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Republic of Yemen

Al-Jumhuriyah al-Yamaniyah


FLAG: The national flag is a tricolor of red, white, and black horizontal stripes.

ANTHEM: Al-Watani (Peace to the Land).

MONETARY UNIT: The Yemeni riyal (yr) is a paper currency of 100 fils. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 fils and notes of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 riyals. yr1 = $0.00519 (or $1 = yr192.67) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is being introduced, but local measures remain in common use.

HOLIDAYS: Labor Day, 1 May; Day of National Unity, 22 May; National Day, 14 October; Independence Day, 30 November. Movable Muslim holidays include Laylat al-Miraj, 'Id al-Fitr, 'Id al-'Adha', Milad an-Nabi, and 1st of Muharram.

TIME: 3 pm = noon GMT.


Yemen is located in the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula. It is slightly larger than twice the size of the state of Wyoming with a total area of 527,970 sq km (203,850 sq mi). Yemen shares boundaries with Saudi Arabia on the n, Oman on the e, Gulf of Aden on the s, and the Red Sea on the w, and has a total land boundary length of 1,746 km (1,085 mi) plus a coastline of 1,906 km (1,184 mi).


The topography of Yemen features a narrow coastal plain backed by flat-topped hills and rugged mountains. Dissected upland desert plains in the center of the country slope into the desert interior of the Arabian Peninsula. The highest known point is the summit of Jabal Hadhur, rising 3,760 m (12,336 ft) above the Red Sea coast. The western part of the country contains fertile soil in its highland plateaus which rise from about 1,200 to 3,000 m (4,000 to 10,000 ft). A system of wadis drain mountain slopes into the desert and into the Gulf of Aden.

In December 2004, an earthquake centered in the Indian Ocean caused a tsunami that affected many of the nearby countries. There were only two confirmed deaths in Yemen, but damage to coastal fishing villages and businesses was severe.


Extreme humidity combines with high temperaturesas high as 54°c (129°f) in the shadeto produce a stiflingly hot climate. Winds blowing northwest in summer and southwest in winter bring little rain but cause severe sandstorms. During January and February, however, the temperature averages about 20°c (68°f). The climate of the highlands is generally considered the best in Arabia. Summers are temperate and winters are cool, with some frost. Temperatures vary from 22°c (72°f) in June, the hottest month, to 14°c (57°f) in January. Rainfall in the highlands ranges from 41 cm (16 in) at Şan'ā' to 81 cm (32 in) in the monsoon area of the extreme southwest. The average year-round temperature at Şan'ā' is 18°c (64°f).


Vegetation is sparse along the coast, but in the highlands and wadis, it is plentiful. Acacia, date palm, and many fruit trees are common. Many varieties of grapes are cultivated. Custard apple, euphorbia, and spurge grow in abundance. Alpine roses, balsam, basil, wild elder, and Judas tree are among the flowers and herbs. Wild mammals include the baboon, gazelle, leopard, and mountain hare. Scorpions and millipedes are everywhere, but snakes are less common. Many varieties of birds are found, including the bustard, hawk, vulture, raven, parrot, hornbill, honeysucker, and weaver finch. More than 27,000 varieties of insects and over 600 specimens of flowering plants have been collected in Yemen. There are at least 66 species of mammals and 93 species of birds found throughout the country.


Yemen's main environmental problems have long been scarcity of water, soil erosion, and desertification. Water pollution is a problem due to contaminants from the oil industry, untreated sewage, and salinization. The nation has 4 cu km of renewable water resources with 92% of annual withdrawals used for farming activity and 1% for industrial purposes.

Natural forests in mountainous areas have been destroyed by agricultural clearing and livestock overgrazing. The National Environmental Council, established in 1976, disseminates information on conservation. In response to the nation's environmental needs, the government of Yemen has created laws governing the use of the country's water supply. Law Number 42 (1991) protects water and marine life.

According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 6 types of mammals, 14 species of birds, 2 types of reptiles, 1 species of amphibian, 11 species of fish, 2 types of mollusks, and 159 species of plants. Endangered species include the northern bald ibis, the South Arabian leopard, slender-billed curlew, and two species of turtle (green sea and hawksbill). Queen of Sheba's gazelle and the Saudi Gazelle have become extinct in the wild.


The population of Yemen in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 20,727,000, which placed it at number 51 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 4% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 46% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 103 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 3.3%, a rate the government viewed as too high. Yemen's fertility rate, at 6.8 births per woman, is among the highest in the world. The projected population for the year 2025 was 39,644,000. The overall population density was 39 per sq km (102 per sq mi), with most of the population concentrated in the Tihama foothills and central highlands of Yemen. Most of southern Yemen is very sparsely populated.

The UN estimated that 26% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 5.15%. The capital city, Şan'ā', had a population of 1,469,000 in that year. Other large cities and their estimated populations include Ta'izz (2,363,000), Al 'udaydah (Hodiedah) (2,004,049), and 'Aden (568,700), the chief port.


There were 1,168,199 citizens of Yemen working abroad in 1986. Most were working in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. When Yemen took Iraq's side in the war that followed its 1990 annexation of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia effectively expelled an estimated 800,0001,000,000 Yemeni workers by revoking their work privileges. These workers had been sending home some $3 billion a year in remittances.

Many people from the Wadi Hadramawt in southern Yemen have worked abroad in East Africa, India, and Indonesia for centuries. Following independence and the establishment of a leftist regime in the PDRY, more than 300,000 people fled to the north, including about 80,000 Yemenis from the YAR, and virtually all minority groups left the country. Subsequent political upheavals resulted in further emigration.

In 1992 more than 60,000 Yemenis returned from the Horn of Africa, chiefly because of turmoil in Somalia. In 1998 and 1999, Yemen experienced a significant influx of Somali asylum seekers, who fled their country for economic reasons. They were accommodated in a refugee camp in Al Ghahain, near 'Aden, supervised by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). As of 2004, there were 66,384 refugees in Yemen, most from Somalia, and 2,270 asylum seekers and 39 returned refugees.

The net migration rate in 2005 was estimated as zero migrants per 1,000 population, a significant decline from 9.8 per 1,000 in 1990. Worker remittances in 2002 amounted to $1.2 billion. The government viewed the immigration level as too high, but the emigration level as satisfactory.


Since independence, the population has been almost entirely Arab. However, there are Afro-Arab concentrations in western coastal locations, South Asians in southern regions, and small European communities in major metropolitan areas. Many ethnologists contend that the purest "Arab" stock is to be found in Yemen. Classified as Joktanic Semites, the Yemenis claim descent from Himyar, great-grandson of Joktan, who, according to the book of Genesis, was descended from Shem, the son of Noah. Yemenis were prominent in the early armies of Islam and thus helped to Arabize much of the Middle East. The Tihama has been subjected to occupation and infiltration by many conquerors, and its people show significant admixtures of other racial types, including Negroid peoples. About 25% of the population are Akhdam, a group that is considered to be the lowest social class. This group faces a greater level of poverty and social discrimination that some other minorities. The history of the Yemenite Jews predates by centuries the Islamic Hijra (ad 622). How they came to settle in the region has not been determined.


Arabic, the national language, is spoken in a variety of dialects. In vocabulary and other features there is a considerable difference between the classical language used for writing and formal speaking and the spoken dialect used for ordinary discourse. Traces of the ancient South Arabian languages spoken prior to the coming of Muhammad appear in the dialects of the more remote districts of southern Yemen. Mahri, a rare and relatively unstudied language of unknown origins, is spoken in the east. English is widely understood in the former PDRY.


The Republic of Yemen is officially a Muslim country. Almost all of the inhabitants are Sunnis of the Shaf 'i school, one of the four major schools of Islamic law. They reside chiefly in the coastal plains and the southwestern part of the country. Most of those remaining are Shias of the Zaydi sect, who live in the highlands. This sect, originating in the 9th century, takes its name from Zayd bin 'Ali (d.740), a descendant of Muhammad, and doctrinally is very close to Sunni Islam. In addition, there is a small minority of Ismailis, members of another Shia sect.

Nearly all of the country's once sizable Jewish population has emigrated. There are no legal restrictions on the few hundred who remain, although there are traditional restrictions on places of residence and choice of employment. About 500 Jews live in the villages between Şan'ā' and Şa'dah in northern Yemen. There are also small Christian and Hindu communities. In remote areas there is still evidence of shamanism, animism, and other indigenous forms of religion.

The constitution provides for freedom of religion, but the government does enforce some restrictions. Conversion of Muslims to other religions is punishable by death; non-Muslims are prohibited from proselytizing and holding public office.


Through the 1950s, Yemen's transportation system consisted of a few primitive mud tracks connecting the larger towns. Then, in 1961, technicians from China completed a 224-km (139-mi) road between Şan'ā' and Al 'udaydah, the country's first asphalt highway. Seven years later, the United States finished the 386-km (240mi) highway linking Şan'ā', Ta'izz, and Al-Mukha; the USSR completed a road from Ta'izz to Al 'udaydah in 1969. Other paved roads extend from Şan'ā' to Ma'rib, from Şan'ā' to Sa'idah, from Ta'izz to At-Turba, from the Şan'ā'-Ta'izz highway to Al Baydā, and from Ta'izz to Aden ('Adan). A direct link between Şan'ā' and Wadi Hadhramaut via Marib was completed in 1999. By 2002, Yemen had about 69,263 km (43,040 mi) of roadway, of which only 9,963 km (6,191 mi) were paved. In 2003, passenger cars numbered 290,208, while there were 331,410 commercial vehicles. There are no railways or waterways in Yemen.

Improvements to the main port of Al 'udaydah have expanded berthing, storage, and handling facilities and increase cargo capacity to 1,750,000 tons annually. Other ports are Al-Mukha, Aden, and Salif, which have sheltered harbors and deepwater berths capable of taking 10,000-ton ships. In 1999 the 'Aden Container Terminal opened with further expansion plans underway. In 2005, Yemen had a merchant fleet of five ships of 1,000 GRT or more, totaling 19,766 GRT.

Progress in air transportation has been rapid in recent years. In 2004 there were an estimated 44 airports, 16 of which had paved runways as of 2005. The principal airfield, capable of handling modern jet aircraft, is Ar-Rahba International Airport, north of Şan'ā'. There are smaller international airports at Al 'udaydah, Ta'izz, and 'Aden. 'Aden International Airport was renovated and Şan'ā"s renovation was scheduled for late 2001. Yemen Airways (Alyemda), the national airline, operates services between Şan'ā', Ta'izz, Al 'udaydah, and Al-Bayda and also schedules flights to Egypt, Ethiopia, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The airline carried about 844,000 passengers in 2003.


Classical geographers divided Arabia into three regions: Arabia Petraea ("rocky"), Arabia Deserta ("deserted"), and Arabia Felix ("fortunate"). The last, the southwestern corner, included the territory now occupied by Yemen. The region was the site of a series of rich kingdoms that dominated world trade. The wealthy kingdom of Sheba (or Saba), with its capital at Ma'rib, is the best known of the South Arabian kingdoms. The prosperity of this kingdom (10th to 2d centuries bc) was based on the spice and incense trade. Competition from new trade routes undermined Sabaean prosperity and caused the kingdom to decline. From the 2d century bc to the 6th century ad, the Himyarite dynasty, of ethnic stock similar to that of the Sabaeans, ruled in Arabia Felix, and paganism gradually gave way to Christianity and Judaism.

The Himyarite hegemony was ended in 525 by invading Christian Ethiopians, whose rule lasted until 575, when they were driven out by Persian invaders. Islam was accepted in the next century, and Yemen became the battleground of Muslim religious factions. The coastline (Tihama) was held by the Sunnis of the Shafi'i School, while the highlands were controlled by the Zaydis, a Shia sect.

In the 9th century, a Zaydi ruler, Yahya al-Hadi ila'l Haqq, founded a line of imams that survived until the second half of the 20th century. Nevertheless, Yemen's medieval history is a tangled chronicle of contesting local imams. The Fatimids of Egypt helped the Isma'ilis maintain dominance in the 11th century. Saladin (Salah ad-Din) annexed Yemen in 1173. The Rasulid dynasty (Kurdish and Turkish in origin) ruled Yemen, with Zabid as its capital, from about 1230 to the 15th century. In 1516, the Mamluks of Egypt annexed Yemen; but in the following year, the Mamluk governor surrendered to the Ottoman Turks, and Turkish armies subsequently overran the country. They were challenged by the Zaydi imam Qasim the Great (r.15971620) and expelled from the interior around 1630. From then until the 19th century, the Ottomans retained control only of the coastal area, while the highlands generally were ruled by the Zaydi imams.

Early in the 19th century, Yemen was overrun by Wahhabis, but in 1818, Ibrahim Pasha, the son of Muhammad 'Ali of Egypt, drove them out of Yemen and reestablished Zaydi control. Egyptian troops occupied the main ports of Yemen until 1840, when they were withdrawn. The Zaydi imams recognized Ottoman suzerainty and paid a large annual subsidy to the Ottoman sultan. After 1840 the situation was anarchic, and law and order in any form was not reestablished until 1872, when the Ottomans again occupied Şan'ā' and consolidated their control. The northern mountains remained under the control of Zaydi imams from the Hamid ad-Din family. The Ottomans kept a large force in Yemen during World War I, but under the armistice terms evacuated it in 1918 and Yemen became independent.

In 1834 the British had occupied 'Aden as a coaling station on the route to India; the importance of the territory was substantially increased with the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869.

To protect its foothold in 'Aden the United Kingdom had signed a treaty of "protection and advice" with rulers of the tribes and states in the hinterland, leading to the adoption of the names Western Aden Protectorate (WAP) and Eastern Aden Protectorate (EAP). As long as northern Yemen remained at least nominally a part of the Ottoman Empire, relations on the frontier between the United Kingdom (in the WAP and EAP) and the Turks (in Yemen) were relatively peaceful.

During World War I the British supported the Idrisi tribe's attempt to establish itself in Yemen. In 1919 the United Kingdom occupied Al 'udaydah, which came into Idrisi hands when the British withdrew in 1921. The Zaydis, now led by Imam Yahya ibn Muhammad Hamid ad-Din, who had become imam in 1891, waged an armed struggle against the Idrisis that ended when Imam Yahya seized Al 'udaydah in 1925. The imam also sought to move into the states of the Western Aden Protectorate in an attempt to reestablish his suzerainty in these territories formerly held by the Yemenis. The Idrisis came under the protection of King Ibn Sa'ud, and in 1934, a war broke out between the Saudis and Yemenis. By the Treaty of Ta'if (May 1934), Yemen lost 'Asir to Saudi Arabia but won British and Saudi recognition of its independence. However, incursions by the Imams against the UK protectorate in 'Aden continued until 1962.

In 1959 the United Kingdom formed the six WAP states into the Federation of Arab Emirates of the South, with others joining later. The inhabitants of 'Aden, who were more politically and economically advanced than those of the protectorates, opposed adherence to the federation. Nevertheless, 'Aden in 1963 was merged into the federation, which then became known as the Federation of South Arabia.

The dispute over the future form and direction of this new political entity, as well as over which other states would join it, resulted in several years of factional violence, as various political parties, labor organizations, and other groups struggled for political ascendancy. Finally, in 1967, the National Liberation Front (NLF) emerged as the strongest political group, and the United Kingdom agreed to negotiate with it concerning future independence. On 30 November 1967 all the states of the WAP and EAP were amalgamated, the last British soldiers withdrew, and the NLF declared the independence of the People's Republic of South Yemen. On 22 June 1969 the head of the NLF, Qahtan ash-Sha'bi, was deposed by a group of young leftists of the NLF. The new regime, headed by a five-man council, renamed the country the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY), developed close ties with the USSR, and secured economic aid from it and China. A further political alignment occurred in 1971, when Salim Rubaya 'Ali became head of state and 'Abd al-Fattah Isma'il was named head of the party, in an uneasy rivalry. In 1978 Isma'il, the head of the Yemen Socialist Party (YSP), formerly the NLF, overthrew and executed President 'Ali and assumed the presidency. Isma'il resigned his position in 1980, ostensibly for reasons of health, and went into exile. 'Ali Nasir Muhammad al-Hasani, the prime minister, assumed the presidency.

Meanwhile, Yemen joined the League of Arab States in 1945, and in 1958, it formed a federation, the United Arab States, with the newly established United Arab Republic (UAR). In December 1961 however, the pro forma federal connection with Egypt was severed, and in September 1962 the government of Imam Muhammad al-Badr, only a few days old, was overthrown by revolutionary forces led by Brigadier (later Marshal) 'Abdallah as-Sallal. He proclaimed himself president and commander-in-chief of the army and declared the establishment of the Yemen Arab Republic. Badr escaped to the northern regions of the YAR, where he organized a counterrevolutionary force.

