• Population: 21.5 million (UN, 2005)
  • Capital: Sanaa
  • Area: 536,869 sq km (207,286 sq miles)
  • Major language: Arabic
  • Major religion: Islam
  • Life expectancy: 59 years (men), 62 years (women) (UN)
  • Monetary unit: 1 Yemeni riyal = 100 fils

    The Republic of Yemen is a nation of secrets, from its history and natural beauty to alleged Al-Qaeda hideouts. Yemen has been a place that is at the crossroads of Asia, Middle-East, and Africa, right at the heart of the Spice Route. Culture, heritage, beauty…it’s easy to see why tourist in the past few years have wanted to come here, but, recently, terrorism links have put tremendous disadvantage to the Middle-Eastern country, and its four World Heritage Sites cannot save it. The Yemen connection to Al-Qaeda and the Christmas Day airliner attack had put the poor nation of Yemen at the headlines, and its tourism, the second generator of economy after oil, is crippled. The problem are Yemen’s extremists who are disposed and eager to attack tourists, diplomats, and expatriates according to terrorist statements stated this month of May 2010.

    Happy Arabia is a huge land of new and happy discoveries for sure, and the stories of the dragon tree render enough curiosity to drag even the most unwilling. The spectacular scenery and the heritage all around Yemen are what draws visitors here. However, from the time the Ministry of Tourism launched promotions and campaigns in 2007, there still were not a lot of tourists. Nonetheless, it is a place worth visiting. Talk about culture, a factoid: personally the most important breakthrough that we so love in our modern lives, coffee was discovered in Yemen, of all places. Ibn Khaldun is among the first to draw the map of the world. No one saw that coming I bet. The first coffee drinkers, the Yemenis made a strong brew made of husks, not the beans. Outside the capital, many areas are simply too dangerous to travel to.


    Yemen (15 00 N, 48 00 E) is a large slab of land of the Arab World with a total area of 527,968 km2 that is nearly the same size as Thailand. Ancient civilizations and edifices have been built around what are mostly hot deserts in the centre, the north (Arabian Desert), and east (Rub al-Khali; the largest desert). Flat coastal plains to the Red Sea in the west form the arid Timaha or “hot lands” where it is broken suddenly by highlands and rugged mountains going through to the centre (2,000 m elevations) and to the east to the Rub al-Khali (1,000 m elevations). The highest elevation is Jabal an Nabi Shu’ayb at 3,667 metres above the sea level.


    Yemen has a frickin’ hot desert climate , that is humid along the west coast, and harshly dry to the Empty Quarters or Rub al Khali (also, the second most oil-rich place in the world), which with summer temperatures of 55°C makes it a forbiddingly uninhabitable. Also, Yemen has the highest temperature ranges in the world from 30°C in the day to 0°C at night on a typical day. In the western highlands, the climate is temperate with seasonal monsoons. Any time than summer is the best time to visit, but then, it really depends on where you’re travelling to.


    Yemen is among the countries of the world with the highest birth rates of six children per woman. Yemen’s population is 23,495,361 not including the Yemeni Diaspora in the U.K. (80,000), U.S. (20,000), and France (2,000). Yemenis are predominantly of Arab origin, whereas other are Afro-Arab, South Asians, and Europeans.


    The official language is ARABIC, while ENGLISH is increasing in popularity. Arab-Semitic languages are still spoken in some areas such as Soqotra. There also is a small group of VIETNAMESE-speaking people in Sana’a.


    Islam is the principal religion generally divided into religious factions of Sunni and Shia. Sunni Muslims consist of 52% of the population, and around 46% are Shia Muslims. There are also small numbers of Jewish, Christian, and Hindu that account for less than 1%. Yemenis are tribal people to this day, thus explaining the hostility towards religious minorities, women, journalists, and even disabled people.


    The operative word in Yemen is mystique. Underneath this mystique lies a bed of old architecture, natural beauty, and wonderful heritage that is Yemen’s alone. The four World Heritage Sites, the Old City of Sana’a, of Shibam, Zabid, and Socotra Archipelago, among the most UNESCO sites in a country within the Middle-East region, are worth the time and effort to come, but never without caution, for these are hotspots for terrorist attacks in the here and now. In Sana’a, beautiful buildings everywhere from the Bab Al-Yemen (the Gate of Yemen) of the 2nd century BC capture attention and emotion as the icon of Yemeni culture.

