Inside the Middle East
September 18, 2010
Posted: 2133 GMT

A view of the Yemenite city of Shibam (Dane Kenny/CNN)

*CNN Producer Gena Somra filed this report from Yemen*

Riding along the dusty road through Yemen's Hadramawt valley, I was curious how the day would unfold.

Shibam, the ancient skyscraper city, was only kilometers away. I had read about its rich history, and looked at photographs of its stately skyline, but when the road turned, the view took my breath away.

There before me, after a long and arduous journey, was the "Manhattan of the Desert, " I had heard so much about.

Magnificent, and majestic-the towering landscape reaches skyward, out from the barren earth, and into the hearts of all who are lucky enough to take it in.

Even though our visit was for work, I couldn't help but marvel at what I saw in front of me.

For a moment, I allowed myself to be an awestruck tourist, grateful to see this rich composition and to experience it first hand.

People once came from all over the world to see the splendor of Shibam with their own eyes.

But a single act of terror in 2009 struck more than the South Korean tourists and their guides that were killed when the suicide bomber attacked.

It just so happened that our driver, had also been their driver, and had witnessed that attack. The guides that were killed were his friends.

He tells us the day the attack happened, was the day, "happiness left Shibam forever."

Now the town is empty. Tourist shops are closed. And we, with our cameras and crew, are the first foreign visitors in months.

We meet a local merchant who has opened his doors just for us; his eyes reflecting the sadness of his town's loss.

The local tourism representative meets us. With a twinkle in his eye, and a gentle infectious laugh, he welcomes us with pride.

Kindhearted, he takes us through the city, explaining in passionate detail why this is still a place people should visit, and why the world should not give up on Shibam.

He invites us into his home, treats us to tea, sweets and conversation.

Before the day ends, we find ourselves acquainted with new friends. Friends who still have hope that one day people will return, and Shibam will reveal itself to the world as a place of warmth and hospitality.

As we prepare to leave, I can't help but feel sad for the people I have met, who now, because of the murderous act of one person, must endure continued suffering for an entire generation.

We shake hands with our guide, and thank him for his gift of knowledge, time and generosity.

"Yemen is your home too," he tells me. "You are always welcome here."

As we drive back down the dusty road from whence we came..I take with me the visual memory of a world wonder, and the experience of a culture and a people, I will remember for a lifetime.

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Filed under: Culture •General •Yemen

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joshua   September 19th, 2010 11:04 am ET

How come I have not seen any CNN news about these horrendous things which happened at the prison in Iraq.
Howcan you keep this from us and why do we have to find it elsewhere on the inernet.


sonja wuertz   September 19th, 2010 11:52 pm ET

Amazing work of art and of men! Manhattan of the Desert!

Shawn   September 20th, 2010 12:06 am ET

Because Abu Ghraib is ancient history, which the military justice system dealt with and Abu Ghraib has since been closed?

AFD   September 20th, 2010 12:16 am ET

Pretty much how I felt when Bahgdad's world famous Museum of Antiquities was looted while the US Army was busy guarding the Ministry of Oil building.

Tim Herring   September 20th, 2010 1:05 am ET


You travel halfway around the world and this 2-paragraph gosh geewiz story is all that you file? Perhaps you wrote a multipage story and your editors cut it to shreds.

Surely, CNN can do better that this on such an important topic.

Sam   September 20th, 2010 1:07 am ET

joshua, because most americans dont want to hear the herrendous acts carried out on foreign soil. it wont exactly make the leader of the free world and the greatest democracy in the world look so good. we never hear about genocide cuased by american acts. how about 1 million iraqi children who died in gulf war 1 due to the bombardment of air raids by americans. what father and son did to that poor little defensless nation will fuel hatred attacks on america for decades to come. saddam hussien was a brutal leader but his removal came at too much of a cost.

wanda   September 20th, 2010 1:28 am ET


CoreyL78   September 20th, 2010 2:07 am ET

I get pissy when I see comments like Joshua's about CNN. Tell me, is there an article about this on Infoclearinghouse? Doubt it. I enjoyed reading this. I'll try and make it there one day.

Lilly   September 20th, 2010 2:10 am ET

What an incredible shame that so many people have been affected by such hatred. Unfortunately terror often does work and this is a sad example of just that.

Chris   September 20th, 2010 2:12 am ET

What are you talking about that is a completely FAKE article

Dutch   September 20th, 2010 2:19 am ET

I'd love to be able to travel to Yemen and see the wonders (and shop!) but it's too terribly dangerous for all foreigners if S. Koreans are attacked!

SAD   September 20th, 2010 2:48 am ET


It is not clear what your point is or how it relates to the Yemen blog?

You should share with all of us the news about the suicide bombings at the Iraq prisons. I too had not heard of them. I for one heard many, many, many reports on CNN and elsewhere, about, at least some of the events, but not the bombings you apparently are aware of.

If you are trying to equate the killing of Korean civilians and the humiliation of inmates by the American military, the equation does not equal.

As a comment on an article about Shibam, its beauty, the warmth of its people and sadness that it evoked for the writer; I suppose it was accidently posted to the wrong article? Apparently "The Day the Happiness left Shibam" is the feeling of some of the Yemenese peoples, being quoted by the author, not his / her words.

SAD   September 20th, 2010 3:04 am ET


For a little statistics – I googled "CNN reports on iraq prison abuse" and got

2,300,000 hits.

I also googled "ClNN reports on Shibam" and got

7,060 hits

levend   September 20th, 2010 6:13 am ET

The world is a marvelous place with so much to see and do.

Yoni Novick   September 20th, 2010 9:03 am ET

It wasn't "the murderous act of one person." It takes dozens to plan something like that and many more to believe in it ideologically. Stating that it was "just one person" shows a misunderstanding of Islamic terrorism.

Hope   September 20th, 2010 5:15 pm ET

Keenly observed and evocative..thank you for sharing your thoughts.

saeed   September 21st, 2010 5:12 pm ET

Why people associated terrorism attack with Isalam ? Isalam fare away from these attacke ,but if someone kills kids at school like what happened in germany the didn't called that terror attack . This is unfair

John A   September 22nd, 2010 11:27 am ET

Saeed, well said! Unfortunately western media is full of obvious double standards.

Next time someone tells you that terror is committed in the name of Islam, you can reply by asking if pedophilia is committed in the name of Catholicism. See how they like it.

saeed   September 22nd, 2010 8:45 pm ET

See John, what the people recive the pop in UK

Nick Redmayne   November 22nd, 2010 11:37 am ET

The image supporting this editorial needs to pan left – a suburb of new Shibam is shown but not the 'Manhattan of the Desert' referred to in copy.

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