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Manhattan of the desert

Manhattan of the desert
Photo Information
Copyright: Gert Holmertz (holmertz) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 7721 W: 431 N: 15212] (70052)
Genre: Places
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 1998-10
Categories: Nature, Architecture
Photo Version: Original Version
Date Submitted: 2014-01-08 10:25
Viewed: 5681
Points: 106
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
This is Shibam, popularly known as the "Manhattan of the desert". It's a small town in the Hadhramawt region of south-eastern Yemen, a very long way from the capital Sanaa. Along with the capital it's the most famous town of Yemen and a UNESCO world heritage site.

Shibam has a history of at least a couple of thousand years. Its "skyscrapers", made of mud, are generally five to seven storeys high.

The best views of Shibam can be enjoyed from a slight distance, preferably from the air. As my flight from Sanaa was approaching the nearby airport of Sayun I had a fantastic view of the very tightly packed mud town from a height of just a few hundred metres. My camera was safely stored in my bag in the locker above my seat :-). At least I was sitting by the window.

Inside the town the view was less impressive. I found it a fairly dirty and empty place, full of souvenir shops without any customers. Yemen had been expecting a tourist boom but already in 1998, when I visited this extremely fascinating country, most tourists had been scared away by frequent kidnappings. Nearly all kidnappings happened in a relatively small area in the north of the country, so what I did was to avoid that particular area and never travel with tourist vehicles, only with local transports (and two flights for very long distances). I never felt threatened, quite the contrary: I have probably never experienced a nicer and more helpful people than the Yemenites.

Unfortunately the scenic Hadhramawt region suffered unjustely from the country's bad reputation. Today the situation in Yemen is quite different and I would hardly recommend anyone going there for tourism for the time being. If you don't get into trouble with the al-Qaeda you might get hit by an American rocket fired from the sky.

This is, as you can well see, a pre-digital photo, scanned from a Kodachrome slide. Here is a larger version.

ourania, UlfE, kwekwekan, trevormoffiet, imageme, SnapRJW, Kamilutka, cornejo, Romano46, Kielia, photographer_sg, papagolf21, rigoletto, mohammad_H, nikkitta, jhm, PaulVDV, Angshu, adores, Tigerlily, pierrefonds, adramad has marked this note useful
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Add Critique [Critiquing Guidelines] 
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ThreadThread Starter Messages Updated
To ourania: thanksholmertz 1 2014-01-08 11:45
To boa: panoramaholmertz 2 2014-01-08 12:38
To UlfE: hästarholmertz 1 2014-01-08 12:53
To Kamilutka: animalsholmertz 1 2014-01-09 05:28
To saxo042: lösaholmertz 1 2014-01-09 08:03
To SteveH: thanksholmertz 1 2014-01-09 09:25
To PaulVDV: unitedholmertz 3 2014-01-12 12:36
To Tigerlily: thanksholmertz 1 2014-04-27 01:15
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Critiques [Translate]

hej Gert
Oh yes, and you just have central Park as the FG !!
Have a nice evening, best regards

Hi Gert,
great view with spectacular composition, the colours and lights are very nice, the POV is splendid,

Hello Gert,
Great view of those buildings made of mud. The perspective is unique with the vegetation and the animals in fg. Very good colors and clarity in this scanned image.
With regards,

Dobro vece.
Intresantan tekst o gradu, sa istorijom i opisom ...
Lep pogled na kamile, zeleno drvece i arhiteturu ...
Dobar rad skeniranjem, lepo pokazano mesto i arhitektura.
Lepo drvece i arhitektura.
Prijatno vece i lepa noc, sve najbolje sa lepim secanjem na posetu Shibam.

Good evening.
An interesting article about the city, with a history and description of the ...
Nice view of the camel, green trees and arhitetura ...
Good work by scanning, demonstrated good place and architecture.
Nice trees and architecture.
Have a nice evening and night, all the best with beautiful memories of a visit to Shibam.

Hello Gert,
one of the first photos I remember seeing in your gallery was a close, upward view of these skyscrapers. This distant view over a deep area covered with palm trees is very fascinating too. I love the strong light and colours as well as the precise definition of the distant buildings. In spite of the amazing brightness, the view keeps its fascination and mystery intact. Congratulations and thank you!
All the best, have a great evening,

  • Great 
  • boa Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 568 W: 2 N: 1434] (7875)
  • [2014-01-08 11:44]
  • [+]

Hej Gert,
intressant not! Tyvärr är ju situationen i Yemen mer än besvärlig och det ser inte ljust ut. Förhoppningsvis så blir det mer stabilt framöver så att folket här får en tryggare vardag. (kanske lite turistpengar också)Den här platsen(och Sanaa)ligger väldigt högt på min reselista och jag ångrar som en tok att jag inte reste hit när det var möjligt.