A civil war between the royalists (defenders of the imamate) and the republican government broke out, and appeals by both sides for support brought about the active intervention of other Arab states. Saudi Arabia supported the royalist cause, and the UAR came to the assistance of the republic, dispatching up to 70,000 troops to the YAR; fighting was particularly bitter during the winter of 196364. Eventually the conflict subsided, as the Saudis curtailed their aid to the royalists and the Egyptians to the republicans. Sallal was deposed in November 1967 and replaced by a Republican Council. Talks between republican leaders and Saudi Arabia in March 1970 at Jiddah concluded with an agreement that ended the civil war and left the republicans in control.

In June 1974 'Abd ar-Rahman al-Iryani (who had been president since 1967) resigned, thrusting the country into a state of political confusion. By the end of the year Lieutenant Colonel Ibrahim Muhammad al-Hamdi had emerged as president, heading a government with powers of centralized control that were progressively strengthened. Hamdi was assassinated by unknown assailants in October 1977. His successor, Colonel Ahmad ibn Hussein al-Ghashmi, who formed a civilian government and established the Constituent People's Assembly, met a similar fate in June 1978, in a bomb blast in which PDRY involvement was suspected. Lieutenant Colonel 'Ali 'Abdallah Saleh thereupon became president. In 1982, he inaugurated the General People's Congress as an instrument for popular political mobilization.

Since independence, the PDRY was embroiled in conflicts with all three of its neighbors. A separatist movement was supported in Oman; there were border skirmishes with Saudi forces in 1969 and 1973; and the PDRY fought a brief war with the YAR in FebruaryMarch 1979. The war ended with a truce, mediated by the Arab League, and with an agreement in principle to seek unification of the two Yemens. On 13 January 1986 PDRY President Muhammad attempted to eliminate his rivals within the YSP. A number of officials were killed, including Isma'il, and Muhammad was forced into exile, along with thousands of his followers. A civil war ensued during the following two weeks, in which about 4,200 died and the supporters of Muhammad were defeated. Haydar Abn Bakr al-'Attas, the prime minister, took over as acting president; Dr. Yasin Sa'id Nu'man was appointed prime minister, and 'Ali Salim al-Bayd was chosen as the new head of the YSP. President al'Attas was officially elected in November 1986.

In late 1981 a constitution for the two Yemens was drafted. However, implementation was hampered by the continuing insurgency against President Saleh by the leftist National Democratic Front (NDF), which was based in, and reportedly aided by, the PDRY. Saleh was able to defeat the NDF militarily in 1982. Movement toward unification was maintained in repeated declarations and meetings through 1985, but no real progress was achieved. The January 1986 civil war in the PDRY set back relations between the two countries, particularly since 50,000 refugees fled the YAR, but both governments subsequently reaffirmed their commitment to unity.

In 1989 the leaders of the YAR and PDRY approved the 1981 draft constitution and their legislatures ratified it on 21 May 1990. The unified Republic of Yemen was proclaimed the following day. In the May 1990 election, 121 seats were won by the northern General People's Congress, 62 by Islaah (an Islamist and tribalist party), 56 by the southern Yemeni Socialist Party, 47 by independents, and 15 by five other parties. On 22 May 1990 Ali Abdullah Saleh became the president of Yemen and Haidar Abu Bakr al-Attas the first prime minister, serving until 9 May 1994. A 30-month transition period was set for unifying the different political and economic systems. The army, police, and civil service were not integrated as planned, however. Meanwhile, the economy was hard hit by the consequences of Yemen's support for Iraq after the Kuwait invasion. It is estimated that Saudi Arabia expelled between 800,000 and one million Yemeni workers, thus depriving Yemen of some $3 billion in foreign exchange. In addition, the Saudis and Gulf states ended $2 billion in foreign aid. Unemployment in Yemen reached 30%.

Free and fair parliamentary elections were held in April 1992 with President Saleh's General People's Congress (GPC) barely missing a majority victory. A three-party coalition was formed but foundered in late 1993 when Vice President Ali al-Beidh of the Yemen Socialist Party boycotted meetings. Although the quarrel appeared to be patched up with an agreement in February 1994, fighting broke out in May of that year. In a few months, thousands of casualties had been suffered; tribes, clans, and militias were engaged in seeking their own selfish goals and the city of 'Aden was under siege. Some observers attributed the civil conflict to the recent discovery of massive oil reserves in the south and to Saudi Arabia's interest in weakening Yemen by promoting the breakup of the union. The future looked bleak, despite efforts of the UN and some Arab states to promote peace. Meanwhile, on 9 May 1994 Muhammed Said al Attar became acting prime minister until 6 October 1994 when Abdel Aziz Abdel Ghani took office.

Although bloody, the civil war was short-lived, with the north having subdued the rebellious south by July. Restoring civil order was difficult, especially in light of the dire economic straits faced by the country, which in 1995 had 7090% inflation and a deficit of 17% of GDP. The IMF and World Bank stepped in after the war and instituted structural adjustment programs which brought inflation down below 10%.

In 1997 parliamentary elections were scheduled for May and it was expected that Saleh's GPC would retain its sizable majority. The international community expressed skepticism as to the fairness of the elections but, in the context of the Persian Gulf, they were expected to be reasonably fair. Notably, the YSP, representing the defeated south, announced that it would boycott the elections in protest of the GPC's collusion with Islaah, a tribal and Islamist party, to rig the elections. Saleh maintained the presidency and on 14 May 1997 Faraj Said Bin Ghanem became the new prime minister. On 29 April 1998 Bin Ghanem resigned and Abdel Karim al-Iriani became acting prime minister. In September 1999 President Ali Abdullah Saleh was reelected in Yemen's first direct presidential election. The YSP boycotted the election. Charges of fraud were made by the opposition with allegations of underage voting, multiple balloting, and unauthorized submission of ballots by absentee voters.

Yemen's history of kidnappings, over 100 Westerners the first six years of the 1990s, continued through 2000. In the past the kidnappings were economically motivated, i.e., Yemeni tribesmen asking for money. Later, others appeared ideologicalMuslims demanding the release of prisoners held by another Muslim group. Kidnappings damaged Yemen's economy by their impact on its tourist industry. Falling world oil prices also hit Yemen hard since oil accounts the vast majority of Yemen's exports. Yemen attempted to increase economic productivity with a campaign against qat (khat) chewing. Qat is a mild indigenous narcotic plant customarily chewed by some 75% of the Yemeni population. In August 1999 the government led by President Saleh, himself a qat user, launched a campaign to reduce qat usage by swearing off qat and encouraging others to follow his example. Anti-qat campaigns have been politically treacherous as former prime minister Mohsin al-Aini was ousted in 1972 after attempting to stamp out qat-chewing.

On 12 October 2000, two suicide bombers detonated a small boat containing explosives alongside the USS Cole as it was refueling in Aden harbor. Seventeen US sailors were killed and 39 others were wounded. Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden praised the attack. Bin Laden, whose father was of Yemeni origin, had been indicted by the United States for the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people. In the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, attributed to al-Qaeda, the United States focused attention on governments in the world responsible for harboring and supporting terrorists. Since 1992, the United States has alleged that bin Laden and al-Qaeda targeted US military forces in Yemen, and that al-Qaeda has formed alliances with jihad groups in Yemen. In June 2001, Yemeni officials arrested 9 men believed to be affiliated with the Islamic Army of Aden, a fundamentalist group linked to bin Laden, for the 2000 attack on the Cole. The group was responsible for kidnapping 16 Western tourists in December 1998; four of the hostages were killed in a gun battle between the group and Yemeni government troops. The Islamic Army of Aden advocates the imposition of Islamic law in Yemen, is against the United States or other Western states using Yemeni ports or bases, and supports the lifting of international sanctions against Iraq.

In November 2001, President Saleh met with US President George W. Bush, assuring him that Yemen was a partner in the war on terrorism. In December, Yemen detained some 80 foreign students and teachers from an Islamic fundamentalist institute in the Marib province, where Yemeni special forces were searching for al-Qaeda suspects. In February 2002, Yemen expelled more than 100 foreign Islamic scholars, including British and French nationals, in an effort to curb the spread of terrorism. Scores of prisoners being held by the United States as a result of its 200102 campaign in Afghanistan are natives of Yemen. In March 2002, the United States was finishing plans to send hundreds of US Special Forces to Yemen, to "advise and assist" Yemeni forces combating armed groups affiliated with al-Qaeda.

On 6 October 2002, the French oil tanker Limburg was the target of a terrorist attack in the Gulf of Aden, which killed one crewmember and released 90,000 barrels of oil. An explosives-laden boat hit the tanker, in an attack that was similar to the one on the USS Cole. On 3 November, a US CIA-controlled unmanned Predator surveillance plane fired a Hellfire missile into a car in northwest Yemen, killing six al-Qaeda operatives, including Qaed Salim Sunian al-Harethi, considered to be Osama bin Laden's chief operator in Yemen. Al-Harethi was also a suspect in the 2000 bombing of the Cole. President Saleh called on al-Qaeda members to renounce violence and turn themselves in to face trial in Yemen, as opposed to being turned over to the United States.

In December 2002, a North Korean freighter disguised as a Cambodian ship was intercepted in the Arabian Sea and seized at gun point by the US Navy and Spanish marines; the vessel was carrying a shipment bound for Yemen of 15 Scud missiles, warheads, and an agent used in Scud fuel. President Bush ordered the shipment released after concluding the Yemen-North Korean deal was concluded on a legal basis. Also in December, a Yemeni Muslim extremist killed three American doctors and wounded a pharmacist by opening fire in a Baptist hospital in the town of Jibla.

On 20 February 2001, Yemen amended its constitution to extend the presidential term of office from 5 to 7 years, and to reorganize the bicameral parliament. The referendum was passed by 73% of the voting population. Also in February, municipal elections were held for the first time.

In the summer of 2004, government forces battled supporters of an anti-American Shia cleric, Hussein al-Houthi, in the northern part of the country. Estimates of the dead ranged from 80 to 600. According to the government, Al-Houthi's group, called "Believing Youth," attempted to model itself after Lebanon's Hezbollah, and receives foreign funding. In September 2004, government forces killed al-Houthi. However, from March to May 2005, fighting resumed between government troops and supporters of the slain al-Houthi; more than 200 people were killed. In May, President Saleh announced the leader of the rebellion in the north agreed to renounce the campaign in exchange for a pardon, but some fighting continued, including in the capital Şan'ā'.

In July 2005, scores of people across the country were killed in clashes between police and demonstrators protesting a reduction in fuel subsidies. Tanks were deployed in Şan'ā'. The poor were most affected.


The 1970 YAR constitution affirmed Islamic law as the basis of all legislation and established the unicameral Consultative Assembly as the supreme legislative body. The assembly was authorized to name the president and to appoint the ruling Executive Council. In the first national elections, held in 1971, voters selected 119 members of the Consultative Assembly; the president appointed the 40 remaining members. This body was dissolved in 1974, and in 1978, the Constituent People's Assembly replaced it, with 99 members elected and 60 members appointed by the president for a two-year term.

In the General People's Congress (GPC), created in 1982, 700 of the 1,000 members were elected, with the other 300 appointed by the government. Between meetings (held every two years), the GPC's affairs were to be handled by a 75-member standing committee. The president, elected by the Constituent People's Assembly for a five-year term, served as secretary-general of the GPC and commander-in-chief of the armed forces and appointed the prime minister and a ministerial council.

The 1970 constitution of the PDRY was ratified by the general command of the United Political OrganizationNational Front, which later became the Yemen Socialist Party (YSP). The Supreme People's Council, which had 111 members elected by universal suffrage at age 18, enacted laws; elected a Presidium and its chairman, who served as head of state; and chose the prime minister and the Council of Ministers. The YSP apparatus and the organs of government were closely intertwined.

The 1990 unity constitution established a political system based on free, multiparty elections. During the transitional period a presidential council was created with five members, three from the North and two from the South, to oversee executive operations. The council appointed a prime minister who picked a 38-member cabinet. A 301-member parliament was also formed, with 159 members chosen from the North, 111 from the South, and 31 at large. Constitutional amendments in 1994 eliminated the presidential council, and provided that the president would be elected by popular vote from at least two candidates selected by the legislature. In 1999, Yemen held its first direct presidential elections.

Legislative elections were again held in 1993, with the GPC maintaining its majority (124 seats). Islaah won 61 seats and the YSP took 55. Independent candidates won 47 and members of the country's dozens of other political/tribal parties took 13 seats. Following the 1994 civil war, the GPC and Islaah formed a unity government. The next parliamentary elections were in April 1997. The GPC maintained its dominance taking 187 of 299 seats. The YSP, the only substantial opposition since the GPC and Islaah joined forces, boycotted the elections, which they said were being managed by the GPC leadership.

On 20 February 2001, new constitutional amendments extended the presidential term of office from five to seven years, and extended the parliamentary term of office to six years. The president may now serve a maximum of two seven-year terms. A bicameral legislature was created, consisting of an upper house, the Consultative Council or Shura Council, with 111 seats appointed by the president; and a House of Representatives composed of 301 members elected by popular vote. The next presidential election was slated for 2006; President Saleh promised he would step down. Suffrage is universal at 18.


The National Liberation Front, which emerged in 1967 as the strongest faction in the disputes before South Yemen's independence, became the United Political OrganizationNational Front in 1970 and changed its name to the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP) in 1978, when two smaller leftist parties were merged with it. This Marxist-Leninist organization, the PDRY's lone political party, was the only group to offer candidates in the 1986 legislative elections and survived to represent southern interests in the unified Yemen.

In preunification north Yemen, political parties in the Western sense played no role. Tribal allegiances were more important political factors. After unity, the northern leader, General Saleh, formed the General People's Congress (GPC), which became the country's largest party. The second-largest bloc in the parliament was held by the Islaah Party (The Yemeni Congregation for Reform), a fusion of tribal and Islamic interests that opposed the unity constitution because it did not sufficiently adhere to Islamic principles. At least 40 smaller parties have been active in the politics of unified Yemen, but the GPC, Islaah, and the YSP are the only ones of national significance. After the 1994 civil war, the GPC and Islaah formed a coalition government to establish civil order.

In the April 1997 legislative election the GPC won a landslide victory and no longer governed in coalition with Islaah. The YSP boycotted the April 1997 legislative election. In addition to these three main parties, the other parties active in the political arena that had fulfilled Yemen's legal procedures to practice political activities were the People's Nasserite Reformation Party, Liberation Front Party, Nasserite Democratic Party, League of the Sons of Yemen, Federation of Popular Forces, National Arab Socialist Baath Party, National Democratic Front, Al Haq Party, Yemen League Party, and the National Social Party. As of 2005, the active parties were GPC, Islaah, Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP), Nasserite Unionist Party, and the National Arab Socialist Ba'th Party.

In September 1999, Yemen held the first direct presidential elections ever held on the Arabian peninsula. Longtime president Saleh captured 96.3% of the vote; Najeeb Qahtan al-Shaabi, his only opponent, won 3.7% of the vote. Led by the YSP, a coalition of opposition groups boycotted this election. In legislative elections held on 27 April 2003, the GPC won 228 seats in parliament, Islaah 47, YSP 7, Nasserite Unionist Party 3, National Arab Socialist Ba'th Party 2, and independents 14. The next legislative elections were scheduled for 2009.


The YAR was divided into 11 governorates (muhafazat ), each headed by a governor. Each governorate contained a varying number of sectors (nawahi ). Traditional divisions still extant included the uzlah, a group of villages (qura ) of people who belong to the same tribe, headed by a sheikh; and the mahall, a group of houses administratively subordinate to a village. The central government retained ultimate authority over local officials, although certain administrative sanctions were granted to traditional local rulers.

In an effort to de-emphasize older loyalties and associations, the PDRY government created a highly centralized state and divided the country into six governorates, all closely controlled by the central authorities. Each had an appointed governor, and each was divided into districts, which were also administered by appointed officials.

The unified government established 17 governorates, subdivided into districts. In the countryside, especially in the north and east, tribal authority is often stronger than formal government institutions. There are 20 governorates, and 326 district municipalities. The government has taken steps to implement decentralization. Municipal elections were held for the first time in February 2001. Authority over local planning, development, and administration is consolidated in municipal councils. The February elections included 26,832 candidates for 6,614 district municipal council seats and over 2,500 candidates for 418 provincial council seats. Those elected served a two-year term.


Under a 1991 decree the separate judicial systems of the former YAR and the former PDRY were unified at the Supreme Court level. A Supreme Judicial Council administers the judiciary, appointing and promoting judges and reviewing policies regarding the structure and functioning of the judicial system. There are courts of first instance, which hear civil, criminal, commercial, and family matters; decisions can be appealed to courts of appeal. The Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of laws, hears cases brought against high government officials, and is the last court of appeal for all lower court decisions. The judiciary, especially at the lower levels, is susceptible to pressure and influence from the executive branch. All laws are codified from Shariah, and there are no jury trials. In addition to regular courts, a system of tribal adjudication exists for some noncriminal issues, although the tribal "judges" often hear criminal cases as well.

The former YAR judicial system consisted of Shariah law and courts for criminal and family law areas administered in each district by a hakim and commercial law and courts for business matters. In remote areas, tribal law was applied in tribal courts. The Shariah courts applied Islamic law and litigants could appeal the decision of a hakim to another hakim, and from him take a final appeal to the Istinaf, the highest court of appeal, in Şan'ā'. Both sets of courts were considered generally fair and impartial. Former YAR state security courts were abolished with unification.

