Though Al-Mahwit is of little interest to the traveller, its setting among hilltop villages and fertile land is well worth the drive.
The old part of it is perched on a hilltop and is very beautiful to take photos at dusk. Unluckily we arrived there a bit late (and we departed early morning) so there was no time to explore the town on foot.
Besides it hosts a decent accommodation option (Al-Mahweet Hotel) and a short drive to scenery of unrivalled beauty.
48kms northwest of Sana'a, at the foot of Jebel Kawkaban, 2300m above sea level, Shibam village (not to be confused with famous Shibam in Hadramawt) is another stop in the village circuit around Sana'a.
Despite its historical significance (dates back to 2nd century AD) , the village is not worth to walk around. There is the grand mosque, one of the oldest in Yemen, but even that is photographed among ruins and a lot of dust. The souq lies on either sides of the main entrance road, full of garbage.
One of the main reasons, this village is included in every itinerary is, I think the existence of 2 funduqs-restaurants popular with tour groups.
Thula lying more than 15kms from Kawkaban, was certainly the architectural highlight of the villages (Shibam-Kawkaban) around Sana'a. Its high-rise stone houses match perfectly with the mountain behind it (see additional photo).
You can enter the village by car through the gate Bab Al-Fardha to the main square (where a hotel , restaurant and some souvenir shops are). From there just let yourself soak up the charm walking around its narrow streets and enjoy its distinctive architecture (see additional photo).
The village is surrounded by a defensive stone wall and an old staircase leads you up to fortress Husn Thulla (which we unfortunately found the door closed and no one around..) Probably it offers wonderful views to the surrounding area. Navigating yourself through the labyrinth streets is not that difficult as the sloping location of Thula village makes it easy. There are numerous mosques and tombs but we didn't enter any, neither we were asked to, even for a price.
We were lucky enough to arrive during lunch time and we were not assailed by guides or shop owners (which was mentioned in our guidebook).