Official language: Arabic
Currency: Yemeni Rial
Welcome to the country of Yemen. In biblical times the sons of Noah knew Yemen as the land of milk and honey and most famously a woman named Sheba called this country home. Once a gem among the dust and one of the most beautiful destinations within the Arabian Peninsula, it has been troubled by violent attacks, civil wars and unrest, but still proves to be a destination well worth exploring if you know where to go and travel with an experienced guide that will help you stay safe. Yemen is located in the southernmost tip of the Arabian Peninsula and sadly is one f the world’s poorest and most under developed countries in the world. But on offer here lies a true Arabian experience at its best boasting stunning desert sunsets, pristine lagoons, breathtaking beaches and some of the friendliest hosts around. Imagine exploring the “Manhattan of the Desert” with its 9 story mud buildings that rule the skyline, seeing the hustle and bustle at local fishing ports, the fortified cliff top villages that overlooks the cultivated plains, or trekking in the mind blowing wilderness of the Haraz mountains. Then there’s also the UNESCO World Heritage Site the Islands of Socotra that houses a unique and indigenous collection of flora and fauna, some of which are found nowhere else on earth. The possibilities are endless, the destinations magnificent and the atmosphere takes you back to ancient times while the modern buildings remind you that this country is alive and well kept u with the 21st century. When the conditions turn and times become more ideal, take a trip to Yemen and discover a route less traveled!
Yemen really has a little of everything on offer. Sana’a, romantic and intriguing as it may be, holds the record as the world’s oldest city. The Island of Socotra holds unique fauna and flora found nowhere else on earth and is rumored to hold the secret to eternal life within its heart. Then there’s Zabid, the UNESCO World Heritage Site that has been declared the world’s hottest city. With flavors of Afghanistan, Morocco, Africa and Arabia all tied up into one country Yemen is as unique as you can find in the region.
Must see places in Yemen
Visit the site where ancient wise men collected some of the best frankincense and myrrh in the region and explore the secluded villages hidden within the awe inspiring mountain ranges.
Surrounded by pre-Islamic Sabean clay walls the ancient city of Amran which lies on the edge of al-Bawn has some remarkable architecture as well as cultural heritage on display.
Showcasing an immaculate display of fine museums and visible biblical history, the port of Aden which lies within an extinct volcano is definitely worth a visit to see some of the ancient architectural designs.
The Socotra archipelago has been named a World Biosphere Reserve and resembles the well-known Galapagos Islands or Madagascar, because of its unique fauna and flora. This undeveloped and unspoiled wilderness area is truly as unique as can be and the scenery is unimaginable and has to be seen to be believed
This entire city is surrounded by seemingly sky high walls that were built as a fortress during biblical times and offers some breathtaking views of the area as you walk along the top of the city’s famous walls. Within the city of Sa’dah there’s also the al-Hadi Mosque which is a key institution of Zaydism education.
The Old Sana’a is sure to leave visitors with a lasting memory of the country of Yemen. Characterized by tower houses, the famed Souk al Milh that takes authentic to the max and real traditional and delectable street foods that are unrivalled, the capital city of Yemen is sure to impress and intrigue travelers from far and wide.
Home to over 5000 people, the famed mud tower houses, most of which are 9 stories high has been named the Manhattan of the Desert due to its buildings dominating the skyline. It’s a breathtaking view and the rich heritage on display captures the imagination and taken you back to a land that time has seemingly forgotten.
Things to do in Yemen
Buy some amazing souvenirs
Take on the watersports
The Red Sea and the Arabian Sea has some of the best scuba and snorkeling waters in the region, or opt for something a little more open aired such as sailing.
Trek Hadda Mountain
Be inspired by the scattered secluded villages that hide away in the Hadda Mountains. These villages are self-sustaining and their crops such as apricots, peaches, walnuts and almonds are a known feature that pinpoints their locations.