Intressant bild förresten. Palmerna i kombination med lerhusen i bakgrunden ser nästan overkligt ut. Påminner om ett dataspel eller nåt...Med viss tvekan så kanske jag skulle ha beskuret bort mer himmel för att få en panorama look, men jag är inte säker. Hursomhelst en fin bild från en intressant plats.


  • Great 
  • dta Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 6061 W: 277 N: 11670] (90149)
  • [2014-01-08 12:04]

Hello Gert ,
A great view of the famous yemenite city , with an interesting Fg as this green oasis with some camels

  • Great 
  • UlfE Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2518 W: 81 N: 3654] (14641)
  • [2014-01-08 12:47]
  • [+]

Hej Gert,

En verkligt fin bild av denna fascinerande ökenstad. Väldigt kul att kunna ta sig en närmare titt på bilden i den större storleken. Jag ser att din skicklighet med skanningen av gamla bilder hela tiden ökar. Hästarna, nej kameler är det nog, till höger ger litet extra liv åt bilden. Ha en bra kväll!



Hi Gert,
A great picture and an informative note to go along with it. You have framed this famous skyline very creatively with lots of great details in the foreground - I especially like the nice neat row of palm trees and the small group of camels grazing on the right. The desert sky is also nice and clear with good saturation.
Best wishes,

Hello Gert,
A very nice view of the desert skyscrapers through the palm forest. Your note is also very interesting and contains some helpful travel advice. (När du råkar kritik mina bilder jag inte har något emot om du vill använda svenska) I do try to read Swedish first before I resort to google translate.

Hi Gert, Another helpful information of Yemen. I will give a 2nd thought if I ever want to make a visit there or will wear a bulletproof vest to protect myself. Excellent composition and POV. The forest of Palm trees leads my way to the mud made skyscrapers in the BG. The blue sky gives a very strong colour contrasts to the buildings. I see few horses on the right side under the palm trees and they add extra life to the composition.
The muddy FG goes so pretty with the skyscrapers.

Hi Gert, I don't visit TE very often these days, but good to see an image of yours from my favourite country on this visit. Shame travel there is no longer safe. Scan quality is good. You chose a good POV too, showing something of the surrounding agriculture. Trust all is well with you. Cheers, Steve

A great note to accompany a super shot Gert. I have seen TV programs about these fantastic skyscrapers and have marveled at their construction and design. I would have been thrilled to see them as you did. I think you shot with the palm grove and camels puts the town into context and adds to the exotic nature of the location. Have a fine day, warm regards Rosemary

Hi Gert,
Funny observation but kind of true. The place looks great in your presentation. Well taken.
Have a fine day ahead.


Hello dear Gert,
Your treasure chest brings us every time great captures !
This one from Yemen (allthough not too old) is also great.
The typical architecture at back and the small group of camels under the shadow of the palm trees.
And of course many interesting notes which makes youtr entry a perfect TE job.
TFS and best regards

namaste Gert,
beautiful frame. I like those beautiful buildings at back with such a nice foreground, decorated by palm trees. Excellent depth and clarity. Superb work.

Hello Gert,
I enjoyed you interesting note as much as the photo. And even if despite American nickname the village looks still very much Arabian. The oasis in the foreground is lovely, especially with some animals (what are they?) in the corner - it creates some kind of clash between nature and civilisation.
Great shot with excellent colors and composition.
Best regards

Hello Gert,
The mixture of desert and the skyscrapers is really unique. I just love your title, very witty indeed :-) I wondered why they have painted some of the buildings the same as the land, then I read your note to see that they are made of mud!! What great innovation and engineering marvel of old days. Good inclusion of the date trees and the camels to give an idea about the surroundings of the town. Thanks for sharing a new world.

  • Great 
  • emka Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 9989 W: 144 N: 25031] (122263)
  • [2014-01-09 3:48]

I saw also this one :). Amazing view of this city behind the palm grove. Your series from Yemen is very interesting, I could go there. The architecture there is so different than anywhere else. Pity it is not recommended.
fantastic colours and it was great idea of the technical staff to allow these large format photos.
Warm regrads Malgo

Hello Gert, very good view of this desert city interesting, very well captured with a great pov with nice photography. Interesting picture with good sharpness, depth, light and color. An excellent job perfectly done, congratulations my friend. Thanks for sharing this beautiful work.

Good afternoon and happy rest of the week.
Best regards from southern Spain.

