|OFF the BEATEN TRACK|
Once the capital of the kingdom of Ma'in, Barqish stands beside a wadi in the north of Yemen. The city was a thriving centre for a few decades around 400BC; it had huge city walls, punctuated by dozens of impressive watchtowers, which surrounded a tightly built urban settlement.There's not a lot left of Barqish these days - you can still see the city wall, but the rest of the city is deserted and ruined. Old stones with Minaean inscriptions have been used as patches on the city wall, and you'll find the ruins of a mosque and a temple in the centre of the town.Baraqish is about 100km (60mi) north-east of San'a. There's no public transport between the two cities, so you'll need to take a tour or hire a taxi in Ma'rib, the closest big town.
If you want to spend your riyals at a traditional weekly market, the biggest and best is the Friday market at Bayt al-Faqih. The market first kicked off in the 1700s, when Bayt al-Faqih was a coffee trading post. Weekly markets are common as dirt throughout northern Yemen, with every little town having its own. Traditionally, the markets sell fruit, vegetables, meat and handcrafts, although these days you can also get imported stuff.Bayt al-Faqih's market is huge - there's over 1000 traders and a different area for each type of produce, with some areas covered and others open-air. As well as coffee, you'll find Yemeni pottery, colourful Tihami clothes and baskets, camels, donkeys, chickens and fresh fruit, vegetables and grains.Bayt al-Faqih is about 150km (90mi) south-west of San'a, and there are buses via al-Hudayda, or you can get a taxi. There's not much to do there apart from the weekly market, so there's not much point staying overnight.
The sprawling town of Rada' is best known for its exceptional mosque. One of the most important towns in the southern province of Al-Baydha, Rada' lies on a plain, backed by a fortified rocky hill. The town is mainly built of mud, but the old town is partly surrounded by a stone wall.The Al-Amiriya Mosque stands in the centre of the old town. It has a uniquely Yemeni design, and was built about 500 years ago by a Tahirid sultan. The mosque is no longer in use, which means you can wander through the building, which is currently being restored. The building's grooved cupolas are particularly beautiful.Rada's mud houses are a striking contrast to the stone buildings elsewhere in the country. The buildings here are made of bricks, but are given a smooth, fresh coating of grey mud every year. The houses also have beautiful windows, unique to the town, with triple-arched fanlights and huge alabaster panes. Just north of Rada' you'll find Yemen's youngest volcano, al-Lisi, which still spews steam now and then.Rad'a is about 180km (112mi) south of San'a, with buses running regularly between the two towns. There are plenty of places to stay and eat in Rad'a.
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