The ruins carpeted the city market, rippling outwards in waves of destruction. Broken beams, collapsed roofs, exploded metal shutters and fossilised merchandise crumbled underfoot.
In one of the burnt-out shells of the shops where raisins, nuts, fabrics, incense and stone pots were traded for hundreds of years, all that was to be found was a box of coke bottles, a sofa and a child nailing wooden sticks together.
This is Sa’ada, ground zero of the 20-month Saudi campaign in Yemen, a largely forgotten conflict that has killed more than 10,000, uprooted 3 million and left perhaps 14 million – more than half the country – short of food, many on the brink of starvation.
When the UK foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, spoke recently – and controversially – about Saudi Arabia and its proxy wars in the Middle East, this is the sort of thing he was talking about. The glib way to understand this is as a remote-controlled war between the Saudis, supporting the ousted government, and the ever restless Houthi movement, which has tacit Iranian support.