The basic strategy of this development project is not one of historic conservation but of developing the economic, social and administrative base to ensure the vitality and continuity of the city within its new regional context. The programme has two main components: technical assistance and financial assistance, allowing owners and residents of the historic city to restore, upgrade and maintain their buildings. The other task of the project is the revitalisation of the local economy. To date, about 100 owners have already renovated their houses.
The ancient city of Shibam is one of three major urban centres in Wadi Hadhramaut. Due to its composition and stunning setting, Shibam was included on the UNESCO World Heritage List (1982-1984).
By incorporating varied aspects of urban development into the conservation process, the project has enabled the community to make a direct link between heritage issues and improved economic conditions.
Around 20 metres high, the madrasa al-Hara minaret retains most of its historic ornament. An old master builder was engaged to train two apprentices to undertake the necessary structural stabilisation and renew its mud and lime renders.
Generally maintenance is limited to an annual lime-wash on the roofs, a mud and lime render on the roofs and terraces every 20 years, and a mud render on the exterior walls every 40 to 50 years, in addition to periodic repainting and plumbing repair.
In general several prototypes were developed for the various details to accommodate the diverse tradition of ornamentation: a typical Shibami house has different window types even within a single room.