    The architecture is surely not like anywhere else, and I’m not just referring to that special structure. The City of Shibam, the “Manhattan” of the desert, owns the oldest skyscrapers of the world. This is a city of 3rd century AD take on our modern apartments, of residential urban planning on the principle of vertical construction. The outlandish thing is that these are made from mud bricks! Zabid and the University of Zabid, on the other hand, was the centre of the Arab and Muslim world from 13-15th century, as well as the centre of Islamic education. However, the site is readily deteriorating from the houses to the souqs due to lousy and inefficient upkeep and urbanization. And Socotra…the emporium of biodiversity in the Arab Sea.

    There’s so much to discover at quite the wrong time like beaches…yeah, Yemen got beaches. Yemen is a blank canvass for air-, land-, and water-borne excitement: paragliding, rock climbing, diving, base-jumping, and horse-back riding, all in a backdrop of lush green and deep blue.


    Yemeni cuisine as the traveller will eventually discover has more colours than green and blue. Although the cuisine is low profile, the lucky ones who have tried have only good things to say. For all classes and kinds of foodie, Yemeni food is the bomb. Meat lovers have bottomless options from chicken, beef, lamb, and fish, which are either grilled or broiled. For the vegans, an emergent peasant food of nourishing, healthy, and fresh-off-the-stove rice, beans, greens, and many other vegetables are in no way poor in flavour. They got egg salads or tahini, eggplant salads, Yemeni bean salad, tomato salad salatat banadura and their own version, the Yemeni falafel. In the Middle East, Yemeni cuisine is far and away from the standard spectrum of tastes and dishes. Essentially, Yemeni food is more Ottoman Turkish than Arab.

    Enough of that…now, to the real stars of the show. Salta is the country’s national dish which is a stew of fenugreek-spiced meat with a similarly salsa seasoning that signifies Yemen in many ways. Rice, potatoes, vegetables, scrambled eggs, and flat bread are the quintessential companion of Salta. Common favourites also include meat loaf or Halabi kebab, shashlik with veggies, and fish with either spices-red pepper or tomato sauce-hawayij. Food is by and large hot and spicy in these parts. Yemeni cuisine employs very little fat in cooking, hence, good stats when it comes to cardiovascular health. Lemon is their sour little friend used liberally for sourness and acidity needs. Again, a healthy choice, lemon’s acid actually counters hyperacidity. Fenugreek is the all-time spice and the base for an everyday paste called hulbah. Health-conscious as Yemenis are, they also do not eat meat for dinner believing it’s detrimental to health.

    Yemenis do not have a characteristic sweet tooth, so deserts have a limited spectrum. When all is said and done, desert in Yemen is just a piece of cake, like the honey cake or Bint al-Sahn. In Burghul, a sweet cereal treat, the presence of honey is brave and rich, and, mind you, Yemeni honey is the best in the region, the only redeeming factor for the lack in their confections. One thing for sure, there will be coffee (qahwa)…after meals.


    As concerns safety travel, it is rather important to note that any place has its own dangers that require some form of caution. And while it proves better judgment to be distant from Yemen for the moment’s being with the 5-year build-up of secret wars finally coming together, the nation is fun, fresh, and innovative….for another time soon, hopefully. After all, no other country name can be cooler than Yeah-men!

    Josh Boorman


    Backpacking Addictz



    Twitter: @backpackaddictz

    Backpacking Addictz is a website set up by backpackers for the use of backpackers. On this site you will find a lot of very valuable backpacking information surrounding different destinations and countries from around the world. Also very helpful backpacking tips and travel advice on planning a budget travel and backpacking adventure. You will also find an enthusiastic and insightful backpacking blog which is regularly updated with new posts and article.

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    Joshua Boorman

    Joshua Boorman

    Founder & Editor in Chief at Backpacking Addictz
    Come with me on a journey with me to various destinations throughout the world. We discuss all things Backpacking, Lifestyle Design & Online Business to help you achieve new found freedom and create a life of meaningful fulfillment.
    Joshua Boorman

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