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History

Ma’rib has been inhabited almost since the dawn of time and is one of the world’s oldest towns. It is, of course, famous above all else for being the supposed home of the Queen of Sheba, though whether or not she really did grace the streets of Ma’rib is unknown. What cannot be doubted is that the Sabaean capital quickly became the most important staging post on the frankincense trade route, and it was during this period that the dam was constructed. The good times couldn’t last, though, and with the bursting of the dam the people of Ma’rib scattered across the deserts of Arabia, and the town virtually ceased to exist. It wasn’t really until the modern age and the discovery of oil that the fortunes of Ma’rib started to revive – a point that has been made most clear with the construction of a new dam and the greening of the desert. The last few years haven’t been all plain sailing, though, and Ma’rib is consistently one of the most troubled places in Yemen. For a visitor this is most obvious in the sheer quantity of serious artillery visible on the streets and a distinct undercurrent of something you cannot quite put your finger on.