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It is the most impressive archaeological site and best preserved ancient walled town in Yemen. It once had more than fifty towers and two gates, and its walls reached up to 14m high. Lying in the wide Wadi Fardha, it was previously known as Yathil, the dominant town in the Minaeen kingdom and an important centre for the incense trade.

The Sabaeans had controlled this whole region but by the end of the great Sabaean era in 410 BC. Main broke away and formed an alliance with Hadramout to open up new caravan routes and thus increase trade.

We know that the tales of royal towns and palaces in Arabia, the Emperor Augustus instructed the proconsul of Egypt, Aelius Gallus, to invade the peninsula and seize the wealth of the citadels of which he had heard so much. In 24 BC a force of 10.000 Romans and 15.000 mercenaries was assembled and sent to the region with Nabataean Marib.

The force never got back to the Mediterranean and the sea, however, once they had understood the pattern of the monsoons. In the main area of the site, there stand, the remains of a dome, a mosque, a well and tower amidst great shreds of pottery and glass.

Elsewhere an Italian archaeological team has recently excavated a temple which still had its roof and contained stone tables equipped with bull's heads at the end. These may have been for sacrifices; the temple is thought to be to a god of healing.



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Yemen Tourism Promotion Board.