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About Yemen



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 riting about a country when one has only a few lines on a website is not easy. Unless you have arrived here by accident, you'll probably already have some ideas about Yemen. Anyway, whatever your purposes or reasoning for visiting this site, in our times, with the availability of (digital) encyclopedia, travel guides and notably the internet, it's a small thing to obtain any information you might want. Typing "Yemen" as a keyword in a search engine like Google will get you hits by the million. Look into our Links section for some links to begin with.

So in this chapter, don't expect lengthy essays on the geography of Yemen, its history, the people and its habits, its social, cultural and political environment.
Instead we will give you - for starters - a position on the map. In our experience when talking to people about Yemen, many have only a vague idea about its location and most websites that have a say about Yemen, omit a proper positioning. And before you go hunting for some remote spot in the Northern Atlantic, here is a map taken from Google Maps. Maybe you can go from there to get a more accurate picture of the lay of the land. Just type "yemen" and click on "SEARCH MAPS".

map of Yemen -->

Yemen's location

It's big as you can see. In fact more than twice the size of the UK. With a population of appr. 23 million of which more than half is concentrated in the larger cities there must be many empty areas. There are and in the north there even is a region called The Empty Quarter. (the Rub' al Khali)
Still, when travelling throughout Yemen, one rarely has the feeling of being completely alone. Even in the most remote places you'll have unexpected encounters with people, or evidence of their proximity (camels, sheep, goats, the odd tourist). An exception is the Empty Quarter: that really is empty.
Enough on Yemen's geography.

Next, to present a rough idea of what to expect when entering Yemen for the first time, here are some impressions from a tourist's point of view. One striking fact is that the overwhelming majority of those who visited the country, has aquired a profound liking for the land and its people and one may wonder the why of it.
Well, like any other country Yemen has its beautiful, funny, not so funny and ugly features, but in Yemen these seem to mix in a very special way.


he country side of Yemen is characterized by:

coastal plains like this one near the Red Sea (the Tihama):


mountains (up to 3700 meters):

or these typical ones with terraces for growing some food:

the wadis, some equal the Grand Canyon in Arizona, US (here the wadi Doan):

and while touring around Yemen you can be sure of one thing: you'll be seeing landscapes that are:


and ugly:

In rural areas, around the villages, you'll see much garbage lying around, specifically plastic bags in all colors. There is no regular garbage collection and these bags are blown there by the wind. We call them "Yemeni Flowers" because they give some color to the landscape and to be honest, they sometimes can produce some rather stunning effects.

Other landscapes are:

barren, bizarre:

and sometimes frightening, like the land of Mordor (Lord of the Rings):

It is of course a matter of taste in which category you'll put these landscapes, but this is one of the fascinating aspects of the country:
it's diversity, the sometimes unexpected changes of terrain and even climate.


The Socotra archipelago

he Socotra archipelago (also spelled as Soqotra or Soqutra) is part of the Republic of Yemen and is located some 400 km south of the Arabian peninsula. It consists of the main island of Socotra (3625 sq.km, appr. 120 km E-W and 40 km N-S) and three smaller islands to the west.

The long geological isolation of the island has resulted in very high endemism. Being the only home for over 300 species of wildlife, it has become a site of global importance for biodiversity conservation. The archipelago is currently a proposed UNESCO world heritage site and a proposed man and biosphere reserve.

The islands are considered a paradise for scientists and nature lovers. Visitors activities include tours with 4WD's, on foot, on camels. This in addition to swimming, snorkling, fishing, beachcombing, bird watching and wildlife photography.
There are a few hotels/resthouses all located in HADIBOH. Camping is the only way to stay overnight outside Hadiboh.

Dragonblood trees

More information is as always available at Wikipedia and when "googling" for Socotra you'll get appr. 400.000 hits.
We as a tour operator operating on this island too, can only add here:

  • that it really is a wonderful island (see also our picture album on Socotra),
  • the ample opportunities to go for a swim in fresh water lakes for example,
  • the beautiful beaches, an interesting countryside that is quite different from the mainland,
  • the fantastic diving and snorcling possibilities,
  • that it can be reached by plane twice a week from the airports of Sana'a, Mukhallah and Aden,
  • that you had better not go there during the months of the south-west monsoon (June through September) when it is wet and windy,
  • that the cost of staying there is slightly higher than on the mainland, because nearly everything has to be imported,
  • that, if you are interested, you should go there as soon as possible: to protect the endemic wildlife it is conceivable that there will be put a ban on tourism in the near future.


The people

people  nd then the people!
Always ready for a laugh, to crack a (dry) joke, friendly, polite, helping you whenever they can. In the suq's, on the streets, there will allways be people trying to sell their merchandise to you, but they are not obtrusive at least not annoyingly so. Certainly not strict on regulations, relaxed and tolerant on matters of religion, but mind you, they will respect you as being a foreigner, but they expect the same respect from you. And quite right they are.




The role of qat in Yemen

qat-chewing-shopkeeper  hen talking about Yemen the subject of chewing on the green leaves of the QAT-plant will sooner or later come up. More than 75% of the Yemeni population, from the (very) young to the old, male and female, use this "drug" on a regular basis. Life in Yemen is very much centred around qat and its production and trading is widely spread.

General information on qat, what it is, how it is cultivated and used, is available on the internet, e.g.in Wikipedia.

Qat has a profound influence on Yemeni society. When used in the traditional social setting qat can be considered as a factor furthering interaction and structuring social life. In this setting the chewers meet in a house some time after lunch, usually bringing their own supply. After being welcomed and carefully seated according to their social position, the guests begin to masticate the leaves thoroughly one by one. After the qat leaves have been chewed, the guests stay on for most of the afternoon, passing their time in animated discussions often devoted to matters of general interest, such as community affairs.
Nowadays however, qat is used also more individually, like the smoking of cigarettes, at any time of the day. This causes some problems in a relatively poor country as Yemen is.
More on the use of qat and its (negative) side effects is included in our links section » qat.