Yemen is a state in southwestern Asia, in the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula. The territory of Yemen is washed by the Red Sea to the west and the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea to the south and east; it borders on Saudi Arabia to the north and Oman to the east. The area is 527,968 km². The population is 27,584,213 (2016), mostly Yemenis (Yemeni Arabs). The capital is Sanaa. The state religion is Islam.
Save on a trip to Yemen!
In the west of the country are Yemen’s highest mountains in Arabia, with an average elevation of 2,000 to 2,500 meters above sea level (the peak of Nabi Shaib is 3,600 meters). Along the western foothills of the mountains extends the coastal plain – the Tihama Desert, the hot climate of which is difficult to tolerate even for the local population. The eastern slope descends gently to the desert plain of Rub al-Khali. To the east, the wide Hadramawt Valley runs parallel to the coastline. It receives only 20 mm of rainfall per year, but the shallow groundwater table allowed in ancient times to develop the land and grow date palms, tobacco, grains, vegetables, cotton and other crops.
Most of the country is characterized by a highly sparse vegetation of deserts and semi-deserts, and only the island of Socotra, which belongs to Yemen, has a rare tropical vegetation. Dragon trees grow here, as well as huge aloes, from which medicinal raw materials are made.
Most of the population is engaged in agriculture. More than 100 thousand people lead a nomadic way of life. The capital Sanaa (427 thousand inhabitants) is a cultural, industrial and commercial center. Among the local attractions is the University, known since the I century.
In the territory of Yemen at the turn of the II-I millennium BC the South Arabian civilization was formed and the states of Hadramaut, Kataban, Ausan, Saba, Ma’in emerged; about the middle of the I millennium BC the most significant was Saba. In the 4th century A.D. the whole territory of Yemen was united into the Himyarite Kingdom. In the 7th century the territory of Yemen was included into the Muslim Arab Caliphate. In the X century in Northern Yemen established the Shiite sect of Zeidites. In the beginning of the 16th century it was included in the Ottoman Empire, but in 1633 a separate state was formed on its territory – the Imamate of the Zeidites. By the beginning of 70s of the XIX century the power of the Turkish sultan in North Yemen was restored. Since 1839, Great Britain began to establish its rule over South Yemen (the colony of Aden and the Aden protectorates). During the anti-Ottoman uprising of 1904-11, North Yemen achieved autonomy, and in 1918 was proclaimed an independent kingdom. As a result of the anti-monarchist revolution on September 26, 1962, the Yemen Arab Republic (YAR) was proclaimed in North Yemen. Armed struggle of the southerners ended with the proclamation on November 30, 1967 of the Independent People’s Republic of South Yemen (since November 30, 1970 – the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, PDRY). In 1990 the YAR and the PDRY united to form the Republic of Yemen. However, the country continued to be divided between southerners and northerners, which evolved into a major military conflict in 1994, resulting in the victory of the northerners.
According to the current political and military leadership of Yemen, a legal democratic regime has been established in the country. However, tribal relations still prevail in Yemen. Tribal leaders – sheikhs – have almost unlimited power on the ground. Conflicts often arise between the official authorities and the tribes. In order to increase pressure on the Yemeni authorities in resolving their problems, the tribes have resorted to the method of taking hostages among foreigners in Yemen. In 1997, four Russian citizens working in Yemen under contract were taken hostages by one of the Yemeni tribes.
The territory of Yemen was inhabited more than three thousand years ago, and in the south of the present country once existed the ancient states of Ma’in, Khataban, Hadramawt and several other ancient kingdoms. Particular attention should be paid to local views: the beautiful mountains, vast deserts, ancient volcanoes and fabulous oases, and medieval settlements drowned in the sand.
First of all it is necessary to visit the capital of the state of Sanu. According to ancient legends, this ancient city is one of the world’s first settlements. The most popular attractions of the capital are the citadel of Qasr al-Sila (VII century) and the Great Mosque of Sana’a. It is worth saying that in the city there are many unique mosques, each of which deserves attention. Other places of interest are the Suk al-Mil Market with its ancient mosque (800), the market of ceremonial arms Jambiya and the summer residence of Imam Dar al-Hajar. Not far from Sana’a is the town of Hadjah, which is famous for its ancient citadel with a grim underground prison.