The former PDRY court system was organized in three tiers: magistrate or divisional courts, provincial courts, and military courts. Magistrate courts handled most criminal, juvenile, family, housing, agrarian and other minor civil matters. Provincial courts handled more serious criminal cases, inheritance cases, major civil claims, and appeals from magistrates' courts. Shariah courts applying Islamic law and tribal courts applying traditional law also existed alongside the modern court system.


In 2005, the active armed forces of Yemen numbered 66,700. The Army had 60,000 active members, and was equipped with 790 main battle tanks, 130 reconnaissance vehicles, 200 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 710 armored personnel carriers and 1,167 artillery pieces (310 towed). The Navy had 1,700 active personnel. Major naval units included 19 patrol/coastal vessels and 6 mine warfare ships. The Air Force, in 2005 had 5,000 members, including 2,000 air defense personnel. The service had 75 combat capable aircraft, including 41 fighters and 30 fighter ground attack aircraft. The Air Force also had eight attack helicopters. The country's paramilitary forces totaled 70,000 personnel, which were comprised of 50,000 Ministry of Interior Forces, and tribal levies in excess of 20,000. A coast guard is slowly being established. Yemen's defense budget in 2005 totaled $942 million.


Yemen was admitted to the United Nations on 30 September 1947; it participates in the ESCWA and several nonregional specialized UN agencies such as the World Bank, the FAO, ILO, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNCTAD, and the WHO. The country is also a member of the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, the Arab Monetary Union, the Council of Arab Economic Unity, the Islamic Development Bank, the Arab League, G-77, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Yemen has observer status in the OAS and the WTO.

Yemen is on good terms with both conservative and radical Arab states. The country is part of the Nonaligned Movement, IN environmental cooperation, Yemen is part of the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, CITES, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change and Desertification.


Traditionally an agricultural area, northern Yemen was self-sufficient in food and a net exporter of agricultural product until the Civil War in the 1960s and a prolonged drought in the early 1970s. In the late 1970s and early 1980s many farmers switched from labor intensive food crops to the more profitable cultivation of qat, a mild stimulant chewed by many Yemenis that has no significant export market. The economy of southern Yemen developed through foreign assistance (especially from the former USSR). The southern city of 'Aden, with its port and refinery, is the economic and commercial center of the country. The Yemeni economy depends on imports of wheat, flour, rice, and other foodstuffs. Trade deficits have been offset by remittances from Yemenis working abroad and by foreign aid.

Crude oil is a significant sector of the economy, with exports accounting for over 80% of total exports. In 2004, income from the production and sale of crude oil and natural gas accounted for 72% of total government revenue, which was significantly higher than budgeted income due to higher-than-expected international oil prices. However, with no new significant finds, oil resources could be commercially depleted within 5 to 20 years. Following the unification of the country in 1990, responsibility for development of the oil sector fell to the state-owned general corporation for oil and mineral resources. Civil war in 1994 disturbed output. Oil output has been declining since 1995, and over 200 dry wells have been drilled, suggesting that the industry has passed its peak. In 2005, proven oil reserves totaled 4 billion barrels. Although Yemen's oil output declined each year from 200305, (from 448,288 barrels per day in 2003 to 416,656 barrels per day in the first nine months of 2005) the country hoped to boost output to 500,000 barrels per day in the late 2000s.

When Yemen aligned with Iraq during the Gulf War, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, Yemen's main aid donors and hosts to large numbers of Yemeni workers and their families, ended the Yemenis' privileged status. The economic impact of lost remittances was estimated at about $1 billion per year. After the Gulf crisis, Yemen was confronted with high unemployment, lost remittances, halving of US military aid, a sharp cutback in USAID programs, other canceled foreign assistance, and the cost of food imports and social services for the returnees totaling about $500 million.

Following the civil conflict in 1994, the government began a five-year program in 1995 that removed all controls on the exchange rate and cut the interest rate, as well as initialized trade policy reform, privatization, and the elimination of price controls. The reforms were favorably received by the World Bank and IMF, which agreed to provide aid.

A new liquefied natural gas drilling project promised exploitation of Yemen's 482 billion cu m (17 trillion cu ft) of gas reserves in subsequent years, although in 2002 US companies ExxonMobil and Hunt Oil withdrew from the project, leaving the French-based company, TotalFinaElf (Total) as the lead investor. However, Hunt later retracted its withdrawal. In 2005, the government approved three liquefied natural gas (LNG) supply agreements for 6.7 million tons per year, with KOGAS, Total, and Tractebel. Yemen subsequently awarded an engineering, procurement, and construction contract for the project. First shipments of LNG could be made available by late 2008, with gas likely to flow to the United States and South Korea.

Gross domestic product (GDP) grew at an average rate of 3.8% from 1988 to 1998. Low oil prices in 1999 held real GDP growth to 3.7% in 1999, and their recovery helped push real growth to GDP to 5.1% in 2000. A stabilization in oil prices combined with declines in the growth of agricultural output, electricity and manufactures, attributable more to the domestic lack of rain than to the global economic slowdown, reduced GDP growth to 3.3% in 2001. Consumer price inflation had fallen to 6% in 1996 and 8% in 1998, but the average from 1999 to 2001 was 11%. An increase to 15.8% inflation was estimated for 2002 reflecting high fuel, electricity, and food prices from both shortages and the lowering or elimination of subsidies.

Yemen's real GDP grew 2.7% in 2004, and was estimated at 2.5% for 2005. In 2005, agriculture made up 13.3% of GDP, industry 47.9% and services 38.8%. Most people are employed in agriculture and herding; services, construction, industry, and commerce account for less than one fourth of the labor force. Yemen is one of the 25 poorest and economically least developed countries in the world with about a third of the population living in poverty. In 2005, the GDP at market exchange rate was $14.1 billion and $17.2 billion in purchasing power parity terms (PPP); the per capita GDP (PPP) was $800. In 2005, the inflation rate was estimated at 9.6%. The unemployment rate was estimated at 35% in 2003. In mid-2005, the government attempted to roll back subsidies on all petroleum products, which led to a 90% increase in the price of gasoline and a 260% increase in the price of diesel fuel; prices on kerosene and cooking gas were also raised. The decision followed sustained pressure on the government from the IMF and World Bank to cut subsidies and introduce a sales tax, with the aim of curtailing government spending. Rioting and demonstrations followed the government's decision to eliminate the subsidies, and 22 people were killed in the violence. In late July 2005, the government rolled back the price increases.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Yemen's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $17.2 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $800. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 2.5%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 9.6%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 13.3% of GDP, industry 47.9%, and services 38.8%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $1.270 billion or about $7 per capita and accounted for approximately 11.5% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $243 million or about $13 per capita and accounted for approximately 2.4% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Yemen totaled $7.98 billion or about $42 per capita based on a GDP of $11.0 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 3.9%. In 2001 it was estimated that approximately 25% of household consumption was spent on food, 26% on fuel, 3% on health care, and 5% on education. It was estimated that in 2003 about 45.2% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


In 2005, Yemen's workforce was estimated at 5.83 million. According to 1999 figures (the latest year for which data was available), 54.1% of the labor force is employed in agriculture, 34.7% in the services sector, 11.1% in industry, with the remainder in undefined occupations. In 2003, the unemployment rate was estimated at 35%.

United Yemen enacted a new labor code in 1995, (amended in 1997) which guaranteed the rights of unionization and collective bargaining. The government restricts this right by placing government officials in union positions of prominence. The Yemeni Confederation of Labor Unions, the country's only labor confederation, had 350,000 members in 14 unions in 2002. There exists a limited right to strike. All collective bargaining agreements must be reviewed by the minister of labor.

There is no nationally fixed minimum wage. Average wages do not provide a family with a decent standard of living. Although children under the age of 15 are prohibited from working, child labor is common, especially in rural regions. The labor code calls for a maximum eight-hour workday and a 48-hour workweek.


Yemen, with its wide range of arable climatic zones, has the greatest potential for agricultural development of any nation on the Arabian Peninsula. Agriculture is an important part of the economy (accounting for 15% of GDP in 2003), despite the lack of arable land, scarcity of water, periodic droughts, and difficult terrain. Employment in the agricultural sector accounts for more than 50% of the workforce, but with only 3% of its land area arable, Yemen's potential for agricultural self-sufficiency is very remote. As of 2004, Yemen's agricultural trade deficit was $947 million.

Traditionally, Yemen was famous for its coffee, shipped from the port of Al-Mukha, from which the English word mocha derives. The main cash crop is qat, a mild stimulant chewed by many Yemenis on a daily basis, but not exported significantly because it is highly perishable. Industrial farming of fruits and vegetables, using modern irrigation techniques, provides a level of production to nearly satisfy domestic demand. As a high-cost producer, Yemen is not yet able to internationally compete in marketing its produce, especially since such exports are often blocked at the borders.

Agriculture output in 2004 (in 1,000 tons) included sorghum, 263; tomatoes, 248; wheat, 105; grapes, 169; bananas, 99; seed cotton, 29; sesame seed, 19; coffee, 11; and cotton, 9.9.


Animal husbandry is a key sector of the economy, and the export of hides and skins has long been an important source of foreign exchange. In 2001, the livestock population was estimated at 5,029,000 sheep, 4,453,000 goats, 1,400,000 head of cattle, 500,000 donkeys, and 198,000 camels.

Commercial production of poultry in Yemen began in the mid-1970s. Yemen produces about 95% of its annual consumption of eggs and is emerging as a significant producer of broilers (chicken meat). The brief civil conflict in 1994 hurt the industry by driving up the costs of imported feed and vaccines. About 87,000 tons of poultry and 32,000 tons of eggs were marketed in 2005.


Fishermen work along the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, and Red Sea coasts. The annual fish catch in 2003 was about 159,000 tons. Principal species of that catch included Indian and Spanish mackerel, cuttlefish, lobster, and scavengers. Fish-processing plants are located at Al 'udaydah and Al-Mukalla. Exports of fish and fish products were valued at $56.7 million in 2003. Pearl and coral diving have been practiced for centuries.


Forest and woodland coverage is negligible. Forests once covered Yemen, but overgrazing by goats and the systematic cutting of timber for fuel and construction have almost completely eliminated the forest cover, especially in the south. Roundwood production totaled 352,700 cu m (12.5 million cu ft) in 2004, all of it used for fuel. Lumber imports amounted to $86.1 million in 2004.


Until the discovery of petroleum, the preeminent segment of the Yemeni economy, the mineral industry, had been limited to the production of cement, dimension stone, gypsum, and salt. In 2004, production of cement amounted to 1,546,300 metric tons. Other mineral commodities produced in 2004 were: marble, 100,000 sq m; gypsum, 44,000 metric tons; and salt, 120,000 metric tons. The government was focusing on creating conditions favorable to foreign investment, to develop the nation's mineral resources. The government had exclusive domain over the precious stone and hydrocarbon industries; mining legislation guaranteed the rights of private property for all other commodities. ZincOx Resources, of the United Kingdom, continued evaluating the Al-Jabail zinc deposit, which Anglo American Corp. had explored in the late 1990s.


Yemen is a small non-OPEC producer of oil and has the potential to be an exporter of natural gas.

Yemen, as of 1 January 2005, had proven reserves of crude oil estimated at 4 billion barrels, according to the Oil and Gas Journal. Oil production in 2005 was estimated at 416,000 barrels per day. With domestic consumption of oil in that year estimated at 83,000 barrels per day, the country was a net exporter of oil. In 2005, net exports were estimated at 333,000 barrels per day. Yemen's crude oil refining capacity, as of 1 January 2005, was estimated at 130,000 barrels per day, based upon a pair of aging refineries, the 'Aden refinery and the Marib refinery. The capacity of the 'Aden refinery had declined from 170,000 barrels per day before the 1994 civil war to 120,000 barrels per day as of 1 January 2005. The newer Marib plant has a capacity of 10,000 barrels daily.

Yemen has proven natural gas reserves estimated, as of 1 January 2005, at 16.9 trillion cu ft. As of 2003, there was no systematic production of natural gas. Whatever gas is produced results from the oil extraction process and is re-injected. Most of the known reserves are concentrated in the Marib-Jawf fields.

Total electricity production in 2003 was estimated at 3.8 billion kWh, of which 100% was from fossil fuels. Total installed capacity in 2003 was estimated at 800,000 kW, and was entirely based on conventional thermal sources. Demand for electricity in 2003, was estimated at 3.6 billion kWh.


In northern Yemen industry traditionally has been based on food processing, but this subsector has suffered from poor productivity of agriculture and reliance on imported raw materials. Building materials, textiles, leather wear, jewelry, and glass making are other industries in the north. The largest industry in southern Yemen is petroleum refining. Southern manufactures include clothing, processed food, metal products, soap, and perfumes. Industrial production accounts for 47.9% of GDP (2005 est.)

Yemen's main refinery at 'Aden processed 60,000 barrels of petroleum per day in 1994 after sustaining damage in the civil war. Output reached 100,000 barrels per day by the start of 1995 with the repair of the main pumping station and two tapping units. That year, the refinery produced 26.5 million barrels of residual and distillate fuel oil, 10 million barrels of gasoline, and 3.5 million barrels of kerosene. In 2005, Yemen's total refinery capacity was 130,000 barrels per day, most from the 120,000-barrels-per-day-capacity 'Aden refinery operated by the 'Aden Refinery Company (ARC), and the rest from a 10,000-barrels-per-day refinery at Marib operated by Yemen Hunt Oil Company. In December 2002, the government signed an agreement with the Hadhramawt Refinery Company, a Saudi venture, for the construction of a 50,000-barrels-per-day refinery at Al Mukallā costing $450 million. Another refinery is planned for Ra's Isa with a capacity of 60,000 barrels per day, to be completed in 2007.

Yemen's considerable natural gas reservesestimated at 480 billion cu m (16.9 trillion cu ft), have not been developed. A liquefied natural gas project was initiated in 1995 by TotalFinaElf (now Total) and several other major multinational oil companies, which established the Yemen Liquefied Natural Gas Company (Yemen LNG). In June 2002, two US companies, ExxonMobil and Hunt Oil, announced they were leaving the consortium, but Hunt later retracted its withdrawal. In 2005, the Yemeni government approved three LNG supply agreements for 6.7 million tons per year, with KOGAS, Total, and Tractebel. The government then awarded an engineering, procurement, and construction contract for the project. The first shipments of LNG were planned for late 2008, with gas likely flowing to the United States and South Korea. In 2004, more than 25 companies bid on a domestic gas utilization and pipeline feasibility study for a proposed 373-mile pipeline that would transport gas from Marib to a power station at Mabar. The World Bank, in cooperation with Yemen's National Coordination Council, was funding this study.

As of 2006, the government was preparing a new investment plan to utilize Yemen's fish wealth, to attract Arab and foreign investment to the sector. Thirty-six sites were identified for fish cultivation. In May 2005, the first factory for the canning and exporting of fish was set up by a Saudi company. There was also German interest in establishing a fish cultivation site in Hadhramawt. Fish production increased to 151,000 tons between January and September 2005, an increase of 18.5% compared with the same period in 2004. Fish exports reached 74,000 tons in 2004, worth $213 million. Fish sector revenues rank second after oil revenues for the economy. Yemen ranked fourth among Arab fish exporting countries after Morocco, Mauritania, and Egypt in 2004. The fish sector created 315,000 jobs in 2004 compared with 100,000 in 1990. Approximately 1.7 million people were employed in the fish sector as of the end of 2005.

Construction of a 120,000 metric-ton-per-year-capacity rolling mill at Hodaidah for Al-Rahabi Trading Group was expected to be completed in 2005.

The government's economic diversification project would be helped by the development of metal deposits and additional industrial mineral deposits. In 2004, Yemen produced more than 1.5 million metric tons of cement, 44 million metric tons of gypsum, 120,000 metric tons of salt, 630,000 metric tons of sand and gravel, and 2.4 million metric tons of quarried stone.


The University of 'Aden, founded in 1975 at Al-Mansoora, has faculties of science, arts, and education; agriculture; engineering; and medicine. Şan'ā' University, founded in 1970, has faculties of science, medicine and health sciences, engineering, and agriculture.


At the center of most towns is a market place (sug ), the lanes of which are lined with open-front booths where food, clothing, and implements are displayed and sold. Some goods are bartered. Others sold for cash, usually after bargaining. The production of qat, a mild stimulant which many Yemenis chew, plays an important role in domestic trade. Relying on a highly efficient internal distribution system, the production of qat would increase per capita GDP an estimated 1520% were it included in the national income statistics. Corruption among civil servants is a common element of domestic commercesoldiers at checkpoints confiscate money or qat, and businesses are often obliged to pay off local officials.

Customary business hours are from 8 am to 1 pm and from 4 pm to 7 pm, Saturday through Thursday. Banks are open from 8 am to noon (11:30 am on Thursdays).

