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Urban Planet Weird Wednesday: Yemen’s 16th century skyscrapers

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Weird Wednesdays on Urban Planet takes a look at obscure, absurd, and curious things about cities around the world.

Residential high rises weren’t exactly a “new” idea in the mid 1500s—Rome has its insulae since the days of the empire, and many medieval European and Middle Eastern cities had buildings in excess of ten floors—but the Yemeni city of Shibam bears special mention as one of the earliest examples of vertical urban planning.

While the area of Shibam has been settled for over 1,700 years, and some of the surviving buildings date back to early Islam, the majority of the town was rebuilt after a 1532 floor ravaged the area. The new Shibam was laid out in a grid plan, and the outer wall and dense mudbrick high rises were built as a defence against Bedouin raids.

Now a UNESCO Hertiage Site, Shibam was again hit a serious flood in 2008, and efforts have since been underway to revitalize and protect the town for the future.

photo by kurvenalbn

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