Hadramawt is one of the oldest inhabited areas of Yemen and has an established culture in the Wadi Hadramut. This region of the south Arabian Peninsula stretches along the Gulf of Aden in the Arabian Sea, extending eastwards from Yemen to the Dhofar region of Oman. The people of Hadramawt are called Hadhramis. It was only in 1935 that the explorer Hans Helfritz made a journey into the Hadramut, and the regions still remains very remote. Herfritz, so astounded by what he saw in the city of Shibam, described it as the "Manhattan of the Desert", after the nine floor clay "skyscrapers" that dominate the town's architecture. Traditional architecture such as this is found throughout the area and bears traces of Asian influence. The city of Tarim is renowned for the tallest minaret on the Arabian peninsula.
The Wadi Hadramut have a deeply religious culture. Domed graves serve as a resting place for many religious figures buried here.
Narrowly, Hadhramaut refers to the historical Qu'aiti and Kathiri sultanates, which were in the Aden Protectorate overseen by the British Resident at Aden until their abolition upon the independence of South Yemen in 1967. The current governorate of Hadhramaut roughly incorporates the former territory of the two sultanates It consists of a narrow, arid coastal plain bounded by the steep escarpment of a broad plateau (al-Jawl, averaging 1,370 metres), with a very sparse network of deeply sunk wadis (seasonal watercourses). The undefined northern edge of Hadhramaut slopes down to the desert Empty Quarter.
In a wider sense, Hadhramaut includes the territory of Mahra to the east all the way to the contemporary border with Oman. This encompasses the current governorates of Hadramaut and Mahra in their entirety as well as parts of the Shabwah Governorate.
The Hadhramis live in densely built towns centered on traditional watering stations along the wadis. Hadhramis harvest crops of wheat and millet, tend date palm and coconut groves, and grow some coffee. On the plateau, Bedouins tend sheep and goats. Society is still highly tribal, with the old Seyyid aristocracy, descended from the Prophet Muhammad, traditionally educated and strict in their Islamic observance and highly respected in religious and secular affairs
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