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 4,077.7 2,326.5 1,751.2
China 774.1 81.6 692.5
Korea, Republic of 735.2 28.3 706.9
Thailand 700.0 76.1 623.9
India 612.5 59.3 553.2
United Kingdom 252.3 177.4 74.9
Areas nes 113.9 113.9
Japan 84.3 73.9 10.4
Kuwait 71.0 108.7 -37.7
Australia 69.5 58.6 10.9
Brazil 63.5 57.4 6.1
() data not available or not significant.


Petroleum accounts for about 90% of the country's exports. Income from the production and sale of crude oil and natural gas accounted for 72% of total government revenue in 2004, largely due to the high price of oil on international markets. Other exports in recent years have included coffee and dried and salted fish; imports included food and live animals, machinery and equipment, and manufactured goods.

In 2004, Yemen's primary export partners were: Thailand (33.8%), China (30.3%), and Singapore (7.8%). Primary suppliers were: the UAE (12.2%), Saudi Arabia (9.7%), China (8.8%), France (7.3%), India (4.4%), the United States (4.4%), and Kuwait (4.2%).


Yemen's balance of payments was adversely affected in the early 1990s, as other nations sought to economically punish Yemen for its support of Iraq during the Persian Gulf War. In 1993, the current account deficit reached a peak of $1.217 billion, foreign exchange reserves sank to just $144.6 million, and the trade deficit was $920 million. Transfers, consisting largely of remittances from Yemenis working in other Gulf states fell by 42% between 1990 and 1993.

As of the early 2000s, Yemen's balance of payments position had substantially improved: its current account surplus stood at $1.8 billion in 2000, up from a $455 million deficit in 1998. Yemen's bilateral and multilateral debt situation had also improved, with debt to Russia reduced, debt rescheduling by the Paris Club, and financing from the World Bank and IMF. In 2005, Yemen's outstanding debts stood at approximately $5.689 billion.

In 2005, total exports were estimated at $6.387 billion and imports were estimated at $4.19 billion. The current-account balance was estimated at $1.282 billion.

Current Account 148.7
     Balance on goods 376.9
         Imports -3,557.4
         Exports 3,934.3
     Balance on services -685.9
     Balance on income -909.4
     Current transfers 1,367.1
Capital Account 86.3
Financial Account -61.1
     Direct investment abroad
     Direct investment in Yemen -89.1
     Portfolio investment assets -0.4
     Portfolio investment liabilities
     Financial derivatives
     Other investment assets -31.7
     Other investment liabilities 60.2
Net Errors and Omissions 156.4
Reserves and Related Items -330.3
() data not available or not significant.


The republican government set up the Yemen Currency Board in 1964 with a capital of yr2 million; in 1971, the Currency Board was replaced by the Central Bank of Yemen (CBY). The state-owned Yemen Bank for Reconstruction and Development (YBRD), founded in 1962, finances development activities, and the International Bank of Yemen, organized in 1980, operates as a commercial bank. In the 1970s, the YBRD dominated the banking business, controlling some 70% of the loans outstanding in the YAR; during the same decade, a number of foreign commercial banks, including ones from Hong Kong, Iraq, Pakistan, the United States, and the United Kingdom, opened offices in Şan'ā'.

The economic recovery in 1995 and the partial liberalization of interest rates on bank deposits appear to have succeeded in encouraging the growth in savings as reflected in higher quasimonetary holdings. In 2002, there were 11 commercial banks (9 private and 2 public) and two public sector specialized banks (Agriculture and Housing) operating under the jurisdiction of CBY. There were also three Islamic banks in operation. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $1.7 billion. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $3.4 billion. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 15.16%.

There are no securities exchanges in Yemen.


There were at least 10 insurance firms in the Yemen in 1999. Much of the Yemen's insurance business is transacted abroad. In 1999, there was 18.8 million dollars of premiums written in Yemen, giving the insurance industry a. 30% share of the Gross Domestic Product.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Yemen's central government took in revenues of approximately $5.6 billion and had expenditures of $5.7 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$103 million. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 35.9% of GDP. Total external debt was $5.689 billion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 1999, the most recent year for which it had data, budgetary central government revenues were yr282,268 million and expenditures were yr310,702 million. The value of revenues was us$1,813 million and expenditures us$1,995 million, based on a market exchange rate for 1999 of us$1 = yr155.718 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 30.8%; defense, 18.8%; public order and safety, 8.3%; economic affairs, 11.5%; housing and community amenities, 1.6%; health, 4.4%; recreation, culture, and religion, 2.8%; and education, 21.8%.


Personal income taxes are levied on wage workers and the self-employed. Taxes on business profits are taxed at a 35% rate. Capital gains are included in taxable income and are taxed at the corporate rate. Dividends, interest and royalties are each subject to a 10% withholding tax.

Other taxes include excise duties, road and vehicle taxes, port fees, a tax on rents, and telegraph fees. The state also derives income from the confiscated property of the imamate. Another tax is the 2.5% Zakat (the religious charity tax) which is state-enforced, but under the republican regime, its estimation has become a voluntary concern of each individual. Yemeni businessmen have been trying to abolish Zakat as an obligatory levy entirely, leaving it to the discretion of each individual to give to the needy. The chronic budget deficits of the 1980s forced the government to place considerably more emphasis on the traditionally lax collection of taxes. In early 2002 a general sales tax (GST) was signed into law, but its implementation was delayed pending a review of the country's indirect tax system.


Import duties are generally levied at rates varying from 5% on essential goods to 25% on luxury items; medical and agricultural items are duty-free, while tobacco is dutiable at 145%. Surcharges are added to these basic rates to cover defense expenditures, to finance schools and orphanages, and to assist the poor. Export duties are levied on a variety of products. Interestingly, in 1995 the government renounced the secondary and tertiary aspects of the Arab League's boycott of Israel, but will not renounce the primary aspect until the Arab League gives up the boycott completely by consensus of the member nations.


Foreign investment is encouraged by the Yemeni government as it is prospecting for more oil and hoping to develop its natural gas reserves. The Yemen General Investment Authority (GIA) was established in 1992, and worked with the World Bank's Foreign Investment Advisory Service, to revise Yemen's Investment Law 22 of 1991 (as amended) to refocus it on promotion rather than regulation of foreign investment. Investment law restructuring is part of the IMF-World Bank-sponsored economic reform program that has been being pursued in Yemen since 1995. The Yemeni Free Trade Zone Public Authority was established in 1991 to develop the 'Aden Free Trade Zone. The port was developed as a joint venture between the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) and the Bin Mahfouz Group of Saudi Arabia. In Phase II of the program, 30 hectares were made available for lease. Free zone incentives the right to have 100% foreign ownership, no personal income taxes for non-Yemenis, a 15-year corporate tax holiday, renewable for up to 10 years, and the right to 100% repatriation of capital and profit.

There are no reliable statistics on foreign investment in Yemen. US investment has mainly been in the oil and gas sector. The Houston-based Yemen Hunt Oil Company has been operating since 1984. Its pipelines have been repeatedly attacked. Security can not help but be a concern for Western investors given events like the kidnapping of 16 tourists in 1998 (with four killed in the rescue attempt; a bomb explosion at the 'Aden Refinery in 1998, the bombing of the USS Cole in 'Aden Harbor in October 2000, with 17 dead, and in 2002, the explosion and fire on the French-flagged tanker the Limburg, with one killed and 90,000 barrels of oil spilled. More hopeful is the settlement of its debt issues with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, which has thus made Yemen eligible for concessional loans from these neighboring states. In 1995, a consortium was established for the development of natural gas production. In addition to the government's 26% share, Total (France) had 36% equity; Hunt Oil (US), 14.6%; Exxon (US), 14.1%; and Yukong (ROK), 9.3%. In 2002 Exxon (now ExxonMobil) and Hunt Oil withdrew from this enterprise, which has stalled for lack of an identifiable market through which the investors could recoup their investments. However, Hunt later retracted its withdrawal. In 2005, the Yemeni government approved three LNG supply agreements for 6.7 million tons per year, with KOGAS, Total, and Tractebel. The government then awarded an engineering, procurement, and construction contract for the project. The first shipments of LNG were planned for late 2008, with gas likely flowing to the United States and South Korea. In 2004, more than 25 companies bid on a domestic gas utilization and pipeline feasibility study for a proposed 373-mile pipeline that would transport gas from Marib to a power station at Mabar. The World Bank, in cooperation with Yemen's National Coordination Council, was funding this study.

As of 2006, the Chinese Bank for Exports and Imports was considering funding the building of Yemen's first railway. In addition to Chinese investments, an overall increase in foreign investment was projected for the late 2000s. Up to the end of June 2005, the volume of Arab and foreign investment in Yemen reached approximately yr129 billion; investment in the industrial sector had reached yr69.5 billion. The services sector ranked second, at yr51.9 billion.


After unification in 1990, the new government assumed all debts incurred by former governments. Domestic political strains ultimately culminated in civil strife in 1994. As a result, the economy was further burdened with reconstruction costs.

The government launched a major reform program in 1995. The program included revenue mobilization through tax measures, depreciation of the customs valuation rate, the liberalization of cement prices, an increase of petroleum product prices by about 90%, and a 60% rise in electricity tariffs. The government's medium-term goal was to eliminate all subsidies by 19992001. Fiscal and monetary measures included the containment of primary nondevelopment budget expenditures, partial reform of the exchange system (including currency depreciation), interest rate reform, and monetary management reforms. Furthermore, transportation and communication charges were deregulated, health and education fees were increased, and privatization programs were initiated. In 1996, 16 public enterprises were targeted for privatization. Laws prohibiting foreign investment in certain industrial sectors were abolished in 1996.

International aid has an ongoing role in the economy's development. In early 1996, the IMF agreed to provide a 15-month standby credit of $191 million, and the World Bank authorized the loan of $80 million to support the reform policies. The World Bank also decided to allocate government loans to Yemen worth $365 million during 199699. The EU also pledged grants worth $61.7 million in 1996/97, including $30 million in project finance. Yemen benefited when Russia was admitted to the Paris Club (an organization of countries owed money from past official loans). Approximately 80% of Yemen's debts to Russia, mostly for arms purchases, was forgiven in the debt rescheduling. The remainder of Yemen's debt to Paris Club members was rescheduled under Naples terms (for the poorest countries, this allows for cancellation of 5066% of eligible sovereign debt), and in 2001, another Paris Club rescheduling provided an "exit treatment" that allowed Yemen to reach a sustainable level of indebtedness.

External debt was brought to a steady average of about 55% GDP for 2000. Yemen's fiscal imbalance has also improved in recent years, helped considerably by recovering oil prices. The fiscal deficit reached 6.4% of GDP in 1998, but then moderated to 0.2% of GDP in 1999, and, with increasing oil prices, soared to a surplus of 8.5% of GDP in 2000. In 2001 and 2002, the government continued to run surpluses of revenues and grants over expenditures, amounting to 2.8% of GDP in 2001 and 0.4% of GDP in 2002. Inflation, however, reached over 15% in 2002 due to increased prices for fuel, electricity and food. By 2005, however, the government had a budget deficit once again, with revenues of $5.616 billion and expenditures of $5.719 billion. Public debt was 35.9% of GDP. External debt was $5.689 billion. The inflation rate was estimated at 9.6%.

In 2002 the parliament signed into law a general sales tax (GST), but implementation of this major tax reform designed to broaden and rationalize the tax base was delayed with IMF approval while more information about the effect of indirect taxation was collected. Yemen remains one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. With a population growth rate of 3.45% in 2005 and growing, poverty has actually been expanding in recent years. About one-third of households are considered to be living in poverty. Water scarcity poses a severe challenge. The water crisis involves a depletion of groundwater, so that economic activity may become unsustainable in some areas. The growing of qat, while lucrative for many rural dwellers, consumes a disproportionately high amount of water, and accounts for half of irrigation water use in Yemen. Areas used for the growing of qat have expanded at a rate of 9% a year; the development of income-generating alternative crops that consume less water would create jobs and potentially develop new export commodities. The fertility rate is 6.67 and growing, and illiteracy among women and girls is particularly high70% of females and 29.5% of males are illiteratea social deficiency with serious implications for economic development.

In 2005, the World Bank announced it would increase its allocations for Yemen for the following three years, but only if the country's economic performance improved. The World Bank had reduced its funding from $420 million for three years beginning in 2002, to $280 million for three years beginning in 2005. In January 2006, the Yemeni government announced a third five-year development plan for poverty reduction, which was geared toward integrating the national economy with the international economy. Yemen hoped for accession to the WTO at that time, and was pushing for trade and industrial development. The five-year plan aimed to set up new industrial zones to improve opportunities for medium and small industries, and to set up a fund for industrial development. The plan also has measures to stimulate investment, including reforming the legal structure. Small industries are to be developed, such as crafts, clothes, and foodstuffs, so that they may compete in foreign markets. The plan called for measures to protect the environment from pollution, and to meet international standards regarding the protection of the environment.


A social insurance system provides old age, disability, survivor, and workers' compensation benefits. This program covers most employees, including Yemeni nationals working overseas. Workers contribute 6% of their wages, and employers pay 6% of payroll. The government contributes as an employer only. Old age benefits are payable at age 60 with at least 15 years of contributions for men, and age 55 with at least 10 years of contributions for women. A health insurance program exists only for public employees. While the government has expanded its role in providing assistance, traditional means still predominate.

Although the constitution provides for equal rights and opportunity for all, women face considerable official and social discrimination. Polygamy is legal, and the practice of paying large dowries continues to be widespread. Women are required to obtain permission from a male member of the family in order to leave the house, and are rarely allowed to travel unaccompanied. Women have limited access to education. Estimates place the illiteracy rate for women at 67.5%, compared with 27.7% for men. Child marriage is common, and some girls marry as early as 12 years old. Women are permitted to vote, but social customs discourage most women from becoming politically active. The law states that a wife must obey her husband. Violence against women and children is prevalent but considered a family issue and not reported to authorities.

Although reports of arbitrary arrest and detention continue, Yemen's human rights record remained poor, and the government continued to commit serious abuses in 2004. However, some international and domestic human rights organizations operate in Yemen.


Malnutrition and the diseases associated with it are major health problems It was estimated that nearly 30% of children under five were malnourished. Malaria, typhus, tuberculosis, dysentery, whooping cough, measles, hepatitis, schistosomiasis, and typhoid fever are widespread, and sewage disposal of the most rudimentary type constitutes a general health hazard. Approximately 69% of the population had access to safe drinking water and 45% had adequate sanitation. Civil conflict in July 1994 created a shortage of water, food, and medical supplies in 'Aden, exacerbating health problems. As of 2004, there were an estimated 22 physicians, 45 nurses, and 1 dentist per 100,000 people. Total health care expenditure was estimated at 5.6% of GDP.

Immunization rates for children up to one year old were tuberculosis, 62%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 57%; polio, 57%; and measles, 51%. Life expectancy in 2005 was estimated at 61.75 years; the infant mortality rate that year was 61.50 per 1,000 live births. As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at, respectively, 43 and 9.3 per 1,000 people.

The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.10 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 1,200 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country.


Housing is inadequate; about one-fourth of urban housing units are huts, tents, or other makeshift structures. In the hot coastal region, most dwellings, except those of the ruling classes, are straw huts. In the highlands, the poorer people live in huts of stone or baked brick. Wealthier Yemenis live in large houses whose style is unique to southwestern Arabia: the lower part is generally built of sandstone, basalt, or granite, while the upper part, which may rise from two to eight stories, is usually of baked brick with windows outlined in decorative designs. Often a loggia topped with brass and open on all sides rises from the roof. The preliminary results of the 2004 census indicated that there were 2,882,034 dwelling units in the country to serve a total population of 19,721,643 people. There were 7.14 people per household on average.


Early Yemeni education, with regard to medieval disciplines of law, religion, history and poetry, was sophisticated and, for a country of its type, remarkably widespread. Its people contributed nobly to medieval Islamic civilization. The Al-Azhar University of Cairo was well known for its education during the 10th and 11th centuries and it attracted students from nearby countries such as Ethiopia, Arabia, and Somalia. However, in the 19th and 20th centuries, there was slow progress in the field of education. Prior to the 1962 revolution, no proper educational system was in place. Civil war and internal political upheaval only worsened the situation.

In 1990, the literacy rate for the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen was 39.1% (males, 52.8%; females, 26.1%). The rate for the Yemen Arab Republic was 38.5% (males, 53.3%; females, 26.3%). The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 49%, with 69.5% for men and 28.5% for women.

Basic education is compulsory for nine years. This may be followed by three years of secondary education, through which students choose either scientific or literary studies at a general school or vocational or agricultural studies at a technical school. Islamic schools focusing on religious studies are also available. The academic year runs from September to June.

Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 72% of age-eligible students; 84% for boys and 59% for girls. In 2000, secondary school enrollment was about 34.5% of age-eligible students. It is estimated that about 65.5% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 30:1 in 2000; the ratio for secondary school was about 14:1.

