Yemen Tour Guide: Barakesh - a Minean Caravan City

Yemen Tour Guide: Barakesh - a Minean Caravan City Last updated on Monday 26th April 2010

Barakesh is the most impressive of all Yemen's ancient sites. Its fortified city wall is 14 metres high and is constructed from a beautiful calcite stone, mined from neighbouring Djebel Yam and carefully carved into blocks. Some of these massive blocks are also to be found in one of the city's temples.

Beside the city runs a considerable expanse of irrigated land. The alluvium carried by old canals has been deposited in the surrounding fields to a depth of 12 metres. This area is dissected by numerous water gates, and from a hilltop vantage point one can easily trace the path of the ancient canals.

In ancient days, Barakesh was known as Yathil and is first mentioned in a text written in the 5th century B.C. At this time, Barakesh was one of three major caravan cities -- the others being Main (ancient name Qarnaw) and As Sawda (ancient Nashan). It was also the closest city to the spice route.

Barakesh was one of the cities which defied the Roman army led by Aelius Gallus in 24B.C., around the time of the collapse of the Minean Kingdom. This collapse did not mean that the city was abandoned; it was mentioned in Sabean text between the 1st and 3rd centuries A.D. There can be no doubt, however, that its period of splendour was certainly over.

The city of Barakesh remained inhabited during the Middle Ages, but it seems that it was abandoned at the close of the 18th century. This fact is borne out by archaeological findings of ceramics and other ancient artefacts, which were discovered buried under houses which had simply been built over older sites. Today the ruins of Barakesh represent the most spectacular of Yemen's archaeological sites.

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