September 18, 2010
Posted: 2133 GMT
*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.