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Historic Yemen town fights to survive as war closes in

Middle East News
Mon, 05 Mar 2018
AFP
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Middle East News: Historic Yemen town fights to survive as war closes in
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A picture taken on February 24, 2018, shows a view of the ancient city of Zabid, a UNESCO World Heritage Site currently on the list of World Heritage in danger, in Yemen's western Hodeidah province. (AFP / ABDO HYDER)

Zabid, Yemen: Once Yemen's capital and famed as an architectural marvel of early Islam, the town of Zabid is fighting to survive as a brutal war closes in on its fortified walls.

The sand-coloured town overlooking the country's west coast was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993 for its centuries-old urban planning and architecture, including the world's fifth oldest mosque.

Riven by neglect and poverty, it was placed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage in Danger seven years later.

Yemen's three-year war, which has killed nearly 10,000 people and pushed the country to the brink of famine, is now threatening the fate of Zabid.

So far the town has been spared in the battle between Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels and a government allied with a military coalition.

But a fight for nearby Hodeida, home to Yemen's most vital port, has raised fears the violence is closing in on Zabid.

Ahmed Hussein Ahmed says his home was damaged last month, as government forces clashed with Houthi rebels nearby.

Like other residents, he fears for both his family and his town, where homes built from baked bricks give the centuries-old skyline its trademark sandy hue against the bright blue Yemeni sky but offer little protection.

"Our homes are built of local mud," Ahmed told AFP, seated near one of the old wooden windows carved into the wall of his brick home.

"Another blow and the roof will cave in on us".

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