Yemen – Unknown, Strange and Exotic
In Yemen you discover the Arab culture in its nativeness as only a few people have done before. The country also contains impressive archaeological testimonies of bygone times. You find them embedded in a harsh and strangely beautiful landscape.
Geography - Located on the Arabian Peninsula
Yemen lies in the south of the Arabian Peninsula. It borders on the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea and the Red Sea. Three landscapes characterise the country: the flat, wide coast, followed by rugged mountains with heights of about 3,000 metres and a plateau crossed by wadis. The temperatures are rarely below 19 °C even in winter and it is often extremely hot at the coast in summer. The mountains and the plateau are dominated by milder temperatures, which differ considerably from day to night.
Nature - Diving into the world of the "fragrant shrubs" frankincense, myrrh and balsam
Steppes, savannas and deserts characterise Yemen's landscape. You occasionally find natural beauty in these harsh conditions: the "fragrant shrubs" frankincense, myrrh and balsam, which Yemen has been known for since ancient times, or the desert rose as the country's landmark. Date palms and fig trees vegetate the fertile regions. Due to Yemen's dryness, the country is a paradise for reptiles and birds such as the griffon vulture or the steppe eagle. You rarely encounter mammals like leopards or baboons.
Natural sights - Socotra Island as a destination for adventurers
Adventurers are often drawn to Socotra Island, which is called "the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean" because of its rich flora and fauna. In the north of the country you find the Wadi Wa'aar. Banana, papaya and mango plants flourish in subtropical climate there. The impressive Sahara massif, which is up to 3,00 metres high, rises close by.
Culture - The Islam and traditions characterise the society
The country has been under the influence of the Islam since the 7th century. In the course of time several kingdoms emerged due to the flourishing Frankincense trade. The most famous one was the Sheba. Yemen accommodates a great number of archaeologically significant sites which tell of former advanced civilisations. Traditional values like respect and politeness still play a major role in present-day society. Many inhabitants chew khat leaves, which have a lightly intoxicating effect.
Cultural sights - Experiencing Sana'a's unique mud-brick tower houses
The capital Sana'a is the number one tourist destination in Yemen. Its many historical mud-brick tower houses are unique and have been part of the UNESCO World Heritage since 1998. In addition, there are about 50 mosques in the centre of the city. The winding alleys and the elaborately decorated houses create an oriental atmosphere. Other cities with well-preserved, impressive historical buildings are Shibam and Tarim. The seaport city Aden with its modern sides, ancient testimonies and beautiful mosques is also worth a visit.
Experience - Exotic juice is popular, alcohol is prohibited
The juice bars, which offer refreshing drinks with guava, melon or lemon flavour, are characteristic of the country. Most bars and restaurants belong to hotels. There are strict regulations regarding alcohol. The Yemeni cuisine consists of dishes containing seafood and minced meat. A visit to the souqs, the markets, is also a great experience. You can buy typical souvenirs like fabrics, leather and ceramic ware, candle holders, perfume or incense sticks.
Activities - Walking along palm-lined beaches and hiking in the mountains
The country is covered in wonderful palm-lined beaches, which invite visitors to take a walk. The revealing European way of bathing is not considered appropriate in Yemen. It is possible to hike and climb in several mountain regions.
Before you set out on your journey you should definitely inform yourself about the current security situation and relevant recommendations. Visitors can arrive by plane at the airports in Sana'a (SAH) or Aden (ADE). It is often difficult to travel the country under your own steam as you need a number of papers for that. The population speaks Arabic but you can also communicate in English in many cases. The country's currency is the rial. You should wear clothes which cover your legs and shoulders. It is not permitted to take pictures of houses of prayer or military facilities.
Yemen is the ideal destination for those who want to experience the Arab culture in a country, which is still relatively unknown to tourists. Furthermore, the many archaeological sites make it an interesting holiday spot.