  • Great 
  • Nicou Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 13679 W: 0 N: 16021] (168114)
  • [2014-01-09 5:29]


quelle vue tout ce champs de palmier impr3essionant cette verdure en premier plan et la forme des troncs des grands et des petits et cette muraillage de maisons ces constructions qui ressortent fabuleux.
Bravo et amitié

Bonjour Gert,

Ici on voit nettement l'avancée de ce que l'on nomme civilisation contre les région sauvages. Ici, on peut très bien voir les deux à la fois. Parfois , j'aimerais bien voir le contraire.



  • Great 
  • Fis2 Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 9445 W: 157 N: 15246] (122929)
  • [2014-01-09 7:12]

Witaj Gert!
A very curious buildings (manhattan).
I like frame and colors.
Palms add savor of photo.
Well done.
Good evening

Hej Gert,
En intressant text och en lika fascinerande vy över staden. Man kan lätt föreställa sig att bebyggelsen i Rom kan ha sett ut något i den här stilen för 2000 år sedan. Palmskogen i förgrunden ser ju tämligen risig och ovårdad ut. Gick dromedarerna lösa här?
Hälsningar från ett regnigt Göteborg

  • Great 
  • rychem Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 3288 W: 0 N: 7482] (55057)
  • [2014-01-09 8:45]

Simply great, fantastic shot of a magic and historical place, splendid photo
regards Ryszard

Hello Gert,
Excellent capture. Thanks for this reminder, I was in 1992 here.
best wishes,

Ciao Gert
altro bhel ricordo dello Yemen e delle sue caratteristiche case - torri inserite in un paesaggio particolarmente interessante.
Straordinarti i colori, eccellente la composizione e molto ben riuscita anche la scannerizzazione dalla Kodachrome.
Ciao e buona serata

  • Great 
  • Kielia Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 2514 W: 0 N: 6733] (24077)
  • [2014-01-09 9:38]

Dear Gert,
another remarkable view and a nicely composed impression of this interesting town. The perspective is excellent and the light and the colors make the image very attractive. My compliments also for the interesting notes!
Warm regards

Boa noite Gert

The composition of palms and buildings are really beautiful.
The animals are a good inclusion in this scenery.

Hi Gert
Green is indeed an earthy colour breaker in harsh desert environment bringing lots of live and cooling effect, but what a combination and contrast there - the concreat jungle seems to be out of place. However they provide lots of good colour contrast on the whole, its nicely framed with feel of depth and scale but. The clarity, vividness of detail and colour are splendid. Great capture and excellent pp, tfs
Best regards

Do you think those buildings are tall enough to qualify as skyscapers? I like the ambience though with those palms tree fronting those buildings. Good lighting and sharp details. Well done, tfs.

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  • lousat Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 11636 W: 126 N: 20917] (108071)
  • [2014-01-10 9:03]

Hi Gert,truly beautiful this choice of point of view.I like the large view on the old building facades,on a carpet made by the small palm that remember me the Marrakech Palmeraie.One of your best shot from your archives,i like it! Have a nice weekend and thanks,Luciano

Bonsoir, Gert,
Merci, Gert, de nous faire voyager d'une aussi belle façon.
Une parfaite façon de s'évader de son environnement quotidien.
Je découvre et j'apprécie comme il se doit cette très bonne composition.
Meilleurs voeux 2014.

Hello Gert
Beautiful composition here with the rugged foreground and the row of buildings forming an attractive pattern against the clear blue sky. Thanks for sharing this wonderful picture full of lovely warm colours.
Best regards

hi gert (i hope true, this time. couple of minutes ago, i called malgo as "gert"). what you write in your note is quite intimidating. i mean, such a gutsy photog like you, doesn't recommend yemen. i've read the dangers of travelling there, but wasn't aware of the missiles flying up there... ok, i'll stick to my comfortable TE page :)
back to the photo... well, a stunning documentary as always. truly this place deserves to be called manhattan of desert. the vegetation looks lush and fertile, the october sun so bright. some years ago, i could smile at kamila's question, but i've realized that many people on earth are not knowledgeable about camels. most of the europeans in morocco saw camels for the first time, and in tanazania they knew every animal but camels and horses...

  • Great 
  • Graal Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 9445 W: 268 N: 3085] (103038)
  • [2014-01-10 23:49]

Hello Gert,
good title, yes, it's like "Manhattan" on the desert. Good scan. Fine view of palms and animals on FG. Interesting document from Yemen.
Have a nice WE.

Hello Gert. The Manhattan of the desert is an absolute architectural landmark in Yemen. The city is conceived on a sandbank. Scenic is the town between the mountains. Especially in the evening light, the city shows its beauty. I like the photo and also the informative text.
Best rgds, Wolfgang.

Hej, Gert,
If Manhattan is on the background, so on the foreground is the Grand Central park , I think so. ;) Good continuing of the Yemen series, now I remember I hsaw this place on the photo of trekkers too. Thanks for the useful note.
Have a nice weekend!

