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Sana'a, Yemen

Dar al-Hajar

Yemen's "Stone Palace" looks like it was carved right out of the tall stone column on which it is built. 

While it may not be the Black-Forest-European-Fairytale-style construction that most Westerners consider when they think of a castle, Yemen’s Dar al-Hajar palace, built atop a tall natural rock spire is nonetheless fantastical.

The Middle-Eastern-styled palace as it stands today was actually built relatively recently, in the 1930s by an Islamic spiritual leader named Yahya Muhammad Hamiddin, but it seems that he was building atop a preexisting structure that was built in the 1700s by an Islamic scholar. The tall castle was intended to be the leader’s summer home, and featured a number of facilities including appointment rooms for his highly appointed guests and separate spaces for cooling water in earthen jars. The rooms are built up the side of a tall rock spire, culminating in a grand tower at its pinnacle.

The Imam Yahya was assassinated in 1948, but his iconic palace still stands and it has become a popular example of Yemeni architecture. While it is no longer used as a royal residence, the palace has been refitted as a museum and can be toured for a fee. Visitors can range about through the kitchens, storage rooms, and appointment rooms connected by a small labyrinth of stairways leading through the five-story structure.

But as impressive as it is to explore inside, it is the view from the exterior that really makes the palace one of a kind. Combined with the natural rock on which it is built, it truly looks like a monumental work straight out of a fantasy novel.

Know Before You Go

Head northwest out of town on the 313. Where the route goes left to Thula, do not take it but carry straight on to the castle.