Occupying the southern part of the Arabian peninsula, Yemen has been a crossroads of trade and exchange for millennia. Ships sailing the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, East African Coast and the Persian Gulf all have made call at Yemen’s harbours. Along the narrow lowland coast you find bustling ports and beautiful white sand beaches looking out into the Gulf of Aden. In the dry desert highlands and the narrow wadis that run off them you can find a people and culture that have occupied the land for centuries. There are cities of mud built skyscrapers to explore, and small villages to discover, situated precariously on rocks surrounded by date palms and lush greenery. Further from the shores of the mainland is the Yemeni island of Socotra. Known as the ‘Jewel of Arabia’, its biodiversity makes it a UNESCO world heritage site and it has unrivalled opportunities for swimming, scuba diving and hiking.
The major inhabited areas of the Hadhramaut are in long valleys of wadis and oases, fertile lands below the high plateau. There are numerous striking towns and villages with unique architecture, incorporating the landscape and pise de terre (rammed earth).
Highlights include the extraordinary Wadi Dawan where date palms fill the plain and buildings cling to the steep valley wall. The iconic Bait Bugsham palace, now a hotel, is painted in glorious pastel colours. However, the jewels in the crown are the high “skyscraper” mudbrick houses of Shibam which has rightly been given the name “the Manhattan of the Desert”.
The region is also famed for it’s honey, the conical hats worn by the women of the district and for being the resting place of the prophet Hud, who was worshipped as a deity across Yemen before the arrival of Islam.
Linking the interior of the Hadhramaut with the coast is the ancient port of Al Mukalla. The traditional place for trading frankincense to the rest of the world, the city has been developed over the centuries with traditional Arabian buildings, supplemented by Indian, Victorian and Modern quarters. The Sultan’s palace is now a museum and there are abandoned forts and guard towers for those exploring the outskirts of the old town.
Famed in history and legend as the Jewel Of Arabia and for wildlife lovers as the Galapagos Of The Middle East, Socotra’s isolated position in the Arabian Sea makes it a unique habitat. It has been listed as a UNESCO world heritage sight for its biodiversity. There is an extraordinary richness of flora and fauna. In the interior the Dixsam plateau and Homhil boast frankincense and dragons blood trees. Those wanting to bird watch or hike can find vultures, buzzards and flamingos as well as others that can only be found locally such as Laughing Doves and Bruce’s Green Pigeons. And on top of that the landscape and scenery are unmatched, offering unique views. Meanwhile Aher Beach boasts golden dunes and blue waves, and scuba divers will find sea turtles and other creatures in waters as rich in life as the land. Staying in a hotel and making day trips it is possible to see much of the island. An alternative is to camp in a different spot every night, in the tradition of the Bedouin of the island.
The largest city in Yemen it has been continuously occupied back to before recorded history; legend claims it was founded by Shem, the son of Noah. Located in the heart of a fertile plain the old city still has its pise de terre walls. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the old city is filled with examples of the unique traditional architecture and facades. The Bab al-Yaman, the Yemen Gate, is a magnificent sight in itself, yet entering the city from it offers the awe-inspiring view of the minarets and towers, the brick and plaster buildings highlighted with whitewashed decoration highlighting the windows and other features. The National Museum, a former palace can be found here, as can over 100 mosques including the Great Mosque of Sana’a. Finally no visit is complete without seeing the bustling souq in which can be found Yemeni traditional craftsmanship and much more in the lively market.
If you are interested in visiting mainland Yemen and/or Socotra – contact us for more details.
Visa required. The visa needs to be obtained before travel.
Tropical climate. Hot all year round with a dry season in winter.
For up to date exchange rates please have a look at www.xe.com
Two prong European style system (type C and E).
Very poor wifi connection/speed.
Cassava is a staple, made into fufu, it is often served with a soup/ stew. Okra and peanuts are common in cooking. Insects are wild meat also regularly eaten.
Alcohol is permitted and is widely available
French and Sangho
Christian. Minority Sunni Muslim
No special dress code.
SAFETY & SECURITY
The FCO advises against travel to Yemen. This is due to anti-government forces operating in the country, the ongoing civil war, government instability and the risk of opportunist violent attacks. We avoid travel to most of the country and take precautions in the areas we do travel. Contact us for information on where we do and do not guide in this region and how we work to minimise risk for our guests and staff
A History of Modern Yemen – Paul Dresch
Yemen: Travels in Dictionary Land – Tim Mackintosh-Smith
A Tribal Order – Shelagh Weir
The Graves of Tarim – Engseng Ho
Arabian Sands – Wilfred Thesiger
Trips in Middle East
The trip begins in Baghdad and visits ancient Sumerian and Babylonian sites, as well as medieval souks, UNESCO-recognised minarets, Shia Islam’s two holiest sites, and a boat trip on the Shatt al-Arab. There is an add-on to Kurdistan available directly…explore