Ciao Gert, great view of fantastic architecture, lovely composition with beautfiul vegetation in FG, wonderful natural colors, excellent clarity and splendid light, very well done my friend, have a good week end, ciao Silvio

Hello dear friend
Beautiful display with excellent contrast and light
Travel is always a risk, but its charm is so dangerous
Good job with good resolution
Good evening
Seyed Mohammad

Hello Gert,
I never tire of the shots from your archive,this one shows very clearly not only the most interesting mud buildings of the town but also the palm trees and camels of it`s surrounding environment.Fascinating.
The digital conversion has retained all of the original colours and details,altogether another fine travel photograph that is unlikely to be replicated any day soon.
Best regards Les.

Hola Gert

This is, not now , one of the countries I wanted so much to visit after reading lot of travel books and novels ( Sold )about it
Building at the back look stunning , believe all were brown with white windows frames, well presented with vegetation and some camels at the front
Very well done (scan and contrast)


Hi Gert,
it is so sad that many places are not anymore safe to visit. Great at least that we can admire them in the archival photos of yours. Nice foreground full of vegetation. Lovely presentation of this famous place.
Thanks for sharing,

  • Great 
  • jhm Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 24277 W: 523 N: 40588] (174734)
  • [2014-01-12 2:47]

Hello Gert,

Incredible how we see a part of the dessert in foreground with the palm trees
You create depth and perspective with the buildings in background.
Sharpness and clarity be superb.
Excellent composition, TFS.

Have a nice Sunday,

Hello Gert,
North and South Yemen were apparently already united when you were there.
I couldn’t visit Shibam since I was in the north in 1988.
No kidnappings then. But I remember that together with another four or five travellers I went to Barraquish in the eastern desert (with a rented car and a Yemeni driver). Just for one day.
In the desert in the dunes suddenly an armed man made the jeep stop and through the open window he pointed a kalashnikov at the head of our driver while he demanded of every passenger the equivalent in Yemeni rial of a half dollar. We couldn’t believe he meant such low amount and gave it quickly on which he kindly thanked us and showed us further away. We didn’t know if this was a joke or not since we had seen so many men with kalashnikovs before in the country and never that meant any danger. But our driver didn’t want to return by the same route back to Sana’a.
A few years later I heard about the kidnappings. So maybe we had been lucky then.
I’ve always dreamed to go back one day and then I’d also go to the south, to Shibam.
I find this view so appealing. Like a dream image, beautifully taken from in the palm oasis. But you write that inside the town it is less impressive. I believe it must have been fairly dirty. In 1988 all of North Yemen was dirty.
Still, it was a magnificent country with the most helpful and hospitable people.
It's terrible to see how history goes …
My best regards, Paul

et merci de ce partage de ce "désert" avec ces palmiers et bêtes à l'ombre; une belle luminosité et un bel arrière plan qui nous montre ces constructions et un beau ciel bleu

  • Great 
  • Angshu Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 7851 W: 324 N: 16060] (56760)
  • [2014-01-14 0:58]

Hello Gert
The first time I saw these spectacular 'skyscrapers' I had said to myself 'Wow'. And I say that once again. Made with mud, these are mand made wonders no less. The FG is no less interesting with the date palms and the camels creating even interesting.

A shot of great TE value & also something I can imagine seeing in NG

Best Regards

A remarkable Unesco site Gert, an oasis with many date palm trees and high ancient buildings looking like so modern in the bg, perfect colors, thanks, see you

  • Great 
  • adores Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5877 W: 64 N: 11341] (46933)
  • [2014-01-20 16:40]

Hi Gert!
This is a really unique place! You were really lucky to go there. The buldings look really high and the plam trees make a nice foreground and help us having an idea of their real size! I like it!

Thanks for the notes, Gert. I thought it would be more dangerous when you on your own, unless you drove a tank.. no, it would be the American rocket's target.:-D Thanks Gert for your bravery, so we can stay in a safe home to view your photos..

Hello Gert! Mysterius cityscape. Amazing trees. Wonderful animals. Very beautiful sky. Good exposure and capture. Original shot from 1998! Sophisticated effect. Interesting note. Regards!

Hi Gert,

The palm trees garden is framing well the buildings. The point of view is showing the details of the buildings. The good luminosity is making the colours to stand out. Have a nice day.


Hi, Gert.
Wonderful view, of this unique city due to its curious architecture, really does well the denomination of Manhattan of the desert, ideal the palm tree that we see in front, an impressive set.
A fantastic photo, with beautiful natural colors, very good lighting and excellent clarity.
Well done. I love.
Enjoy Sunday.
Very best regards.

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