Ibn Battuta, the great 14th-century Arab traveller, once described Ta’izz as ‘one of the largest and most beautiful cities’. It’s still large – Yemen’s third-largest city – but for beauty you need to look a little harder. The city has suffered heavily from unplanned urban growth, which has left it without any real central soul. It played a major role in the increasingly violent protests of 2010–11. These reached a bloody peak in late May when Salih's soldiers opened fire on demonstrators and killed between 28 and 64 people. After that demonstrations became increasingly violent with protesters, tribal fighters and defected soldiers all using weapons against Saleh loyalists. By 7 June 2011 the opposition had largely taken control of the city.