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Ancient town of North Yemen, enjoying new life because of oil.

Maʾrib was, until the 1980s, the small government center and garrison of the large, sparsely populated Yemeni province of the same name. The town is located about a hundred miles east of Sanʿa, on the edge of the desert. For centuries before the Common Era, Maʾrib was the capital of the trading kingdom of Saba, once ruled by Bilqis, the Queen of Saba (or Sheba). The fabled Maʾrib dam is nearby, and its monumental remains and those of the vast associated irrigation system are still in evidence. The gradual collapse of these works early in the Common Era forced the depopulation of the region; in the 1960s, the sleepy town that remained was all but abandoned after bombardment during the Yemen Civil War. Since the mid-1980s, however, the town has undergone a major renewal as the center closest to the important oil operations in the Maʾrib/al-Jawf basin; major natural gas reserves also have been discovered. The construction of a new dam in the 1980s, financed by Abu Dhabi, made possible the revival of major irrigated agriculture. All this has also given the area new military significance, especially since much of the province is tribal and beyond the effective control of the state.

see also sanʿa; yemen civil war.


Dresch, Paul. A History of Modern Yemen. New York and Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Stookey, Robert W. Yemen: The Politics of the Yemen Arab Republic. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1978.

robert d. burrowes