There are two universities: Şan'ā' University (founded in 1970) and the University of 'Aden (established in 1975). Students who score well on the secondary leaving exam (Al Thanawiya ) may be admitted to university. Over 2,000 Yemenis are being educated at foreign universities. In 1999, it was estimated that about 11% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in higher education programs. As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 9.5% of GDP, or 32.8% of total government expenditures.


The Yemen National Library is located in 'Aden. The Miswal Library in 'Aden maintains a traveling library to serve citizens. The Library of the Great Mosque of Şan'ā' maintains a collection of 10,000 manuscripts, but is not accessible to the public. The British Council maintains two libraries: at 'Aden (3,000 volumes) and at Şan'ā' (10,4000 volumes).

The National Museum has branches in 'Aden and Şan'ā'. The 'Aden site focuses primarily on ancient, pre-Islamic civilizations. 'Aden is also home to the Crater Military Museum and the Crater Folk Museum. There are local museums in Taizz and Zafar.


Since unification, efforts have been underway to upgrade the country's telecommunications infrastructure. Two-way radio links Yemen directly with Cairo and Rome. Telephone and telegraph facilities are available in major cities, and a modern dial telephone system has been installed in Şan'ā', Ta'izz, and Al 'udaydah. In 2003, there were an estimated 28 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; about 704,800 people were on a waiting list for telephone service installation. The same year, there were approximately 35 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

The government operates or controls all of the broadcast networks through the Ministry of Information and the Public Corporation for radio and Television. As of 1999, there were 4 AM and 1 FM station and 7 television broadcast stations. In 2003, there were an estimated 65 radios and 308 television sets for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were 7.4 personal computers for every 1,000 people. There was one secure Internet server in the country in 2004.

In 2004, there were 6 government-controlled newspapers, 19 independent papers, and 14 party affiliated newspapers. There are approximately 80 magazines in circulation. In 2002 the three major daily newspapers were: Al-Thawrah (circulation 110,000), published in Şan'ā'; Al-Jumhuriyah (100,000), in Ta'izz; and Ar-Rabi Ashar Min Uktubar (20,000), published in 'Aden. The English-language weekly, Yemen Times, has a circulation of 20,000. All of the press is controlled by the Ministry of Information.

The constitution provides for free speech and press only within the limits of the law. The law includes restrictions on any speech or press against the government, particularly criticism of the head of state.


The government has encouraged the formation of cooperatives, but private associations with political overtones are suspect. There are chambers of commerce in the major cities. The Federation of Yemen Chamber of Commerce and Industry is located in Şan'ā'.

National youth organizations include the Fattah Socialist Youth Union, the General Union of Yemeni Students, General Union of Yemeni Youth, Supreme Student Committee of the Yemen Arab Republic, and the Yemen Scout Association. There are sports associations representing amateur athletes of all ages in a wide variety of pastimes.

The Yemeni Federation of Women's Organizations is based at Şan'ā' University. There are national chapters of the Red Crescent Society and UNICEF.


Tourists can visit historic and religious sites (such as the Ghumdau Palace and the Great Mosque in Şan'ā') and exotic markets, and enjoy scenic areas including the Red Sea coast. Passports and visas are required by foreign visitors. Vaccination against meningitis is required for pilgrims to Mecca. Precautions against meningitis, typhoid, and hepatitis are recommended for all visitors.

In 2003, there were 154,667 tourist arrivals, almost 39% of whom came from Saudi Arabia. There were 13,280 hotel rooms with 33,816 beds that same year.

According to the 2004 US Department of State estimates, the cost of staying in Şan'ā' was $216 per day. Elsewhere in the country, travel costs were less expensive.


Imam Yahya ibn Muhammad Hamid ad-Din (1869?1948) ruled during the period when Yemen established its independence; he was assassinated during an uprising. 'Ali 'Abdullah Saleh (b.1942) became president of the YAR in 1978, ending a period of upheaval in which his two immediate predecessors were assassinated. He became united Yemen's first directly-elected president in 1999. Field Marshal 'Abdallah as-Sallal (192094) was the first president of the YAR and held power from 1962 until a coup ousted him in 1967. 'Ali Nasir Muhammad al-Hasani (b.1940?) was prime minister of the PDYR in 1980 and president from 1980 to 1986. Haydar Abu Bakr al-'Attas (b.1939) was prime minister of the PDYR during 198586.


Yemen has no territories or colonies.


Burrowes, Robert D. Historical Dictionary of Yemen. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow, 1995.

Caton, Steven Charles. Yemen Chronicle: An Anthropology of War and Mediation. New York: Hill and Wang, a division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005.

Chaudhry, Kiren Aziz. The Price of Wealth: Economies and Institutions in the Middle East. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1997.

Jones, Clive. Britain and the Yemen Civil War, 19621965: Ministers, Mercenaries and Mandarins: Foreign Policy and the Limits of Covert Action. Portland, Ore.: Sussex Academic Press, 2004.

Kostiner, Joseph. Yemen: The Tortuous Quest for Unity, 19901994. London: Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1996.

Mackintosh-Smith, Tim. Yemen: The Unknown Arabia. Woodstock, N.Y.: Overlook Press, 2000.

The Middle East. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2005.

Rushby, Kevin. Eating the Flowers of Paradise: A Journey through the Drug Fields of Ethiopia and Yemen. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999.

Saliba, Therese, Carolyn Allen, and Judith A. Howard (eds.). Gender, Politics, and Islam. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002.

Seddon, David (ed.). A Political and Economic Dictionary of the Middle East. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2004.

The Yemeni War of 1994: Causes and Consequences. Edited by Jamal al-Suwaidi. London: Saqi Books, 1995.

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Republic of Yemen

Major Cities:
Sanaa, Aden, Taiz, Hodeida

Other Cities:
Dhamār, Ibb, al-Mukallā, Sa'dah


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated July 1993. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at the most recent information available on travel to this country.


YEMEN , once part of the ancient Kingdom of Sheba, is one of the oldest centers of civilization in the Near East. Although much of its early history is obscure, it is known that from about 1000 B.C. to A.D. 600, it was the center of an advanced culture based on intensive agriculture and a prosperous link in trade between Africa and India. A biblical reference speaks of its gold, spices, and precious stones as gifts given by the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon.

Halfway across the world and shielded from Western civilization for centuries, this lush, mountainous country has long remained politically and economically backward. Within Yemen, there is a variety of scenery, architecture, people, and customs, ranging across the hot and sandy coast land with bananas, palms and African-style thatch-roofed houses to the cool, coffee-growing central highlands dotted with stone fortresses.

After years of conflict, pro-Western Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen), and the only Marxist Arab country, the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen), merged into one countrythe Republic of Yemenon May 22, 1990. Today, Yemen is making rapid advances in modernizing political, economic, and public institutions, while seeking to retain the traditions of its culture and history.



Sanaa, the capital of the Republic of Yemen, is a growing city of about 630,000 people located in the middle of a broad valley between mountains that rise to 12,000 feet. Sanaa's altitudes of 7,226 feet above sea level and its position on the Arabian Peninsula provide an almost ideal climate. Although dust can be a problem, the winters are warm and the summers relatively cool. With the exception of two short rainy periods in spring and late summer, the air is very dry.

The geology of the Sanaa basin mixes volcanic with sedimentary rocks and the brown and black mountains create striking patterns in the morning and evening light. Many people are reminded of the stark beauty of Arizona and Utah, although the generally barren terrain is relieved by verdant channels of vegetation along the valley water courses. These water courses, or wadis, permit an extraordinary system of terraced farming along the slopes of the escarpment that turn the hills green during the two growing seasons of the year.

Sanaa has a unique architectural tradition dating from medieval times, which is preserved within the walls of the old city. Stone houses, often six or seven stories high, are highlighted by clusters of stained glass windows. Intricate designs traced in plaster decorate the exterior walls, while within the house guests climb stairs past the family quarters to a "mufraj" reception room. The mufrajthe word comes from the Arabic root "to view"is chosen if possible for its view of the city and mountains, and guests recline on colorful cushions and carpets.

A wall still surrounds most of the old city, and life within has changed little over the years. Narrow streets twist through the suq, or market area, offering a glimpse of blacksmiths working over their forges, meat, and vegetable vendors with their wares, gold and silver merchants and moneychangers doing brisk business, donkeys plodding beside their masters, colorful and pungent baskets of spices and children running everywhere. There is an atmosphere of continual festivity, with tribesmen from mountain villages examining the wares of the city alongside veiled housewives striking hard bargains with the merchants.

Westerners visiting the suq are treated with genuine friendliness by shopkeepers and their customersand with little of the harassing pressure to buy found in some other countries. The old city is a favorite destination of many Mission members, who enjoy bargaining for such treasures as elaborate silver jewelry, antique rifles, Maria Theresa coins from the Africa and India trade, as well as traditional jambias and embroidered cloth.

Outside the walled city, land prices have risen rapidly as emigrant workers invest their savings in new houses and shops. Construction projects continue in every area of Sanaa, but city services have lagged behind the population increase. Electricity outages in some areas are frequent, and voltage fluctuations can cause serious damage to electronic equipment not protected by voltage regulators. Houses in several districts are connected to municipal water and sewer systems, but many houses still rely on water wells or water delivered by tank truck, and their own septic tanks or cesspools. The municipal system provides water only for a limited time each week requiring that water be stored in roof-top tanks.

Traffic is increasingly congested, both from cars imported with emigrant capital as well as from construction and utility projects which can close roads for extended periods. Most new houses retain traditional features such as stained glass windows and mufraj rooms, but rarely exceed three stories.

Stores carry a variety of consumer goods but supplies are inconsistent and prices high. A well-tuned system of information among the western community announces when scarce items are again in stock. Dedicated shoppers can generally find most items they need and many people enjoy their frequent contacts with local shopkeepers.

Contrary to the situation a few years ago, Sanaa's grocery stores are well-stocked with a wide range of foodstuffs, albeit many are expensive by U.S. standards. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are widely available and inexpensive. Many food products familiar to American consumers, including snack foods, diet drinks and other packaged foods, are not available and should be included in consumable shipments.

U.S.Yemeni Relations

The U.S. first established diplomatic relations with Yemen in 1946, but is was not until 1959 that a resident legation was opened in Taiz. The Agency for International Development program began soon after, and the legation was upgraded to Embassy status.

The U.S. recognized the post-revolutionary Yemen Arab Republic on December 19, 1962. On June 7, 1967, during the Arab-Israeli conflict, the government of Abdullah al-Sallal severed diplomatic relations with the U.S. and all Americans were withdrawn.

In 1970, the Yemen Arab Republic requested the resumption of diplomatic relations, and on April 29, 1970, a U.S. Interests Section was established in the Italian Embassy in Sanaa. On July 1, 1972, full diplomatic relations were resumed during a visit by then Secretary of State William P. Rogers. A new USAID program was started in the spring of 1973 and the Peace Corps began several projects in the same year. A military sales agreement was signed in 1976, followed in 1979 by the establishment of the Office of Military Cooperation.

In 1984, the Hunt Oil Company discovered oil in Marib. The pipeline work began in 1986 and commercial production began in 1988. Then Vice President Bush attended the inaugural ceremonies of the central processing unit in 1986. Mr. Bush also inaugurated the beginning construction of the present embassy compound. President Ali Abdullah Saleh visited the U.S. on an official state visit in January 1990.

The former People's Democratic Republic of Yemen severed its diplomatic relations with the U.S. in 1969. Before the resumption of diplomatic relations, contacts between the U.S. and the PDRY was exceedingly rare. However, in 1980, after the fall of former President Abd al-Fattah Ismail, the PDRY began realigning its foreign policy toward the conservative Gulf Shaykhdoms and dropped its sponsorship of Dhofar separatists attempting to secede from Oman. In the late eighties, PDRY began exploring the possibility of reestablishing diplomatic relations with the U.S. which were resumed in April 1990.

In May 1990, the Yemen Arab Republic and the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen merged into the Republic of Yemen. A provisional constitution was overwhelmingly approved in a referendum held in May 1991. The unification agreement, according to which the ruling parties of the former North and South Yemen share power equally, stipulated a 30 month transitional period, due to end in November 1992. Parliamentary elections are scheduled to be held before the end of the period.

U.S.-Yemen relations took a turn for the worse as a result of the Gulf Crisis. The U.S. withdrew its Office of Military Cooperation, the Peace Corps, and slashed its AID program. As of mid-1992, bilateral relations continued to be strained by Yemen's political support for the regime of Saddam Hussein. However, Peace Corps volunteers returned in midsummer, 1991 and the program continues to expand. U.S. companies are playing a growing role in the development of Yemen.


A variety of food items is available in Sanaa, though prices are high, choice of brands is limited and quality varies, especially with fresh meat. Western-brand packaged foods are often found in grocery stores but their availability is sporadic and their price very high. The following is a partial list of foodstuffs available.

  • Fresh Meat: Beef, veal, lamb, chicken, rarely turkey.
  • Frozen Meat: Beef, lamb, chicken, duck, steak, beef sausages (all are imported).
  • Fresh Seafood: Shrimp (periodically), several varieties of fish (generally all of high quality, though lack of refrigeration requires care in choosing items).
  • Fresh Vegetables: Cabbage (no red), carrots, okra, potatoes, tomatoes, green peppers, hot peppers, leaf lettuce, egg plant, squash (in season), onions (red and yellow), garlic, spinach, green beans (in season), cauliflower (in season).
  • Fresh Fruit: Bananas, papaya, mango, pomegranates, figs, melon, grapes, limes, apples, oranges, peaches, pears and plums. Most fruits are highly seasonal.
  • Dairy Products: Eggs, "long life" milk, butter (imported), yogurt, ice cream. Fresh cheese is now generally available, as are canned cheeses.
  • Canned goods: Fair variety of canned fruits and vegetables, (all expensive). Locally produced fruit juices are reasonable in cost, but no sugar-free brands are available.
  • Toiletries: Limited variety of basic items such as toothpaste, soap, body lotion and shampoo (expensive and sometimes of poor quality).
  • Paper Products: Limited selection and expensive.
  • Soft Drinks: Limited variety but ample supply of brand-name soft drinks are available.
  • Miscellaneous: Most spices, ketchup and mustard (limited selection), pickles (limited selection), tea, coffee beans; vendors will grind the beans but result is usually too fine for American tastes. Instant coffee is available but expensive. Flour and sugar (coarsely ground of uneven quality).


Dress is relatively informal in Sanaa. Most Americans wear comfortable business attire to work. Formal wear for men is not required. Women wear both long and short dresses at receptions and cocktail parties. Women should also bring a "suq dress," an oversized, long sleeved garment with a high neck and hemline below the calf, and/or loose slacks with long over-blouse. While Yemenis are generally tolerant of Western behavior and dress, most Americans feel more comfortable wearing conservative clothing in public. For street wear, in addition to the "suq dress," women often wear slacks with a loose-fitting shirt or blouse which reaches the thigh. Shorts are worn only for sports.

Because of the constant dust in Sanaa, clothing may wear out quickly with frequent washing in hard water. Durable fabrics are recommended. With Sanaa's moderate climate, all but the heaviest and lightest materials will be comfortable most times of the year. Sweaters and light jackets are necessary for at least part of the day during the winter months and often evenings in summer. As most streets in Sanaa are unpaved, sturdy shoes with crepe or rubber soles are a necessity. Ladies' leather heels can quickly be ruined on gravel, which is used instead of concrete or asphalt in many parking areas and paths.

There are several stores in Sanaa offering western clothing. Prices are high, selection is limited especially for larger sizes, and quality only fair. A good selection of imported fabrics is available. Imported shoes are available, but, again, prices are high and selection only fair. There are a few dependable seamstresses in town who can make simple garments.

Supplies and Services

Cosmetics and toilet articles are appearing in increasing variety, though quality may not be up to American standards. Favorite brands should be brought.

High altitude and clear skies make for a harsh, bright sun. A good supply of sunblocks or suntan lotions should be brought. Sunglasses are also advisable. Reasonable quality non-prescription types can be found in town; prescription sunglasses should be brought. Hats are recommended for outdoor activities especially for children. Skin creams are important in Yemen's extremely dry air, and liquid soap may be more tolerable than regular bar soap. Lip balm is also useful.

Non-prescription drugs familiar to Americans may not be available; a supply of medicines such as aspirin, cough syrup, and digestive remedies should be brought. Prescription drugs may be available locally, but you should bring a supply.

Local, American, and English brands of cigarettes are readily available at reasonable prices. Menthol brands are harder to find. Some pipe tobacco and cigars are available, but not in great variety.

Three hotels provide clean, fair to good quality barber and hairdressing services at reasonable prices. There are a large number of cheaper barbers, though quality and cleanliness can be a question. Dry cleaning services are offered by hotels and many shops, and quality is satisfactory. Car rentals are available but prices are high and a Yemeni driver's license is required (drivers can be hired for an additional charge). Shoe repair is very primitive.

Religious Activities

Islam is the national religion and Yemeni law prohibits religious proselytizing. However, Yemen is tolerant of the private practice of religion by foreigners. Both Catholic and nondenominational Protestant services are held weekly at the Hadda Community Center. Catholic Mass is also held weekly and on holidays at the Sisters of Mercy home in Sanaa. A Protestant youth group holds regular meetings and sponsors various activities throughout the year. There are no functioning synagogues in Yemen, but Yemeni Jews hold religious services in their homes. There is an active Catholic church and Hindu temple in Aden.


