The weekly markets are named after the day of the week on which they are held and local people come from all over the area to buy and sell food, animals, pottery, textiles and household goods.
Larger ones have a specific site while the small ones set up at the roadside. They are a wonderful way to see rural life and people as they are normally very busy. People in the Tihama area wear colourful clothes and the women do not cover their faces which makes a nice change from the black of the highland cities and towns.
We visited Wadi al Dhbab market which was on a Friday.
The architecture of the Tihama is different to that of the rest of Yemen. Most buildings are low and made from clay, reeds, mud or brick rather than the stone tower houses of the other areas. Where buildings are made of brick they are often white washed.
Zabid has very unique and distinctive architecture with brick and white washed houses which are elaborately decorated with highly decorative plaster work. They have high walls surrounding them with a tree in the courtyard for shade.
The courtyards and interiors are very grand and deceptively large.
The film 1001 nights was shot in Zabid.
I was told Zabid still has 86 mosques left, out of the 236 in its heyday.
We didn't see all of them as some are in the new part of town, which we didn't go to, and some are very small. The oldest mosque is Al Asha'ir founded in the 9th century and is in a good state of repair.
You can see many others as you walk around the streets of the old town and they are all very old and characterful, mostly whitewashed which makes them dazzle in the glaring sun, and with intricate carved patterns on the minarets. One of them is a mosque just for women.
We visited some of the traditional houses in Zabid. Two of them were occupied by families. The first one we just looked around the courtyard and went up the steps to the roof for the view. The second one we were allowed to go inside the living room. The men of the family were having a siesta so we only stayed a very short while for a quick look.
They are simply furnished with whitewashed walls and brightly coloured rugs, and are nice and cool inside. Unlike the highland houses there are not many steps to climb.
We were taken to a traditional house to have tea, which was very welcome as Zabid is very hot and dusty.
The house has been restored but not to a pristine level, so retains much of the original charm and character. I think the term in interior design is "shabby chic style"!
Through the small courtyard we went up a small flight of steps and from the bright sunlight into the cool but colourful interior. The walls are whitewashed and carved with intricate patterns. The woodwork is also intricately carved. The ceilings are beautifully painted in bright colours and the front door has stunning stained glass and painted wood.
Tea was served in tiny cups made from the local pottery and was pre-made in a thermos flask.
Flat, hot, desert like Tihama's landscape is not something you'd dream of. Driving seemed endless...at least the road was straight forward so our driver could easily speed up!
While travelling along the main coastal road (unfortunately you can't have view of sea) you'll notice the strong African influence in the cylindrical huts and the physical appearance of the locals.
Al Asha’ir Mosque or great mosque is the spiritual centre of the town and was built by the founder of Zabid in the 9th century. It is the oldest mosque in Zabid.
The interior is simple but well maintained. We were not allowed to go inside but could take photographs through the door.
Just outside the door some old men were resting on what looked like daybeds made from wood and rope - they were actually for transporting the dead to burials!
The Al Nassir Citadel is the first part of Zabid you see when you arrive as it is right next to the city wall with a mosque next to it.
It was built in the early 1400’s by the Rasulid ruler and made of fired bricks.
Fishing and farming are the main industries in the Tihama area with dates, fruit and coconuts grown.
Bananas, Mangos and Papayas are still grown in the area. Our guide bought us the biggest papayas I have ever seen, from a lady at the roadside. And they were delicious!
Coffee used to be grown here from the 17th century and the town of Mocha was famous for it’s coffee. Sadly Mocha is now a ghost town with most of the population dependant on fishing.
The women's workshop allows women to earn some money by producing handicrafts that are sold to tourists. It is all textile based crafts.
They have a room full of weaving looms where they weave scarves and throws, a sewing room where they make purses and other sewn items using traditional old Singer treadle machines, and also do some hand embroidery.
All the items can be purchased and we were told the women benefit from the proceeds.
Our guide took us inside an old mansion, whose decoration was simply astonishing. Painted ceilings (additional photo), curved doors (additional photo) and lots of atmosphere. We were told that Pier Paolo Pasolini shoot his film in this particular house!!
We rested a bit from the heat, we were served tea, took our photos and by the end we were kindly proposed to leave a tip (!) for the preservation of the house. Definetely this house is a jewel in Zabid but we think that a small tip is certainly not enough for its preservation. UNESCO should take care!
Zabid is circular in shape but if you take a look at the map, you soon realise that it is almost impossible to find your way between the labyrinth like dusty streets under the sunheat of Tihama area. So more or less a guide is a necessity.
Mohammad Ali Gafer was a student in Zabid University learning English. He had knowledge of Zabid history, he knew how to take you around and he could communicate quite well in english.
Zabid is a town named after Wadi Zabid the wadi to its south, is one of the oldest towns in Yemen, it was the capital of Yemen from the 13th to the 15th century and a center of the Arab and Muslim world due in large part to its famed University of Zabid and being a center of Islamic education.
Zabid has been declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO. Its Great Mosque occupies a prominent place in the town. The vestiges of its university can also be visited. In 2000, Zabid was listed on the List of World Heritage in Danger; the listing was made on the behest of the Yemeni government due to a state of poor upkeep and conservation.
Al-Jami'a Mosque is a white washed mosque which dates back to 13th century.
We had an English speaking guide organised for us. He was very friendly and knowledgeable and we had a tour of around 2 hours with him.
It is useful to get an English speaking guide, if you speak English, as there is not much written information about Zabid and it is very easy to get lost in the winding streets in the heat. I don't think I would have done very well here wandering alone as most places are not easy to find and are behind quite high walls.
I can't remember our guide's name but I'm sure you can go to the Zabid Tourist rest house and they will tell you where to find a guide.
The city retains much of the low defensive wall and also some of the original gates, including Bab an-Nakhi.