Another interesting city is Barakish, which is considered the capital of the ancient kingdom of Maine. Unfortunately, only fragments of its urban development have survived: the ruins of walls, the remains of a mosque and a temple, as well as stones with inscriptions in a forgotten language. However, the most famous archaeological site in Yemen is the city of Marib, which flourished thanks to the dam built there. Until today, it has preserved many ancient buildings – traces of its former greatness.
Also noteworthy are the cities of Rada and Taiz. Rada is remarkable for its unique mosque El Amiria (15th century), to the entrance of which is allowed for people of all faiths, and a special style of buildings made of bricks coated with gray clay. And Taiz is considered the main jewelry and industrial area of the country, where many historic buildings are still preserved:
- the palace of Imam Ahmed,
- the 13th century fortress wall,
- The fortress of al-Qahera,
- El Bab al-Kabir and Bab Moussa Gates,
- ancient mosques,
- Salah Palace, which now houses the Museum of the Royal Family.
In addition, it is impossible not to visit the city of Shibam with amazing clay skyscrapers, which are the oldest on earth, and the city of Aden, where you can see the magnificent palace of Sultan Lahedzh with the National Museum, artificial pools in the rock, the mansion Rimbod, Sayyid Abdullah al-Aydarus Mosque and much more.
It is almost impossible to list the natural attractions of Yemen. Of these, the most famous are the mountain ranges of Maflouk and Sahhar, as well as the valley of Wadi Hadramawt with the River Masila. Also worth mentioning are the islands of Socotra and Kamaran whose main treasures are considered their flora and fauna.
National cuisine of Yemen is based on Arab traditions and boasts a large number of flavorful spices, which will be appreciated even by the most fastidious gourmets. The most popular first dish at any Yemeni restaurant is spicy “shorba” soup. Local establishments also often offer meat broth “marag” and soup “burma”.
Among the many meat dishes it is recommended to pay attention to:
- “salta” (spicy meat with beans, peas and lentils),
- “arada” (minced meat with spices);
- “hanid” (lamb stew);
- as well as all sorts of “kebabs”.
In addition, seafood dishes are very popular in coastal cities.
No visit to Yemen and do not try Arabian flatbread, which are often served with honey as a dessert. Every local meal ends with mint or herbal tea or decoction of coffee husk with spices (“gishr”).
Few people know that the tradition of making and drinking mocha coffee originated in Yemen. Nowadays it has lost its popularity and has all but disappeared.
Yemen has a large number of hotels and hotels, so accommodation is not a problem. They are all divided into three large categories: international hotels, mid-range hotels and cheap bed-and-breakfasts.
All hotels of international standard fully comply with their status and boast luxurious rooms and excellent service. Hotels of medium level often differ from each other considerably, and the cost of accommodation in such establishments depends on conditions and quality of services provided (from $15 to $90 per day). It is worth noting that about 90% of the tourists and travelers who come to Yemen stay in such hotels.
If we talk about night shelters, they are most often located in areas of bus stations or bazaars. And often these places are quite dirty and noisy, and all the amenities are not in the rooms, but on the floor. Accordingly, the cost of living in these places is extremely low: $ 4-7 per room.
Note that in hostels and mid-level hotels you can and should bargain because sometimes the initial price is one-third too high.
Entertainment and Recreation
Yemen is an interesting and colorful country, so here any tourist can find something to his liking. Lovers of passive recreation and beaches will love the picturesque bay Shuab, which boasts the magnificent white sand and warm azure sea. And in this place you can not only get a great tan, but also to do almost any kind of water sports. Fans of scuba diving are advised to explore the Sunrise shipwreck, which has grown a lot of shells and has become like a real underwater reef.
Nightlife in Yemen is pretty monotonous and not too rich. Lovers of noisy companies and a fun pastime is recommended to visit the bar Russian Club, where you can have fun and relax almost like at home.
