Shaharah is certainly not the only fortified mountain village in Yemen, but it is definitely among the most spectacular. At 2600m above sea level in the middle of a craggy mountain landscape of fissures and gorges, the town’s landscape is heaped in drama. The only approach to the village is via an impressive, arched stone bridge, which spans one of the mountain gorges.
Its secluded position and its sole point of entry made Shaharah incredibly inaccessible. Water cisterns within the village and nearby terraced fields enabled the village to endure even lengthy sieges. For centuries, the village successfully withstood innumerable armies and conquerors. In fact, it wasn’t until the use of air force during the 1960s, in the Yemeni Civil War that the village’s isolated location was finally broken.
Since the 9th century, the village also held a reputation of being an important place of Islamic learning, and scholars throughout the region in the town were well known.
Unfortunately, the village is located in Northern Yemen, where the Shia Insurgency turned the region into a de facto war zone. For this reason, foreigners are currently discouraged from visiting the area. While the village itself is considered safe, the roads leading into this region are not.
Know Before You Go
Unless you're a Yemeni citizen, a permit has to be obtained from the Police Department in Sana'a to travel to this location. In the very unlikely event that you manage to obtain a travel permit, make sure you make a dozen copies before you depart, as all the check points along the way will demand to see and retain a copy of the permit.