The Sanaa International School (SIS) is an English-language day school with students representing about thirty nationalities. The Department of State considers SIS as "adequate" through the sixth grade, although many American dependents attend SIS through ninth grade.

English (reading, grammar, composition, keyboarding, and spelling), mathematics, cultural studies (history, geography, economics, etc.), science, art, music and physical education are offered as a part of the standard curriculum.

A 4-year American secondary program is offered, which includes the basic subjects and a limited selection of electives. Various enrichment activities are scheduled some afternoons each week.

The school year runs from late August through early June, and the children attend school Saturday through Wednesday with Thursday and Friday off. The school hours are: 8 am to noon for kindergarten; 8 am to 1:30 pm for children ages 6 through 11 (although some days students will stay for various activities or special subjects); and 8 am to 3 pm for students ages 12 years and up. Bus service is available for a yearly fee. Children are expected to bring a snack on the shorter days and lunch on activity days. All textbooks are loaned to the students, who are responsible for their own pencils, erasers and notebooks.

The school is located about 20 minutes outside Sanaa, and consists of a number of comfortable, spacious buildings around a center courtyard. The 35-acre campus has large play areas with outdoor play equipment.

A few English-language preschools are available for younger children. These preschools operate in private homes and have between 10 and 30 students. Qualifications of teachers vary, and other parents should be consulted before choosing a pre-school.

Special Educational Opportunities

The Sanaa International School offers night classes in various subjects from time to time, including computer programming. In addition, Sanaa University offers a few English-language courses, though admission requirements and quality have not been tested. The British Council offers basic Arabic classes at regular intervals for a moderate charge. The Peace Corps offers a 2-month intensive courses in Arabic, but charges must be paid personally by the student. The American Institute for Yemeni Studies (AIYS) hosts lectures on a variety of topics relating to Yemeni and Arab culture, and shows by local artists and entertainers. It also maintains an excellent library of books relating to Yemen. Visiting scholars supported by AIYS and USIA provide opportunities for discussing a myriad of topics.


The Sheraton and Taj Sheba hotels offer memberships for use of their heated swimming pools, exercise rooms, and tennis courts (Sheraton only).

The Sanaa chapter of the Hash House Harriers sponsors weekly runs through the scenic countryside. Yemeni soccer teams play weekly throughout the season, and visiting teams bring international-level competition several times a year. Many individuals jog through residential streets without difficulty, as long as they are vigilant for ubiquitous potholes, curious dogs, and vehicles that often drive on the wrong side of the streets.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

Much of the Yemen's natural beauty is increasingly accessible. Paved roads lead to the coast, to the southern areas of the country, to the city of Sa'ada in the north, and to Marib in the eastern desert. Four-wheel drive allows one to explore more remote areas of the country. However, visitors should use caution when traveling to these areas, as hijackings of vehicles (mostly large, four-wheel-drive Toyota land cruisers) are not uncommon.

The warm, coral-fringed Red Sea coast is a favorite spot for swimmers, fishermen, and snorkelers, especially during the moderate winter months. (There are no facilities for servicing scuba gear.) Scenic but primitive camping sites are available in several areas along the coast. No acceptable hotels are available outside of Hodeidah, and camping gear is necessary. Basic Arabic is quite helpful in communicating with local residents.

The ancient sites of the Marib Dam and Temple of the moon at Marib are an easy day trip from Sanaa. The "triangle" from Sanaa, west to Hodeidah on the coast, southeast to Taiz and back to Sanaa, is a popular weekend trip. It allows one to see the Tihama and the Red Sea coast, the medieval university city of Zabid, the famous port at Mocha, the fertile green farmlands of the southern highlands, spectacular mountain scenery and ancient walled cities at Taiz, Jibla and Ibb. Adequate hotels are available both in Hodeidah and Taiz. Other interesting places to visit are "Job's Tomb," an excellent spot for experienced and novice rock climbers, the extinct volcano of Hamt Dam, and the fossil fields just outside Sanaa.

Since unification in 1990, travel to Aden (formerly the capital of South Yemen and currently the "economic and commercial capital" of united Yemen) has become increasingly popular. There are two paved roads from Sanaa to Aden, where visitors will find stark contrasts with the NorthBritish and Soviet influences on architecture, and cultures are readily apparent. Visitors will find, among other things, one of the world's best natural harbors, scenic beaches, a popular brewery and an international-class hotel. Aden also boasts Yemen's finest (and only) Chinese restaurant.

Yemen is a photographer's paradise. The exotic scenery and children in native dress clamoring to be photographed provide delightful and exciting opportunities. Women, however, should not be photographed without their permission, nor any site that could be considered military. When in doubt, asking a local shopkeeper or traffic policeman for permission to photograph is both good manners and good sense. Yemeni authorities are sometimes suspicious of video cameras, especially in urban areas. In general, these cameras should only be used for recording family or American community events. Film is available, though in limited variety. Local processing is adequate for prints, although slide and movie film must be sent out of the country.


The Sanaa Amateur Minitheater Society, boasting members of several nationalities, provides several opportunities each year for budding performers as well as those who only wish to attend. In recent years the Society has presented several plays and play readings, musicals, dinner theaters, cabarets and pantomimes.

Social Activities

Approximately 350 Americans live in Sanaa, with much smaller communities in Taiz, Jibla, Aden and Sa'ada. Informal parties are frequent and provide excellent opportunities for meeting people. Most social activities take place in the home, but community picnics, athletic events, and amateur theatricals provide occasions throughout the year to meet the entire American community.

Yemenis are accessible people, and interesting friendships are possible, especially for Americans who speak Arabic. A few words of Arabic, even simple greetings, will go a long way toward making Yemeni acquaintances. An ever-increasing number of Yemenis speak English.

There are many diplomatic missions in Sanaa, as well as several expatriate business firms whose employees participate in social activities with Americans. Many nationalities are represented among the Hash House harriers running group, while the Christmas pantomime is an Anglo-American tradition in Sanaa.


When the two Yemens merged, Aden was chosen to be the economic capital of the country. Aden became a British crown colony in 1937 and in 1968 it became the capital of South Yemen.

The Old Testament book of Ezekiel mentions Aden as a trading partner with the Phoenician port of Tyre on the Mediterranean Sea. Aden maintained its position as a trading center in the following years under its rule by Yemenis, Ethiopians, Arabs, Turks, and the British. Situated between Africa and India, Aden became a strategic and convenient port in the years following its capture by the British in 1839. Aden became even more important as a trading center after the 1869 opening of the Suez Canal. However, Aden's economy and importance declined after 1967 when South Yemen became independent. The British withdrew from the country, resulting in a loss of tourist trade and the income generated by the British military base. The closure of the Suez Canal from 1967 to 1975, during the Arab-Israeli crisis, further eroded Aden's position.

The city has a population of more than 562,000 (2000 est.). Small industries include some light manufacturing, seawater evaporation plants (to obtain marine salt), and boat building. The international airport at Khormaksar, a northern suburb of Aden, is the former British Royal Air Force base.

Aden consists of three sections or quarters: the Crater, Ma'llah, and Tawahi. The Crater, so named because it is located in the crater of a dead volcano, is the old commercial quarter. Despite Aden's long history, very few very historic constructions still exist. The oldest surviving construction is the Aden Tanks, located at the southern edge of the crater. The Tanks are huge water cisterns partially carved out of rocks. On the edge of the crater still stand remnants of the old city walls and bastions, some dating back as far as the 12th century. The Mosque of Sayyid Abdullah al-Aidrus, built in the 14th century and largely renovated, is Aden's Islamic religious center. Ma'llah, a small port area, is known for its traditional Arab dhows (boats). The business quarter of Tawahi is where most of the tourist hotels and shops are located. Also in Tawahi is the National Museum of Antiquities, which has an interesting collection of pre-Islamic statues.


Taiz (sometimes spelled Taizz and Ta'iz), with a population over 180,000 is located in Yemen's southern highlands, about 125 miles south of both Sanaa and Hodeida. The three cities form a triangle and are connected by a road system. Bait al Faqih, Abid, and Yarim are other cities situated on these roads. Taiz, called "Aruzat al Yaman" in Arabic, meaning "bride of Yemen," is located in a narrow valley at the base of the rolling Saber Mountains, at an altitude of about 1,400 feet. It is an agricultural marketing center and was the country's administrative capital from 1948 to 1962.

The history of Taiz dates to the early seventh century, when the site first consisted of just a fortress on top of a steep cliff at the foot of Mount Saber. At this time, the town of al-Janad, four miles north of Taiz, was more prominent and because of the famous al-Janad Mosque, it was the religious and administrative center of the area. The shift in importance to Taiz began in 1174 when Turan Shah al-Ayyubi made the city the seat of his government. The city grew into a trade center, a position it still maintains today. Taiz expanded greatly during the time it served as Yemen's capital. The old city became an enclave in a fast-growing, modern urban center; the remains of the city walls near Mount Saber form an imaginary circle in which all the beautiful mosques and old houses can be found.

Many tourist sites may be found in Taiz, including two of the most beautiful mosques in Yemen. Al-Ashrafiya, with its two minarets, still serves as an important Koran school. Al-Mudhaffar has many small domes; its minaret collapsed after centuries and has never been rebuilt. The former Palace of Imam Ahmed and the Salah Palace both are museums now.

The Taiz souk offers a colorful variety of goods, including baskets, pottery, textiles, and carpets. Native women take an active part in the souk ; they wear colorful dresses and do not wear the traditional veils.


Mohammed Ali Othman School, for kindergarten through grade 12, is located in Taiz. The coeducational school, founded in 1972, has an enrollment of over 1,000, and over 60 teachers, including Americans.

The school employs a combined U.S., U.K., and Yemeni curriculum, with instruction in English and Arabic. Extracurricular activities include newspaper, music club, volleyball, and football. The school has seven buildings, 53 classrooms, playing fields, science laboratories, and a 6,000-volume library. The school's mailing address is: P.O. Box 5713, Taiz, Yemen.


Yemen's chief port is Hodeida (sometimes spelled Hodeidah and Al Hudaydah), located on the Red Sea about 90 miles west of Sanaa. Developed by the Turks in the mid-19th century as a seaport, Hodeida exports dates, coffee, and hides. A fire in 1961 destroyed most of the city, but it was rebuilt with aid from the former Soviet Union. Hodeida's modern harbor has a port that can accommodate medium-sized ships and tankers. The port facilities have been the impetus behind the city's expansion. Hodeida is linked to Sanaa by a highway; taxis and airlines also travel between the seaport and the capital. Hodeida has modern health and communications facilities. The population of Hodeida is over 300,000.

Historic sites are nonexistent in Hodeida. There is, however, a fish market on the city's southern shore, where wooden fishing boats are still built in the traditional way. Hodeida's clean, sandy beaches offer excellent swimming.

Southeast of Hodeida is the village of Bait al-Faqih, known as the handicraft center of the Tihama. Craftsmen from the surrounding area come to the village on market day (Friday) to sell pottery, leather goods, textiles, baskets, and other woven goods. Farther south is Zabid, which used to be the site of a prestigious Islamic learning institution. Zabid has a Great Mosque and a colorful market known for its local sweets.


DHAMĀR , with a population of over 40,000, is situated about 50 miles south of Sanaa. It is a provincial capital and market center for the nearby grain-growing region. Local tradition notwithstanding, first mention of the town is by the Arab geographer Yāqūt (1179-1229). He noted the city's handsome buildings and fecund countryside. Market gardens divide Dhamār in two; there are numerous mosques.

IBB is one of Yemen's most picturesque cities. Located about 100 miles south of the capital, its surrounding wall contains several homes. An aqueduct from the mountains supplies the city with a rare luxury in this countryrunning water. The Muzaffarīyah Mosque, among the dozens here, is considered especially beautiful. Ibb is a farming center, situated in the province that receives the highest rainfall, and remains green all year long. It has a souk, or marketplace, that serves as the regional hub for agricultural products. The city may date to biblical times. Its estimated population is roughly over 34,000.

AL-MUKALLĀ , the only important port in eastern Yemen, is 320 miles northeast of Aden. With a population of more than 50,000, al-Mukallā is the largest city east of Aden and is a market center for the mostly undeveloped interior regions. The fishing industry is of prime importance here. Industries include a fish canning plant and a fish meal factory; fish products, along with tobacco, are the major exports. Boat building is also important here.

SA'DAH , situated 120 miles northwest of Sanaa, is the capital of Sa'dah Province. The city of roughly 12,000 residents (1986 est.) is a major administrative center in the north. Industries here include leather goods manufacture and stoneware production. Sa'dah was the first headquarters for the Zaydī imams (leaders), who ruled the country from 860 to 1962. It lost its stature when the capital was moved to Sanaa in the 17th century. A recently built road connects Sa'dah with Sanaa and Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.


Geography and Climate

The Republic of Yemen is located in the southern corner of the Arabian peninsula bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north and east, Oman to the east, and by the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea to the South and by the Red Sea to the west. In area, it is about 204,000 square milesthe size of France.

Sanaa, the capital, is located at an altitude of 7,200 feet above sea level. Nearby is the highest mountain between East Africa and Iran, Djebel al-Nabi Shu'ayb, at 12,300 feet. The interior highlands have two rainy seasons a year: the first, in March and April; and a second, heavier, rainfall in July and August. For the rest of the year, sunny clear weather is the rule, with occasional dust storms. In winter, nighttime temperatures in Sanaa can drop to 30°F, with sunshine and day time highs of 70°F. Summer temperatures are very moderate, with highs of 85°F, dropping to the low 60s at night. The climate is very pleasant.

To the east of the highland interior, the terrain slopes down to the sandy wastes of the deserts of inner Arabia, the famous "Empty Quarter." These desert areas are extremely dry, with summer temperatures exceeding 110°F, but they can be quite cold on winter nights.

To the west, in the Tihama (the lowlands adjoining the Red Sea) where there is a mixture of African and Arabian cultures, the temperatures are very hot and humid for much of the year. Even in winter, daytime highs can be in the 90s. During the summer, torrential monsoons occur. Aden is similarly hot and humid, with summer temperatures frequently in the 100s. However, winter temperatures are far milder and more pleasant. The Hadhramaut and the desert regions extending east from Aden to the Omani border are hot and dry.


In 2000, Yemen's population was estimated at 17,521,000. Before the Gulf Crisis, about 1.4 million Yemenis were working overseas, with perhaps over 1 million in Saudi Arabia alone. One consequence of Iraqi aggression is that 800,000 to 850,000 Yemeni workers returned home. Over half the population of the Arabian peninsula lives in the Republic of Yemen.

In contrast to the nomadic traditions of other peninsula inhabitants, most Yemenis have long been settled in small agricultural communities, and the population is still mostly rural. Because of poverty and the shortage of arable land, there has been a long tradition of Yemeni men working as expatriate workers and small traders. Many Yemenis have close family relations in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Djibouti, and there are Yemeni-origin communities as far-flung as the U.S. and Korea.

Yemenis belong to two principal Islamic religious groups: The Zaydi community of the Shi'a sect, which predominates in the northern, central, and eastern areas of the country; and the Shafi community of the Sunni sect in the southwest. The Zaydi Shi'a have a distinct religious tradition that differs little from the Sunni mainstream. Yemen also has the vestiges of a once thriving Jewish community, believed by some scholars to be one of the oldest diaspora communities in the world.

Arabic is the official language of Yemen, although English is gradually becoming more common as a second language.

Yemenis are proud of their culture and history and regard their distinctive civilization as a unifying force among the many tribes that make up the population. This distinctiveness has been recognized in several fields. For example, the architecture of the old city of Sanaa has been accorded protective status by UNESCO. Another characteristic feature of Yemeni society is the chewing of qat leaves at social sessions. Yemeni men, especially tribesmen, prominently carry the "jambia," a curved knife, at the waist as a sign of their personal dignity and independence.

Although Western dress is becoming more common, especially in the cities, most Yemeni men still wear the traditional "futtah" skirt, or full length "thobe," and an open jacket with their jambias. In the tribal areas of the north and east, most adult men also carry a rifle.

Yemeni women living in urban areas usually veil completely. In public, they generally wear black overskirts, loose-fitting capes and veils, or colorfully printed draperies over embroidered dresses and loose trousers. However, customs differ. In Taiz, women generally cover their hair with bright gold or saffron colored scarves but do not otherwise veil. Veiling is less common in rural areas, although many women will draw scarves across their faces if strangers approach. Some younger Yemeni women, especially university students, cover their hair with scarves. In Aden after unification, women have begun to cover their hair more frequently than before.

Yemenis are, for the most part, very friendly to Americans. Many have family and tribal ties to the thousands of Yemenis who have emigrated to the U.S. Since most Yemenis do not speak English, even a few phrases in Arabic will be warmly appreciated.