In addition to this Yemen (in particular its capital) can boast many interesting museums. Among them the most popular and visited is Military Museum. Some of its exhibits relate to the history of the state, but there is also a unique collection of medieval weapons and even a Soviet fighter MiG-17.
A nice feature of shopping in Yemen is the fact that here you can and should bargain. The size of the discount is often not too large, but the process. The best place to buy souvenirs are the many street markets, which are considered an important part of Yemeni culture. And the local bazaars and markets are not only trading points, but also a place of socializing and entertainment.
The most colorful markets are located in the capital. For example, the largest bazaar in Yemen is located there. It consists of forty small markets, each specializing in a particular category of goods (earthenware, silver, vegetables, handicraft, etc.). In addition, in this market you can buy inexpensive unique antiques, which in other countries would be considered a real rarity. If we talk about the most popular items among tourists, then it is mainly carpets, copper and leather products, belts, hats, spices and raisins.
There are no railroads in Yemen, so the main place in the system of passenger transportation is taken directly by road. The most developed road network is in the north (Sana’a-Hodeida, Aden-Taiz-Hodeida and Sana’a-Taiz-Moha). In the south, the main road arteries are Aden – El Mukalla – El Shihr, El Shihr – Tarim and Shakra – Tarim. It is worth saying that the total length of roads in Yemen is about 70,000 kilometers, but only 10,000 of them are paved.
The main airport, which is of international importance, is located in Aden. Smaller airports are located in Sana’a and Al Mukalla. In addition, there are many ports in Yemen: Aden, El Mukalla, Hodeida, Moha, Salif, etc.
Internet access is available in almost every city in the country, but high-speed access is found only in large hotels, near TeleYemen offices and in post offices. If we talk about Internet cafes, the cost of an hour online depends on the type of equipment and speed (from $0.9 to $5 per hour).
Mobile communications in Yemen are much better developed than the Internet. International roaming services here are provided by operators Spacetel-Yemen and Sabafon, which are available to subscribers of almost all Russian operators.
Yemen’s telephone service is represented by rather outdated technology, but it is currently being modernized. Street pay phones, unfortunately, are quite rare, so it is best to make calls from stores, but the price should be negotiated in advance.
Unfortunately, the governments of many countries have included Yemen in the list of unsafe countries to visit. The reason for this is the frequent use of foreigners in conflicts between local tribes and the authorities of the country. To avoid such problems, it is recommended to settle only in hotels for foreigners, and to move around the city only within the main streets.
In addition, the danger can pose some insects, poisonous plants and sea creatures, so it is necessary to pay attention to the warnings of local residents and guides. Also in some places there is a possibility of poisoning by contaminated seawater, as a huge number of cargo ships passing along the coast of Yemen, throwing into the water chemical and toxic substances.
Tips for the Tourist
When planning a trip to Yemen, you must remember that it is a closed country where any movement of foreigners is controlled. Thus, even to leave the capital, you must obtain official permission from the tourist police. It is categorically not recommended to take pictures of the military, police and women, as well as the main infrastructure and defense facilities. Alcoholic drinks are permitted only in restaurants and hotel bars.
Russian and CIS citizens traveling to Yemen require a visa that can be obtained at the Embassy of the Republic of Yemen in Moscow (2nd Neopalimovskiy Lane, 6).
To obtain it you should present your passport, three 3×4 photographs and three copies of completed application form. In addition, a registered invitation of the receiving party (travel agency, hotel, individual) and the certificate of absence of HIV will be required. Keep in mind that if your passport has entry marks to Israel, you will be immediately denied a visa.
Due to the turbulent political situation in Yemen there are almost no tourists, it is not easy to find a working hotel. In the capital of several dozen working hotels are only three. But you do not need to book anything, all hotels are empty, there are almost no tourists.
Burj Al Salam is the best hotel in the city, according to travelers. It is located near the old city and is famous for the beautiful views out the window. However, there may be problems with electricity and hot water.
Yemen is a country with a rich history and the least explored country in the Middle East. Because of the hot climate and internal political conflicts, Yemen is not a tourist country in the traditional sense. Traditional architecture, reminiscent of gingerbread houses, beautiful mountains and the remains of medieval settlements, covered with desert will not leave you indifferent.
