"The city looks like it was hit by a disaster – without precedent," said Abdulwahab Jaber, a local official in the town, 480 kilometers (300 miles) east of the capital Sanaa. Jaber said at least four towers have been completely destroyed and 15 others damaged in recent floods, which have killed scores of people across Yemen. The sun-baked earth walls are crumbling.
Hassan Aidid, head of the General Organization for the Preservation of Historic Cities in Yemen, said that the roofs and the exterior of the mud towers had sustained the most damage. "Residents of the city have been unable to restore them because of the war and the difficult situation in which they live," Aidid told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
But while restoration plans are going ahead, helped by some funding from the European Union, they are not going fast enough, said Barak Baswitine, head of the association of mud-brick architecture in Shibam. "There have been some difficulties," he said. "The work is slow due to lack of local skilled manpower that meets the standards."