From about 1000 B.C. to 600 A.D., Yemen was the center of an advanced civilization based on intensive agriculture and a lucrative trade in aromatics, such as frankincense, with Mediterranean countries. The Biblical Queen of Sheba, Queen Bilquis, presided over a flourishing kingdom centered in Marib. Ruins of temples and walls, as well as of the famous Marib dam whose final rupture in A.D.570 (recorded in the "Elephant" sura of the Koran) spelled the end of this civilization, can still be seen near Marib. According to popular tradition, the city of Sanaa was founded by Shem, a son of Noah.

The country converted to Islam about A.D. 628 during the prophet Mohammed's lifetime. Previously, it had undergone periods as both a Jewish and Christian kingdom. Yemen provided many warriors to Islamic armies, and its artisans worked in constructing buildings that have given Islamic architecture its renown. Since early medieval times, Yemen has enjoyed varying political and economic fortunes that have been tied closely to the relative importance of its caravan routes. The Zaidi Imamate was founded by Yahya bin Husain bin Qasim al-Rassi, in A.D. 897 and lasted until the Republican Revolution in 1962. Other important dynasties that ruled in northern Yemen included Sulayhids, who produced the second great female leader in Yemeni history, Queen Arwa bint Ahmad. She established her capital in Jibla and ruled between A.D. 1067 and 1138. A second dynasty, important for its mosque-building activities and for the establishment of the famous medieval university in Zabid, was the Rasulids. Areas of the country were twice ruled by the Ottoman Turksthe first period lasted from 1513 to 1636and the second from 1849 to 1918.

After the departure of the Turks in 1918, Imam Yahya assumed political control of the north. Succeeding Imams kept the country in almost complete isolation until the regime was overthrown on September 26, 1962 by elements intent on modernizing the country's medieval economic, political, and social structures. The new republic was opposed by forces loyal to the Imam's family for several years. The Republicans were supported by Egyptian troops and the Royalists by Saudi Arabia, and periodic heavy fighting continued for almost 8 years between the Republican and Royalist forces and their supporters.

The Egyptians departed in November 1967, and a settlement was mediated by Saudi Arabia and Egypt in March 1970, which guaranteed a republican form of government in the former Yemen Arab Republic. Subsequent presidents of the republic established a written constitution and parliament. The new state faced both external and internal threats. It fought two border wars with the Communist-ruled People's Democratic Republic of Yemen in 1972 and 1979 and suffered from a Communist-inspired insurgency until the mid-eighties. Two Presidents were assassinated within a year in 1978. President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the current President of the unified Republic of Yemen, took office in that year.

South Yemen was a focus of European attentions from the beginning of the 15th Century. Attracted by the superb natural harbor of Aden, the British came to Aden in 1839 and quickly established relations with sultans in the hinterlands of Hadhramaut to protect their position in Aden. With the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, the British reinforced their position in Aden in order to ensure their line to India and their dominance in the region. Following the departure of the British in 1967 and independence, the militant Marxist National Liberation Front (NLF) took power. The People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY) was proclaimed under Communist Aaegis in 1970 and immediately began to support an unsuccessful guerilla war in the Dhofar province in neighboring Oman. In January 1986, Aden was rocked by a bloody 10-day coup between rival leftist factions. Estimates of those killed during the coup range up to 10,000.

Yemeni unification took place on May 22, 1990, following the decline of Soviet support for the PDRY and the collapse of the economy. The new state, the Republic of Yemen, was accorded immediate recognition by most of the world community, including the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.

Public Institutions

Yemen essentially has two political systems: an developing democracy and an ancient tribal system. Yemen's government is divided into three branches: the executive, with the President appointing a cabinet headed by a Prime Minister; the legislative, with a 301-member unicameral Parliament; and the judiciary, consisting of three levels of courts (magistrate, appellate, and supreme).

The president is elected by popular vote from at least two candidates selected by the legislature. Yemen held its first direct presidential elections in September 1999, electing President Ali Abdallah Salih to a five-year term in what were generally considered free and fair elections. However, a Constitutional amendment adopted in 2000 extended the presidential term by two years, moving the next presidential election to 2006.

A 2001 amendment created the bicameral legislature consisting of a Shura Council (111 seats; members appointed by the president) and a House of Representatives (301 seats; members elected by popular vote). Parliamentary terms of office are 6-years.

Yemeni law is a mixture of tribal customs (known as urf), Muslim religious statutes (sharia), executive decree, and parliamentary legislation. New laws do not yet cover the full range of civil issues, but they have codified some traditional procedures, while introducing new concepts regulating commerce, labor, nationality, taxes, and civil rights. Outside urban areas, justice and law are still largely administered by traditional figures such as religious judges and tribal leaders

Arts, Science, and Education

In medieval Yemen, disciplines of law, religion, history and poetry were sophisticated and widely spread among the population. Yemen made many important contributions to Islamic civilization: a famous example is the development of algebra in the University of Zabid in the Tihama. Yemeni teachers taught in the Al-Azhar University of Cairo in the 10th and 11th centuries and students came to Zabid from all over Arabia, Ethiopia and Somalia. Yemeni isolation in recent centuries, however, led to a development gap which has had lasting consequences.

A low level of education (literacy is about 53% for males and 26% for females) has hampered development projects initiated by the government, but the number of students has greatly increased in recent years. Primary school enrollment in 1997 was about 2.7 million students. However, in the same year, secondary school enrollments only reached to about 354,000 students.

Yemen's principal universities are the University of Sanaa's arts colleges (including the Faculty of Education, which has branches in several other locations in Yemen) and Aden University. Total university enrollment in 1997 was about 65,675 students, with about 2,000 additional students studying abroad.

Commerce and Industry

Although once noted for its exports of coffee from the port of Mocha, today Yemen now exports little other than oil. The discovery of oil in both North and South Yemen has been regarded as the most significant economic development in many years. Oil was discovered July 4, 1984, by the American-owned Yemen Hunt Oil Company (YHOC) in the Marib region east of Sanaa. The Soviets also found oil about 80 miles to the south of the Marib area in the mid-80's. Yemen is believed to have modest reserves by Arabian peninsula standards. Export pipelines were constructed from both fields to oil terminals. Oil from the YHOC fields began to be exported in 1988, while no oil from former Soviet field (block 4) has been exported as of July 1992.

Outside of the petroleum sector, Yemen's economic prospects are limited. Yemen continues to import much of its food and, with a population growing at over three percent a year, chances for it becoming self-sufficient in food are slim. Agriculture cannot be expanded significantly due to the limited supply of water. Yemen is able to produce modest quantities of fruits and vegetables for export to its neighbors which should increase once relations with them improve. A small food processing industry has developed in the last decade mainly using imported raw materials. While primarily for the domestic market, some of this production is exported; including to Europe. Fishing holds some brighter prospects although over-fishing in the former South has severely depleted stocks. The government is committed to economic liberalization and improving the climate for investment although so far this commitment has yielded few tangible results. A new investment law has been passed but implementing regulations and the investment authority are not yet functioning.

The government has eased restrictions aimed at controlling imports. Formerly, it had sought with little success to limit outflow of foreign exchange by restricting imports through licensing and providing foreign exchange only for authorized imports. After unification, the government relaxed import restrictions and has generally not acted to halt smuggling of consumer goods. The government is allowing high levels of consumption and has not yet completed legal and political steps to create a more favorable environment for capital investment.



Within Sanaa, taxis are common, but hardly luxurious, and often operate on a group basis. Fares are generally reasonable and should be negotiated in advance. Tipping is not necessary. Women are generally advised not to take taxis alone.


Taxis between cities have a poor safety record and are not recommended. Buses are generally considered safer, since journeys are scheduled and drivers have no incentive to make the trip faster than safety permits.

The network of paved roads which now links Yemen's major cities is being steadily extended, but many parts of the country are accessible only by rough and narrow tracks with no roadside services available. Yemen is now connected to Saudi Arabia by an excellent road running from Jeddah to Hodeidah.

Major airlines serve Sanaa International Airport, including Air France, Lufthansa, Egyptair, Royal Jordanian, KLM (starting October 1992) and the national carrier, Yemenia Airlines. No U.S. carriers operate in Yemen.


Telephone and Telegraph

Domestic telephone service is fairly reliable. Service to countries, such as the U.S., with international direct-dial facilities is excellent but very expensive. A call to the U.S. costs about twice as much as the cost of the same call initiated from the U.S. Operator-assisted calls can take up to 3 hours. It is more economical to have families and friends in the U.S. do most of the calling. Telegrams may be sent from the downtown office of Cable and Wireless. A written text is necessary to ensure accuracy.

Health and Medicine

Sanaa is located at an altitude of 7,200 feet and is dusty. Individuals with respiratory or heart problems are suggested to contact Med before assignment.

Medical Facilities

Sanaa hospitals are used only in emergency situations. Hospitals are also located in Sa'ada and Jibla (both about 4 hours by car from Sanaa).

You and your family should ensure that all required dental treatment is completed before arriving in Sanaa. Local dentists are not trained or equipped to U.S. standards. They generally are used only for simple fillings and similar dental procedures.

Community Health

Public health conditions in Sanaa and other cities remain poor. Municipal garbage collection is irregular, and many areas suffer from overflowing dumpsters. Given the dryness and altitude, household pests are not a big problem and all homes are screened against flies. Happily, few rats exist in Sanaa, since a thriving population of wild cats and dogs keeps them under control. The cats and dogs pose some threat of rabies. Early morning joggers sometimes carry small stones to scare off the easily cowed dogs, who are rarely seen during day and evening hours.

Most water supplies, either from city services or private water companies, come from deep wells but are often contaminated. A city-wide sewer system is under construction but not yet completed, and wells can be contaminated by ubiquitous shallow cesspools. Proper treatment of water by boiling and filtration protects against water-borne diseases.

Preventive Measures

Dusty days can prove an inconvenience to sinus and allergy sufferers. Plant allergies, in contrast, are not a problem with the sparse vegetation around Sanaa.

Commercially bottled water and carbonated soft drinks manufactured in Yemen are safe and are widely available throughout the country. Some local hotels and restaurants offer food that is safe and sanitary.

Typhoid has occurred in Yemen in recent years, as well as polio, tuberculosis and scattered incidents of hepatitis A. Some malaria cases have been reported from exposure in the lowlands. However, malaria is not present at the altitude of Sanaa. Cholera has been reported in scattered locations in Yemen.

Gastro-intestinal parasites are common, but can be diagnosed and treated routinely. Firm discipline in water and food preparation greatly reduces the likelihood of such illnesses.

Schistosomiasis or bilharzia is endemic in Yemen but can be easily avoided by not wading or swimming in streams or fresh water pools. Fresh vegetables must be washed in a chlorine or iodine solution. You can buy imported meats, but they must be well cooked. Local meat from selected stores is also safe after thorough cooking.


Qat is a leaf which many Yemenis like to chew in the afternoon hours after lunch. It is on the official U.S. list of controlled substances and may not be imported into the U.S. It produces a mild amphetamine-like reaction. Much of the social activity of Yemen is centered around the "Qat chew." Important business agreements as well as community and national matters are usually discussed, and often decided during these sessions.

While qat does not appear to be physically addicting, withdrawal reaction has been known to occur after many years of regular chewing. The dangers include: blood pressure elevation; infectious diseases transferred via its leaves and/or the water with which it is washed; and ingestion of pesticides or other chemicals sprayed on the leaves.


Passage, Customs & Duties

Connections are usually made from Frankfurt, Paris, London, Bahrain or Jeddah, with flights in or out of Sanaa most days of the week. Reservations should be made and confirmed as far ahead of time as possible.

Passports and visas are required. As of November 17, 2001, the Yemeni government stopped issuing visas to American passport holders at airports and other points of entry. All U.S. travelers to Yemen must obtain visas prior to travel at Yemeni embassies or consulates overseas. Upon arrival in Yemen, travelers should register within the first month at the Immigration Authority in Sanaa or at any police station in the district where they are residing. Long term residents should reregister when they change their residence. Yellow fever vaccination is recommended. For further information on entry requirements, please contact the Embassy of the Republic of Yemen, Suite 705, 2600 Virginia Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20037, telephone (202) 965-4760; or the Yemen Mission to the U.N., 866 United Nations Plaza, Room 435, New York, N.Y. 10017, telephone (212) 355-1730. The Embassy in Washington, D.C. maintains a home page at

Americans who are considering studying in Yemen should make this fact clear to a Yemeni consular official in the United States and apply for the appropriate visa. Some American Muslims who come to Yemen for tourism or Islamic studies at Yemeni schools and have appropriate visas nevertheless have been detained by Yemeni security officials who seized their passports. In such instances, the American citizens were told their passports would be returned when they departed the country. Some Americans studying in Yemen without official permission have been deported.

Yemeni government security organizations have arrested and expelled foreign Muslims, including Americans, who have associated with local Muslim organizations considered extremist by security organs of the Yemeni government. The events mentioned in the WARNING section of this Consular Information Sheet have served to make Yemeni authorities, if anything, more suspicious of some foreign Muslims. Any American in Yemen who is considering associating with any political or fundamentalist Islamist group should discuss those intentions with a Yemeni consular official in the United States before traveling to Yemen. Americans risk arrest if they engage in either political or other activities that violate the terms of their admission to Yemen.

Yemeni law prohibits the removal of antiquities from the country. Yemeni authorities define antiquities loosely as anything man-made that is more than 50 years old. Persons attempting to depart with antiquities are subject to arrest, imprisonment or fines.

Yemeni customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Yemen of items such as firearms, pornography, and antiquities. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Yemen in Washington, D.C. for specific information regarding customs requirements.

Americans living in or visiting Yemen are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa and obtain updated information on travel and security conditions within Yemen. The U.S. Embassy is open for American citizen services between 8:30 and 10:30 a.m., Saturday through Tuesday. The Embassy is located at Dhahr Himyar Zone, Sheraton Hotel District, P.O. Box 22347. The telephone number of the Consular Section is (967) (1) 303-155, extension 118, 265 or 266. The fax number is (967) (1) 303-175.


Photography of military installations, including airports, equipment, or troops is forbidden. In the past, such photography has led to the arrest of U.S. citizens. Military sites are not always obvious. If in doubt, it is wise to ask specific permission from Yemeni authorities.


Dogs and cats require current rabies and distemper vaccinations as well as a general certificate of good health dated within 2 weeks of arrival. Pets are generally cleared immediately upon their arrival. Shipment through Air France or Lufthansa is recommended. Some birds, including African parrots, and animals such as turtles and reptiles are not permitted entry. There are several Western-trained veterinarians in Sanaa.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures

The Yemeni Riyal (YR) is broken down into 100 fils. Notes are available in denominations of YR1000, 500, 100, 50, 20, 10, 5 and 1. Coins are in denominations of 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 fils. The exchange is around 164.59YR=US$1.

Travelers should be aware that automatic teller machines (ATM) are not available in Yemen. Credit cards are not widely accepted.

The metric system is understood within Yemen's main cities, but several traditional measures continue in use.


Jan. 1 New Year's Day

May 1 Labor Day

May 22 Yemeni Unity Day


Mawlid an Nabi*


Id al-Fitr*

Id al-Adha*

Lailat al Kadr*

*variable, based on the Islamic calendar


The following titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.

History, Politics, and Economics

Ahroni, Reuben. Yemenite Jewry: Origins, Culture, and Literature. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986.

Amin, Dr. S.H. Law and Justice in Contemporary Yemen: People's Democratic Republic of Yemen and Yemen Arab Republic. Glasgow: Royston Limited, 1987.

Bidwell, Robin. The Two Yemens. Westview Press: Boulder, 1983.

Burrows, Robert D. The Yemen Arab Republic: The Politics of Development, 1962-1986. Boulder: Westview Press: London and Sydney: Croom Helm: 1987.

Daum, Werner, ed. Yemen: 3000 Years of Art and Civilization in Arabia Felix. Innsbruck: Pinguin Verlag, n.d.

Doe, Brian. Southern Arabia. London: Thames and Hudson, 1972.

Dorsky, Susan. Women of Amran: A Middle Eastern Ethnographic Study. University of Utah: Salt Lake City, 1986.

Dresch, Paul. Tribes, Government, and History in Yemen. Oxford: Clarendon Press: New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Gause, F. Gregory III. Saudi-Yemeni Relations. Columbia University Press: New York, 1990.

Halliday, Fred. Arabia without Sultans. New York: Vintage Books, 1975.

Ismail, Tareq Y., and Jacqueline S. The People's Democratic Republic of Yemen: Politics, Economics, and Society. London: Pinter, 1986.

King, Gillian. Imperial OutpostAden. New York: Oxford University Press, 1964.

McDonald, Elieen. Brides For Sale? Human Trade in North Yemen. Edinburgh: Mainstream Publishing Company, 1988.

. Conflict in the Yemens and Superpower Involvement. Washington, DC: Georgetown University, 1981.

Peterson, John E. Yemen: The Search For a Modern State. London: Croom-Helm, 1982.

Pridham, B.R. Contemporary Yemen: Politics and Historical Background. Croom-Helm: London, 1984.

