The most important attraction is the sultan's 19th century mud palace towering over the town. There is an entrance fee and another fee inside to see some exhibitions. Even though the exhibits are modest they give a good impression of the old days in the wadi. There is a large selection of framed photographs from the 1930's and '40s, taken by the Dutch diplomat Daniel van der Meulen who was on a mission from Jeddah.
West of the palace is the old town which is nice, south of the palace is the souq area.
Less than an hour further East lies Tarim, which has more to offer (mosque, "Java-inspired" merchant mansions, lively souq area).
This is a most interesting museum. Apart from the general interest of the building itself, it has several interesting exhibitions over three floors. one is devoted to temporary exhibitions, one to an exhibits on the history of the Hadramawt including many of Freya Stark's photos, and a collection of ancient artefacts that includes a number of truly remarkable carvings. Unfortunately they are not informatively labelled- (many are simply dated 1st to 12th century BC!) which reflects more on general lack of proper archaological excavations and research than any anythin else.
Unfortunately the museum doesn't have any photographs of it's exhibits or allow them to be photographed.
The Sultan's Palace belonged to a Sultan of the Al Kathiri family, who ruled Hadramaut from here between 1516 and 1967. The palace was built in 1873, restored in 1926 and has been a museum since 1985.
It is the largest mud brick building in the Hadramaut
Exhibits range from Stone Age to the mid Islamic period. The tablets inscribed with the Southern Arabian language date from 8th century BC.
The second floor contains a collection of photographs taken in the 1930’s by Freya Stark.
The 3rd Floor has traditional arts and crafts, and there are views across the town from the top floor.
Traditional mud bricks are used for building throughout the Hadramaut. I have also seen them in Southern Algeria, Mali and Sudan but the bricks in the Hadramaut are thinner but larger than anywhere else I have seen them - less brick shaped. This may be due to the type of mud available?
The mud is mixed with grass and put in a metal frame to shape the brick, then it is dried in the sun for 7 days.
A house is built in one layer at a time and this is left to dry before the next layer is put on. The bricks are laid flat so the walls of the house are very thick. But the bricks are not very thick so the process is very time consuming and it takes many bricks to build a house.
When the walls are completed they are coated with a layer of mud to act as plaster.
Mud brick, as you would expect needs repairing every year and after the rains.
We were lucky enough to pass some men making mud bricks just out of Shibam on the way to Tarim, so stopped to watch.
The Hadramaut area is famous for it's honey. You will see shops selling it in Shibam and along the roadside. It is said to be some of the best honey you can buy - I can't vouch for that claim as I'm allergic to honey but my friends who tried it were impressed.
It is not just sold to the tourists - the local people are very keen on their honey and use it in many dishes.
We saw these Beehives in between Say'un and Tarim.
Limestone is used to plaster walls, and around the windows and doors, often in decorative patterns. It is more expensive than mud bricks, as it is more labour intensive to make so only wealthy people use Limestone as plaster. You can see it in Hadramaut used as plaster on the Sultan's Palace in Say'un and in many towns across Yemen used as window surround decoration.
It is quarried from the mountains and baked in a huge kiln until it reduces to soft lumps, then ground into fine powder.
We passed this limestone kiln on the road between Say'un and Tarim.
While in Wadi Hadramawt, keep an eye for the local herder hat. It is tall and has a "witch" look particularly because the women are dressed and covered all in black. It is called "madhalla" and it is a favorite souvenir for the visitors. At least you can make some funny photos with them in souvenir shops.
According to local architecture the houses of Wadi Hadramawt are built by mud bricks. This helps the structures to retain chill inside during the hot summer months, as well as warmth during the chilly nights. It is interesting to see on the way a lot of hand made bricks drying under the sun.
We were "brave" enough to take a solo drive the other way round from Wadi Hadramawt on the "dangerous" route to Marib. It was impressive to enjoy the huge cliffs by the end of Wadi along with the endless acres of sand. Plus the eternal landmark of the dessert: the camel
Wadi Daw'an is the first sight as soon as you drive down from the monotonous ride in the arid landascape from Al Mukalla to Sayun and certainly breathtaking when you first see it. Especially the palm trees underneath the canyon rocks
Wadi Daw'an is one of the most attractive of the many branch wadis off Wadi Hadramawt hosting numerous villages. It is the entrance wadi as you drive from the coast to Wadi Hadramawt.
Numerous villages line up in Wadi Daw'an. Al Hajjarayn is one of the largest and as you see it from the road one of the most impressive.
The Sultan Al Kathiri Palace built in 1920s serves as the most prominent landmark of Seiyun. Admission YR500(May 2008).