A Trip to Tarim [Archives:1999/42/Culture]

October 18 1999

When one thinks of the kingdoms of Qahtan, Sheba and Hemiar, one simultaneously thinks of the South of the Arabian Peninsula. But where is it situated? Where did these kingdoms start and develop? Are they still existing? Answers to these questions come along with a host of probabilities. 
Tarim which we shall be focusing on in this issue has been a town in the Kingdom of Sheba. Around 25 km far from the hot sand of the Quarter, Tarim lies peacefully away from the pickaxes of the excavators hunger for antiquities. The name of the town is derived from the name of one of Sheba’s sons that once ruled the country. Tarim is situated in Wadi Hadramout ( the Hadramout Valley ) that extends along 360 miles piercing the heart of Hadramout Dessert. The Arabic word ‘wadi’ means a valley where water flows in a torrent. However, Wadi Hadramout is not a wadi in the real sense of the word. It is, in fact, a rocky valley which dried a long time ago. It widens and narrows according to the districts it penetrates. In some places it becomes more than 20 miles wide. 
Tarim was very famous for myrrh, frankincense and sugar trading. Through the 3000-year-old road Sheba traders used to travel along with their merchandise. 
The Tarim’s Berlin Wall 
Tarim, as well as Shibam were under the regime of “Al-Qoaitien.” However, it was different from Shibam by the huge five-door wall that was surrounding it. The wall stood tall with 20 tall towers piercing the sky to separate the town from the State of the “Al-Kuthairien.”Tarim Palaces 
Many palaces, as well as beautiful building surrounded by trees and green gardens are found in Tarim. These palaces were the residence of the Sultan, his family and followers. Two of the most beautiful buildings are Mr. Abu Bakr Al-Sultan’s palace, as well as his brother Omar Ben Sheikh Al-Kaf’s which are very wide and decorated with a lot of shiny colors. Their outside is dark blue while the tall windows are covered with yellow, green and rosy colors. As far as the style is concerned, it conforms to an Indian rather than Hadrami style. 
Al-Naeem Palace 
Many tourists are attracted by this palace, especially the English. Tarim has been and is still a seat of knowledge. From the early days of Islam, Tarim has been known as a spring for Islam from which the most well-known clergy men have got their knowledge. It is said that once there were as many as 300 Mofti from one tribe in the 16th century. 
Ribat Tarim 
It is called the Azhar of Hadramout. Many clergy men graduate from it and its branches in the whole republic every year. Even Yemenis who are in the other Arab countries have a chance to join this Islamic institution for it has several branches in the Arab world. 
Tarim the town of Assadah 
Tarim is considered to be the town of “Assadah” because it was chosen by Al-Hussain Ben Ali Ben Abi Taleb for settling down after he left Al-Basra in 320 Hijirah. He settled there for 26 years during which period he helped spread the Creed of Al-Shafai. Presently, his successors enjoy high positions and are is highly respected by the people. 
Tarim Mosques and Al-Mohdar Minaret 
Tarim is also famous for its many mosques. More than 4006 mosques are present in Tarim, 365 of which belong to the pre-Quaitean period. The most outstanding among these historic mosques is Omar Al-Mohdar Mosque with its high and distinguished minaret. Wherever you are in Tarim, you can see it piercing the sky. Omar Al-Mohdar minaret is considered to be one of the most distinguished minarets in the Arab world for its 87 year old history. 
Hood Grave 
Tarim has been a place for many historic tales that have been mentioned in the Holy Quran. For Example, the tale of Aad and Thamud, Lot’s people and Saleh the prophet. Moreover, it is the town where Hod was buried. Many people come from different places to visit the grave of Hod for three days in a year. It is said that he was a giant since his grave is 120 feet long. 
Birhoot Well 
Some historians say it is situated in Aden. Others say it is in Tarim. According to Al-Masoudi, it is in Hadramout. In his book, “the Creatures’ Wonders” – 1250 BC, Al-Kazwiny said that it was in Hadramout. He has also quoted the prophet Mohammed as having said that the spirits of the unbelievers were imprisoned in it. Late Assaid Ben Aqeel, one of the clergy men in Hadramout once said that he was the first author to see the well. He also said that he climbed it down and heard the sounds of snakes and smelled the turtles. Near the well, there is a wide open mouth leading into an awe inspiring fearful cafe in the heart of the rocks.