In ancient times Marib, 120 km from Sana’a in the Wadi Adhana region, was a major centre of the Sabaean empire, the oldest, most celebrated and powerful of the south Arabian kingdoms. Ultimately it became the capital of the kingdom, supplanting Sirwah, 35km to the west. This once was Marib. As many inscriptions tell us, great temples and palaces once graced the city.
The fame of the once thriving metropolis survived. As late as the 10th century AD the Yemeni geographer and historian al-Hamdani described with nostalgia how Saba�s splendor and power vanished, and he paid tribute to the glories of the ruler�s palace Salhin in Marib. Inscriptions from the 7th century BC onward mention Salhin, and they also refer to two other palaces.
The city wall and the city gates:
Few traces of ancient buildings can be recognized at first glance within Marib�s partly visible ancient city wall. More than seven gates through the city wall allowed access to the city from different directions.
The defensive structure contains towers and curtain walls at regular intervals. Inscriptions and diverse building materials such as limestone, tuff and mud bear witness to extensive building activities at the fortifications, where construction and modification can be substantiated at least from the 8th through the 2nd centuries BC.
The Pillared temple:
The ruins of a mighty temple are preserved at the base of Marib�s “citadel”. The eight pillars that formed the propylon at the entrance of the temple, and several smaller pillars that presumably lined a courtyard, are still visible. A reconstruction of the temple suggests that it was similar in form to the Bar�an Temple in Marib�s southern oasis.
Marib�s new Arab inhabitants built the mosque, in the 11th century AD or earlier, upon the remains of this mighty Sabaean temple. The Sulayman in Dawud Mosque is composed of two rectangular parts; a hall supported by columns, the haram, and prominent forecourt.
The two sections were separated from each other by the pillars of the Sabaean temple. In the northern wall of the haram is the prayer niche called the mihrab. The mosque is entirely built of stones taken from the sabaean city.
The city mound with mud houses:
Marib�s more �modern� mud houses that stand on the city hill are almost all uninhabited today. These buildings are about 200 years old, and are fine examples of the traditional residential architecture of the Marib region.
These rectangular structures rise to a height of four or five stories and stand on a stone foundation. A few of these buildings can still be entered through narrow and steep stairways. The view of the ancient city is wonderful.
Ancient Temple platform:
Numerous inscriptions indicated the existence of sanctuaries dedicated to different Sabaean gods within the city, in addition to the main temple. Only one of these structures, near the south-western city gate, retains traces of the locations of the pillars and walls.