See the fertile Sa’dah Basin
Among the dry and unforgiving desert sands the Sa’dah Basin is unbelievably fertile and produces amazing crops each year. The main crop here is the grapes and make for a breathtaking landscape as you walk through the vineyards of this surreal desert planting paradise.
Climb the rock!
Nestled between Sana’a and Sa’dah lies the subtropical Wadi Wa’aar that boasts a spectacular mountain massif that towers out at a whopping 3000 meters above sea level. For those who are fit enough, climbing the mountain offers some amazing hands on scenic exploration while those who prefer less intense efforts in order to reach the top will have to take a 4x4 vehicle on order to reach the peak and have a bird’s eye view of the surrounding area.
Tourists visit Yemen from January to March
Yemen has a mostly desert and arid climate with hot and humid conditions dominating the weather patterns. The temperatures in the Western Mountains are affected by the monsoon season and can be quite cooler than the rest of the country contradictory to the harsh, dry and extremely hot Eastern Desert area. The best time to visit Yemen would be from January to March when the temperatures haven’t skyrocketed into the 40°C mark yet. Evenings in high altitude areas can get cold at night during these months, plunging down to zero degrees, but provide a relieving and refreshing night before the sun rises again to heat things up again.
Did you know?
In biblical times the people came to Yemen as it was known as “the land of milk and honey”, Gilgamesh went on search for eternal life in the country, wise men collected the best of the best frankincense and myrrh from the mountain areas and one of the most influential factors contributing to Yemen’s popularity is that Sheba lived here.
- Salta – Salta is the Yemeni national dish and consists of a brown meat stew that has Turkish origins, topped with a dollop of fenugreek froth and chili tomato salsa. It is then served on rice with some potatoes and scrambled eggs as well as some seasonal vegetables.
- Mandi – This traditional dish of Yemen has spread cross border and is now being considered as a favorite in countries within the rest of the Arabian Peninsula. Mandy consists of meat, basmati rice and a heathy dose of spices. Cooked in a Moroccan tandoor (special over) the meat is extremely tender and the meal as a whole is exceptionally tasty and filling.
- Fatta – Fatta is the easiest way Yemeni’s use up stale bread. It’s basically a bread soup where bread bits go into meat broth that can occasionally contain vegetables in order to cook down to a soup.
- Sahawiq – Mexican style salsa meets Yemini cuisine. This dipping sauce (also used as a salad topping) is made with a tomato base, loads of diced peppers and goat’s cheese. The variations available vary quite dramatically, sometimes being a chunky texture or smooth puree, sometimes containing less goat’s cheese, sometimes more and the color can be either red or green. Whichever way it comes served you have to try this authentic dip.
National Unity Day
Celebratory parties, public entertainment and carnivals are all part of the day that Yemeni people commemorate the day South and North Yemen became one republic (May)
Sana’a Summer Festival
Each year for a month long the city of Sana’a is transformed into a full on festive zone with the main focus being on handmade crafts and Yemeni industrial items that were made by women. The celebrations start by a massive carnival held at Bab al-Yemen and then continue on during the month with entertainment acts and performances being held in parks, theatres and the city’s streets (July)
Al-Baldah Tourist Festival
This festival is aimed at attracting tourists from the world over by hosting recreational activities and in the same breath shows of Mukalla City’s natural beauty and has been named one of the region’s most important festivals (August)
- Yemen is extremely dusty, so for traveler suffering from asthma, take extra precautions and stay away from the open landscapes.
- The sun is extremely unforgiving so remember to drink plenty of water and use sunscreen.
- Yemen is at a high altitude, so travelers might become nauseated and breathless.
- Polio and Malaria are both present in Yemen so the necessary vaccinations and preventative medicine need to be taken before traveling.
- Never (ever) take pictures of Muslim women (and for that matter anyone else before asking permission).
- Some areas in Yemen are restricted and off limits for travelers, and it’s that way for a good reason, please refrain from entering these zones as it might well result is some sort of terrorist act or kidnapping.
- Find and use a good tour guide to get you through the various areas and help you understand the cultures and also help locals to be more inviting and open your presence.