples of urban planning based on the principle of vertical construction. The city has some of the tallest mud buildings in the world, with some of them over 30 meters (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. (Wikipedia)


Shibam, often called “the Manhattan of the desert”, a town in Hadramawt, Yemen, is considered to have the world’s oldest skyscrapers.

It has about 7,000 inhabitants and all of the town’s house are made out of mud bricks. Some of these structures rise 5 to 9 stories high.

This technique of building was implemented in order to protect residents from Bedouin attacks. While Shibam has existed for around 2,000 years, most of the city’s houses come mainly from the 16th century.

Source: from Places Gate