The Marib Shaibani

Only a few years ago, the idea of a restaurant scene emerging in Marib would have been laughable. Though the seat of the Queen of Sheba and the locus of much of Yemen’s fossil fuel wealth, Marib had, until recently, been marginalized by Sanaa-based power players, rendering the provincial capital a dust-blown town dominated by cinderblock houses.

As Marib has emerged as a comparative oasis of calm and hub of economy activity amidst the ongoing conflict, the city has exploded in size, with many Yemenis from across the country to take advantage of new opportunities. As Marib gained an urban middle class it quickly gained a branch of Yemen’s favorite amorphous restaurant grouping: a Shaibani.

The Marib Shaibani’s location underlines the city’s rapid development. Parking abuts the old airport site, initially constructed in the 80s–or so rumor has it–to facilitate the late Muammar al-Qadhafi’s arrival by private plane for a local tribal leader’s father’s funeral; once safely out of town, its since been surrounded by new construction and put out of service, the former runway functioning as a de facto football field. The showcase for Marib’s recent shifts continues indoors. Local tribesmen in thobe and jambiyya rub shoulders with newcomers in suits hailing from Taiz and Sanaa. Its a cacophonous scene, but also a pleasing one, and watching the skilled staff negotiating the crowd during peak hours makes for solid entertainment while one waits for a meal.

The food itself is on par with what one would get at Shaibani Modern or Shaibani al-Beik in Sanaa, meaning quite good; notably, its the default catering choice of the office of Marib governor Sultan al-Arada’s office, which is as good an endorsement as any. The meat, fahsa and aqda are all clear standouts; some days, despite the distance from the sea, they manage to get fish in, which is also prepared ably to “original” Shaibani standards. Seating is available both on floor and table, with an extensive family section on the ground floor.

The Marib Shaibani is located adjacent to old Marib Airport