BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: World: Middle East
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Friday, 22 December, 2000, 06:47 GMT
Queen of Sheba's temple restored
Arsh Balqis temple in Marib, Yemen
The temple is thought to be 3,000 years old
Archaeologists investigating the legendary kingdom of Sheba in the Yemeni province of Marib, have finished restoring an ancient temple which they believe could become one of the world's great tourist sites.

Six columns mark the entrance to the "Throne of Balqis", which is 15m (50ft) high and features a podium, a courtyard, a high wall and an irrigation canal.

According to scholars, the temple was built in the 10th Century BC at the time of Balqis, the Queen of Sheba, and access was restricted to the kingdom's elite.

Canadian, German and US archaeologists are now preparing to excavate another site 3km (1.8 miles) to the east, the Awam, or Moon temple, which should provide more insight on the Sheba civilisation.

Cultural centrepiece

"Marib was for centuries the political, economic and religious centre of the once-mighty kingdom of Sheba, referred to in the Torah, the Bible and the Koran," said Burkhard Vogt, head of the German team.

Arsh Balqis temple in Marib, Yemen
The temple dates from the tenth century BC
"Arsh Balqis has been known to be a temple since 1988," he said, using the Arabic name for throne.

"When we started excavations in 1988, there was nothing apart from a 3m (10ft) hill with columns jutting out and some blocks of stone," said another German archaeologist.

German financed teams have been digging in the area since 1988, but the site has only been open to the public since November.

However, the area is considered a no-go zone for Western tourists because of the high risk of kidnapping by Yemeni bandits.

Ancient relic

The throne is the only vestige to be unearthed of a civilisation founded in the 10th Century BC and which reached its peak between the eighth and first centuries BC.

Yemeni bandits
Yemen can be a dangerous place for tourists
According to Christian tradition Balqis was the wife of Solomon, theancient king renowned for his wisdom.

The temple was abandoned after 14 centuries when the kingdom's subjects started to convert to Judaism and Christianity. The destruction of the Marib Dam in 572AD sealed its demise.

Archaeologists estimate enough remains to be unearthed at the site to keep them occupied for another decade and need a further $12m dollars to finance their work.

However, they are confident their research could unlock the mystery surrounding the legendary Queen of Sheba and the site could potentially become the eighth wonder of the world.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Middle East stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Middle East stories