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Science And Nature

Ancient caravan kingdoms are threatened in Yemens civil war

Published August 4, 2022

25 min read

Standing in the bottom of a dusty wadi, I crane my neck to take the huge structure rising above me: row upon row of precisely cut stone, set seamlessly without mortar some 2,500 years back, soaring 50 feet in to the fading desert sky.

To call this ancient engineering marvel only dam feels almost derogatory. Once the Great Dam of Marib was built-in what’s now Yemen, its earth-and-stone walls spanned a location nearly doubly wide as Hoover Dam. The still standing colossal sluices were section of a complicated system that controlled the flow of seasonal rains from Yemens highlands to its parched desert in the east, nurturing agricultural oases across almost 25,000 acres of wasteland. And in the center of everything, a thriving economic hub: Marib, capital of Saba, the Arabian kingdom most famously connected with its legendary leader Bilqis, immortalized in the Bible and the Quran because the queen of Sheba.

At Maribs peak, starting in the eighth century B.C., this dam was the foundation of prosperity for the Sabaean capitaland the reason why it existed as a fertile, food-producing, water-abundant stopping point for thirsty camels and hungry traders.

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