Sonia Halliday

Rising like a mirage from Yemen’s desert plain are the ruins of Old Marib, described by Pliny the Elder as “the mistress of cities and a diadem on the brow of the universe.” The 11th-century A.D. Suleyman mosque in the foreground above is supported by pillars that may date to the Sabaean period, when Marib’s homes, temples and monuments spread over 250 acres. The caravan city’s prosperity was based on the region’s rich agriculture and thriving incense trade. During the Himyarite period (115 B.C. to c. 600 A.D.) that followed, architectural innovations such as the vertical south Arabian “tower house” (shown here, background) first appeared.