Yemen is home to a number of landmarks with valuable cultural and historical importance. Several of these have been recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites because of their uniqueness and importance to the collective interests of humanity.
Historic Town Of Zabid
Overlooking the Yemeni coast, above a river delta and floodplain, sits the historic town of Zabid. A circular fortified town with narrow streets, traditional houses, minarets, four entry gates and an extensive network of canals, Zabid was already flourishing by the seventh century, when Islam was first established in the region. Visitors will discover the highest concentration of mosques in Yemen, 86 in all, ranging from simple brick structures to elaborate carved brick and stucco buildings. Fourteen of these are madrasas from the Rasulid period, the largest group of such buildings in the country. Zabid played an important role in the spread of Islam, receiving students from all over the world who studied at the madrasas.
Modern developments such as concrete buildings, unsightly overhead electrical cables, and corrugated steel sheeting, are beginning to affect the beauty and historical integrity of the area. Encroachments by new buildings threaten up to 40% of the historic structures. According to UNESCO, "There is an urgent need to halt this decline and reverse the undesirable changes."
Old City Of Sana’a
Nestled among the mountains, the Old City of Sana'a is a striking collection of rammed earth and burnt brick buildings, punctuated by towering minarets, all beautifully decorated with white gypsum blocks and fired bricks in geometric patterns. Lush gardens are scattered among the densely packed residences, mosques, and bath- houses. Once an outpost of the Yemenite kingdoms, by the first century AD, Sana'a had become a thriving stop along the inland trade route. Archaeological evidence points to the influence of early Christianity before Sana'a became a major center for the spread of Islam in the 7th century.
The World Heritage Committee has recommended that a buffer zone be established around the old city, both to improve protection and preservation of the area and to establish a clearly-defined boundary between the historic district and the modern city.
Old Walled City Of Shibam
Rising from the cliff edge of Wadi Hadramaut is distinctive city skyline. The walled city of Shibam, nicknamed "the Chicago of the desert", is a collection of 16th-century mud-brick houses towering up to seven stories high. Once an important caravan stoppage on the southern Arabian spice and incense route, Shibam is one of the best examples of early multi-story urban planning, and the finest example of traditional Hadrami urban architecture.
Besides the constant threat of annual flooding, social and economic changes are beginning to threaten the city and its traditional way of life. Traditional livestock management and agricultural flood management practices have largely been abandoned, and the introduction of a modern water supply system without providing adequate drainage threaten to damage these unique buildings.
In the northwest Indian Ocean, not far from the Gulf of Aden, the Socotra Archipelago extends the Horn of Africa over 150 miles out to see. With four islands and two rocky islets, the archipelago teems with rich biodiversity. 37% of Socotra’s 825 plant species, 95% of its land snail population, and 90% of its reptiles are endemic and cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Its diverse marine life includes 253 species coral, 730 species of fish and 300 crustacean species, as well as 192 local and migratory bird species, a number of them threatened.
Current threats include road building, overuse of grazing land and animal harvesting, as well as unsustainable tourism and the introduction of invasive species.