Sanaa is the most beautiful city of the country. Its historical center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has preserved its original appearance to this day. All buildings are built in a traditional Arabic style and decorated with beautiful stained glass windows. The main attraction of these places – the Great Mosque of Sana’a, the oldest Muslim mosque, built during the lifetime of the Prophet.
The Jambiya and Suk al-Mil markets are a giant cluster of tiny market squares with a local flavor. As befits an oriental bazaar, you can taste the local food, buy silk and Arabian daggers, watch the national dances and bargain a lot.
City Shibam is popularly called the “Manhattan of the desert” because of the high buildings (5-11 floors). Almost all the buildings were built with clay in the XVI century, although the city was founded over 2000 years ago. This is the first city in the world, which began to be built multi-storey houses.
Dar al-Hajar Castle, which is located in the suburbs of Sanaa, is the hallmark of the country. This is the former residence of the Yemeni king and spiritual leader. The castle was built in the traditional style, as everything around it. It is quite difficult to reach it: it stands on a rock and it is very problematic to climb up in the heat.
National Museum of Yemen in Aden occupies the former palace of Sultan Lahej. The exhibits are devoted to Islamic art. Separate rooms are devoted to a rich collection of ancient coins and everyday objects of Yemen.
Climate of Yemen: Mostly desert. Hot and humid along the west coast. Temperate in the western mountains affected by the seasonal monsoon. Extremely hot, dry, harsh desert in the east.
You can not travel on your own in Yemen, you can only get a visa through a Yemeni travel agency by buying a tour. Therefore, your leisure time in this country will initially be painted by the accompanying guide. As a rule, it is acquaintance with the capital, trips to the suburbs, the Red Sea coast, Mountain Yemen, the city of Shibam and the island of Socotra.
The island of Socotra in the Indian Ocean – home to the rarest species of pearls and a paradise with a complete lack of civilization. Tourist infrastructure is completely absent here: comfortable hotels are replaced by tents, houses of local residents and miraculously found gest houses, instead of cafes – local markets, where locals kindly prepare purchased fish. This discourages tourists, but nature in its natural, semi-wild state. Where else can you find deserted miles of beaches with perfect white sand?
The landscape of Yemen:: A narrow coastal plain, rolling hills and rocky mountains. Uplands, desert plains on the central slope. Wasteland of the Arabian Peninsula
There are no direct flights from Russia to Yemen. You can change flights in Istanbul if you fly with Turkish Airlines. Yemen has good roads, but the country is difficult terrain with a lot of serpentines and mountain passes. Without a four-wheel drive car traveling around the country is almost unreal. Driving, as in other Middle Eastern countries is very chaotic, the rules of the road are very conventional for the locals. The country has its own airline company “Yemeni,” with which you can fly to the island of Socotra.
Standard of Living
Yemen is the poorest country in the Arabian Peninsula. The country is rich in oil, but due to the turbulent political situation in the country, production has declined sharply. The country is currently in a state of civil war between Shiite rebels and government forces.
The security situation in the country has been difficult for the last ten years. During this time, 200 foreign tourists have been kidnapped. Because of this the authorities of the country have closed visits to a number of attractions. The locals are not spoiled by tourists; foreigners are treated friendly and openly.
Yemen has resources like: : Oil, fish, rock salt, marble; small deposits of coal, gold, lead, nickel and copper; fertile soil in the west.
Cities of Yemen
The capital, Sana’a, is the oldest city in the world. The approximate age of the city is 4-5 thousand years. According to legend, the city was founded by one of the sons of Noah, Sim. Most of the buildings in the city are more than a thousand years old. Century after century, additional floors were added to them, in the Middle Ages, Sana’a was called the “city of many towers.
The city of Aden is the second largest in terms of area and population. It is situated on the coast of the Arabian Sea. The largest seaport in the country. Along with Sana’a, Aden has been known since Ancient Greece. From the Middle Ages, Aden was the main entrepot between the sea routes to India.