Pridham, B.R. (ed) Economy, Society and Culture in Contemporary Yemen. London: Croom Helm, 1985.

Serjeant, R.B. and Lewcodk, Ronald, eds. Sanaa, An Arabian City. London: World of Islam Festival Trust: London, 1983.

Stookey, Robert. South Yemen: A Marxist Republic in Arabia. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1982.

. Yemen: Politics of the Yemen Arab Republic. Westview Press: Boulder, 1978.

Wenner, Manfred. Modern Yemen, 1918-1966. Johns Hopkins Press: Baltimore, 1967.

. The Yemen Arab Republic, Development & Change in an Ancient Land. Westview Press: Boulder, 1991.

World Bank. Yemen Arab Republic: The Development of a Traditional Economy. Washington, D.C., 1979.

Zabarah, Mohammed Ahmad. Yemen: Tradition vs. Modernity. New York: Praeger, 1982.

Tourist Guides

Chwaszcza, Joachim, ed. Insight Guides: Yemen. 1st ed. Singapore: APA Publications (HK) LTD, 1990.

Hamalainen, Pertti. Yemen: a Travel Survival Kit. Victoria, Australia: Lonely Planet Publications, 1988.

Hansen, Eric. Motoring With Mohamed. Vintage Press: New York, 1992.

Marechaux, Maria and Pascal. Arabian Moons: Passages in Time through Yemen. Concept Media Ltd: Singapore, 1987.

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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Republic of Yemen
Region: Middle East
Population: 17,479,206
Language(s): Arabic
Literacy Rate: 38%
Academic Year: August-June
Compulsory Schooling: 9 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 7.0%
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 2,699,788
  Secondary: 354,288
  Higher: 65,675
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 70%
  Secondary: 34%
  Higher: 4%
Teachers: Primary: 90,478
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 40%
  Secondary: 14%
  Higher: 1%

History & Background

The Republic of Yemen (hereafter, Yemen) was formed on 22 May 1990 with the merger of the Yemen Arab Republic (YAR, or North Yemen) and the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY, or South Yemen). The YAR, an Imamate (or kingdom), which had been under Ottoman rule until it achieved independence after World War I, was very insular and retained much of its traditional lifestyle and social structure until the 1980s. It became a republic after a civil war from 1962 to 1970, which also saw the involvement of Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The YAR's traditional and conservative society contrasted sharply with the PDRY, which gradually became a British protectorate after the capture of Aden in 1843 and after the British left in 1967, adopted Marxism as its political system after declaring independence. The merger of the two very different countries can be traced to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the economic pressures of the late 1980s, as well as to an informal shared sense of ethnicity and nationhood among the people of both countries. A short but difficult civil war was fought for several weeks in 1994, largely along YAR-PDRY lines and led by elites of each side, over the issues of political power in the unified state and the disbursement of public funds and wealth from newlydiscovered oil fields.

Yemen is located in the southwestern corner of the Arabian peninsula; its Arabic name al-yaman, is derived from the old term al-yamanan meaning "south"(of Mecca, the center of the Islamic religion). Modern Yemen shares a border with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the north, the Sultanate of Oman to the east, the Red Sea to the west, and the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea to the south. The country includes the island of Suqutra in the Arabian Sea and several small islands in the Red Sea.

Yemen is 532,000 square kilometers in size. The western and northern parts of the country (the former YAR) are very mountainous, apart from thin stretches of coastline, with the highest peak reaching more than 3,600 meters and a number of peaks over 3,000 meters. The sandy western coastline (the Tihama ) is extremely hot and humid. To the east in the former PDRY are more mountains, which descend into a rocky plain in the central east part of the country before merging into one of the most inhospitable deserts in the world, the rub' alkhali ("Empty Quarter"). There are patches of relatively fertile valleys in the east as well.

The Yemeni people are mostly Arabic by descent, although some remote tribes have their own languages and cultures that set them apart. The country's proximity to Africa and its position on sea routes to and from India and Africa has provided it with a diverse cultural mix; its foods and architecture, for example, are distinctly separate from neighboring Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia. The country's population is around 15.4 million, according to a 1994 census, about three-quarters of which are located in the former YAR. The people are predominantly rural; they often live in small villages or hamlets and usually identify with a larger tribal group, although the urban population is rising steadily. There are sizeable Yemeni communities overseas, including in the Middle East, Britain, and the United States.

Modern Yemen is a very poor country, with GDP per capita of US$750 in 1999. The country has few export industries of note apart from oil, although there is potential in light manufacturing, shipping, and tourism. Very low inward investment, limited mostly to the oil sector, is a result of poor infrastructure and perceived political instability. In 1996 the Government began a series of International Monetary Fund (IMF)-sponsored economic reforms, which continue to the present time.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

The highest foundation for education in Yemen is the Constitution (Constitution of the Republic of Yemen, 1994), which includes several references to the obligations of the Government and its citizens in regard to education.

Article 32 of the Constitution provides that:

Education, health, and social services are the basic pillars for building and developing the society. Society shall with the state take part in providing them.

The role of the Government in this respect is spelled out further in Article 53:

Education is a right for all citizens. The state shall guarantee education in accordance with the law through building various schools and cultural and educational institutions. Basic education is obligatory. The state shall do its best to obliterate illiteracy and give special care to expanding technical and vocational education. . . .

This has generally been assumed to require the Government to provide a fair and equitable access to education for the country's population. Despite this, perhaps because of some vagueness and generalization in its wording, the Government's performance has been mixed. In fact, results have been quite poor in certain cases such as countering illiteracy and guaranteeing equal access to education among both males and females. The latter, and through it the former, is a perhaps an example where traditional culture is at variance with the liberal Constitution. Nonetheless, the Constitution is very protective of the principle of education, as well as the principles of educational and academic freedom. For example, Article 27 states that:

The state shall guarantee freedom of scientific research and achievements in the fields of literature, arts and culture, which conform with the spirit and objectives of the Constitution. The state shall provide means conducive to such achievements and shall provide support and encouragement for scientific and technical invention, and artistic creation and shall protect achievements thereof.

The policy and administrative aspects of education are legalized under Laws enacted by Parliament and by Presidential Decree. The Law on Education of 1992 is the main piece of legislation, and there have been Presidential Decrees and administrative orders since then to supplement and administer the law.

Educational SystemOverview

The Yemen Arab Republic (YAR): The YAR was, until the 1970s, one of the most isolated countries in the world. It was also, perhaps as a result, one of the poorest and least developed. For example, until the 1960s the YAR had no paved roads, no factories or export industry, and no doctors of Yemeni nationality. This stemmed, in large part, from the limited education sector in the YAR before that time.

Prior to the 1960s, the educational system was limited primarily to religious education provided by Islamic scholars in one of many local kuttab (an Islamic school usually attached to a mosque). A kuttab could be found in all cities, major towns, and most small towns. The primary goal of religious education was to teach students, exclusively boys, the Holy book of Islam, the Qur'an (also transliterated as "Koran"). Most undertook the mammoth task of memorizing the Qur'an by heart, which requires about nine years of study. Religious study also included learning the sayings and examples of the Prophet Muhammad and reading debates by latter scholars on Islamic philosophy and jurisprudence. This form of education was very socially exclusive with only about 5 percent of young people (that is, about 10 percent of males) attending. Students usually came from elite or wealthy parentage. Most students' fathers held senior religious or bureaucratic positions or were wealthy merchants.

Only a handful of secular schools were formed during this time. Imam Yahya (1919-1948) formed a small number of schools with specific purposes: an Orphans' School, the students of which were typically trained in clerical skills; a Scientific School, which despite its title largely trained clerks for the judicial system; a teachers' college; and a military school. Despite this, secular schools remained scant. A few wealthy landowners formed modern schools at this time; the first was probably Ahmad Nu'man who, after a formal religious education, established a secular school in the 1930s at Dhubhan (near Ta'izz). Nu'man's school was the closest to date to true secular education and taught subjects such as mathematics, geography, and physical education. Nu'man found, however, that he was not popular with traditional Yemenis, who saw his school as un-Islamic and counterproductive to the moral development of young people; the Imam sent a traditional religious teacher to supervise him, and in 1937 he surrendered and moved to Egypt.

Nu'man's experiment highlighted the cultural factors that hindered secular education in the YAR during Imam Yahya's reign. Islamic knowledge, and as an extension linguistic and calligraphic skills, were valued at the expense of all others. Added to this was the use of isolation as a political strategy by Imam Yahya, who felt that isolation would protect his rule and draw disparate tribal groups closer together. It was to no avail. In 1948 members of an opposition group assassinated him, although his son Ahmad managed to claim the throne.

Little changed under Imam Ahmad (1948-1962), although he introduced some very minor steps towards opening Yemen to the outside world and to introducing a modern education system. Late in his reign, Ahmad introduced a secular school system, but not a large number of schools were established. The schools that were formed were based on 6 years of primary school and then 3 years of secondary school, typically covered the ages from about 6 to 15, and still existed for the benefit of males.

During this time, many Yemenis who sought a secular education headed to other countries, which they had been doing since before the 1930s. Under Ahmad, increasing numbers went to Egypt, Lebanon, or Europe, especially for their secondary or tertiary education.

After Ahmad's overthrow in 1962, a military government with a secular outlook took power and began to dramatically change and secularize the educational system. Egypt, which had troops and advisers in the country throughout much of the internal conflict between the republicans and royalists that occurred during the period of 1962-1970, provided considerable assistance. More than 50 schools were established, including vocational schools. New topics were taught for the first time formally, such as mathematics, English, and social and natural sciences. Also for the first time, schools for girls were established in the major cities of Sana'a, Ta'izz, and al-Baydha. The College for Radio Telecommunications and the College for Aviation were also established at this time with Egyptian instructors.

The post-revolutionary period of the 1960s also created greater educational and intellectual awareness and led to an increase in public discourse. Libraries were established and expanded along with the growth of public education. Informal associations were also established by writers, intellectuals, and the politically active, where debates and discussions were held and information and theory exchanged on topics as varied as political science, literature, religion, and even the role of women in society.

The 1970s and 1980s saw secular education expand dramatically and become more accessible. A Ministry of Education was established, after a 1963 decree by the military government, to monitor the public school system. Throughout the republic period (1962-1990), religious schools continued to operate, and a few private schools were also established. The school system included six years of primary, three years of preparatory, and three years of secondary education, followed by tertiary study at university or abroad. Primary education revolved around elementary skills, preparatory on practical and vocational skills, and secondary on one of five options: general (arts and sciences), vocational, commercial, agricultural, and teacher training.

The system was poor and heavily reliant on external aid. Only 6-8 percent of annual budgets were spent on education, but it was nonetheless a dramatic improvement and expansion from the past. While compulsory education was not enforced, the percentage of school-aged children attending school went from 12 percent in 1971 to almost 50 percent in 1981. Despite this, the number of girls at school did not increase significantly and remained around 10-15 percent. Further, the completion rate for primary school was poor at about 12 percent in the late 1970s. This meant that illiteracy rates, while slightly improved, remained remarkably high; in 1980, illiteracy was over 80 percent overall, including over 90 percent for females. By 1990, it was still high, but improved for both males and females. On the other hand, transitional rates were high for those who did complete primary school: 85 percent continued to preparatory level, 100 percent of preparatory level continued to secondary, and 78 percent then continued to tertiary study.

The first and most important step in developing the indigenous tertiary education system was the formation of the University of Sana'a in 1970, which remained the YAR's only university until it merged into the Republic of Yemen in 1990. The university was established with Kuwaiti aid and initially was small; at formation, it had only 61 students and 15 staff in three colleges (of law, science and arts). The university was headed by the Minister of Education as University President and included a Secretary-General in charge of day-to-day operations. In the late 1970s the school added colleges of economics and education. The university grew to number over 5,000 students in the late 1980s. Government scholarships were created along with the university to help students study abroad for degrees that were not available at the University of Sana'a.

During the YAR's republic era, there also remained a strong informal education sector, mostly teaching trades and basic literacy. At-work training, for example in clerical and administrative and managerial skills, was also common.

The Aden Protectorate (pre-1967) & the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY, 1967-1990): The British invested little into their protectorate of Aden and, at least prior to World War II, there was limited access to education. In fact, until 1937, the British ruled the area from India in an openly aloof way. The primary interests of the British were in controlling the port of Aden and having a territory from which they could watch and control maritime traffic in the Red Sea and Arabian Sea, especially so as to protect the far more important asset of India.

In the 1930s, there were about 1,000 students enrolled in public schools and another 2,000 or less in private education or tutoring. This figure emphasizes the educational opportunities available to local Yemenis, as it includes a sizeable proportion of expatriates from both Britain and India. The latter was a key criticism of nationalists at the time who did not fail to notice the lack of educational opportunities available, the fact that education went primarily to foreigners, nor indeed that most teachers were foreigners, usually from India. One famous nationalist quote at the time cried, "Where are the Arab teachers?"

Little changed during and after World War II, even though war had brought an economic boom to Aden and had dramatically increased its wealth, population, and influence. The population rise was attributable more to a rise in the number of foreigners than to internal migration. There was a structured public education system, but the chief beneficiaries were those at secondary and tertiary levels or those who could access the English language training that became essential for local Adeni elites. In 1943 the British Council introduced English lessons for both men and women. For young people from elite backgrounds and a secondary education, places were available at the United Kingdom's best universities. Most of these people came from, and went into, public administration, rather than business, reflecting not only what was seen as prestigious, but also the education that was received.

Informally, as in the YAR, there was a rise in the level of political awareness and activity of intellectuals during the 1950s and early 1960s. Clubs were formed among the interested cultural elite, many of which not only served as civil groupings, but also promoted the use of Arabic in everyday life and the education system.

The reliance on foreign teachers under the British left South Yemen in a difficult situation after they claimed their independence in 1967. Education was dramatically expanded and access to it greatly widened after that time. Immediately after the removal of the British, the PDRY education system was expanded, nationalized, and Arabized. The cycle was a six-three-three system, not dissimilar in basic structure to the YAR or most other Arab countries. In 1975, this structure was changed to two-eight-four: two years of kindergarten, eight years of basic schooling (effectively covering primary and preparatory or lower secondary), and four years of secondary. The secondary level was in fact quite flexible with alternative options such as a two-year vocational program or a five-year specialized secondary program.

Education was not compulsory, but attendance was substantial and widespread in marked contrast to earlier periods. Girls were under-represented in education with female primary school enrollment at about 20 to 25 percent in the 1970s and growing to about 35 to 40 percent in the 1980s.

The education system was completely free at all levels with children given free textbooks and transport. In rural areas without a school, students were also given free board. At university level, students were also given a monthly stipend equivalent to about half the average salary.

The higher education level consisted of only one university, the University of Aden, opened in 1975. Six faculties were established in agriculture, law, economics, education, technology, and medicine. Some students also studied abroad, mostly in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, but also in other Arab countries. Other higher education was provided through teachers' training institutes, which supplemented teacher training at the University of Aden. Teaching institute graduates could teach immediately at lower levels (that is, primary school) with the College of Education providing further training for teaching at secondary level. The Ministry of Education also provided training. In both cases, practical experience was included in the curriculum.

Adult illiteracy was a problem in the PDRY as in the YAR, mostly as a result of the lack of education prior to the late 1960s. This was tackled aggressively, however, through countrywide programs. In 1985, for example, the summer break was extended for three extra months to a total of almost six months duration, during which time all adults, men and women and throughout the country, were given the chance to have basic language and literacy training, as well as basic education in other areas such as mathematics.

Unification (1990) & the Republic of Yemen: The unification of the YAR and PDRY in 1990 stemmed from several sources, including both economic pressures and a shared sense of identity between the two peoples. In a sense, although the two states were completely ideologically and administratively differentone tribal and traditional, the other Marxistthe merging of their educational systems was not complex. Sadly, this was partly because both countries had poor levels of education, and suffered from the same problems in trying to develop their education systems. These problems included a lack of financial resources and limited teacher skills, as well as a poor infrastructure that disadvantaged rural areas. To some extent, though more in the YAR, there was a bias, both formal and social, towards the education of males over females, which was made all the worse by high population growth and thus overcrowding in most schools.

The main changes made after unification were the standardization of texts and curricula, as well as a slight restructuring of the education cycle. The new system was structured as nine years of basic education, followed by three years of secondary education. These changes were made difficult by the challenges at the time, including Yemen's international isolation after it was perceived as being pro-Iraqi during the Gulf crisis and Gulf War of 1990-91, not to mention the long-standing problems of poverty and poor economic infrastructure.

The education system that was adopted in Yemen after unification in 1990 was essentially a blend and merger of the systems of the YAR and PDRY with some small changes. The education cycle consists of nine years of primary education, followed by three years of study at secondary level. The usual age to commence education is six years, meaning that students generally enroll in primary school from ages 6 to 14 and then secondary school from 15 to 17. Primary education is, in theory, compulsory, although access for rural areas and females remains a problem and a large number of students still do not complete primary school.

Religious schools remain important and numerous, especially in the north (the former-YAR) where geographic isolation often means limited government and official reach and a mistrust, especially in tribal areas, of centralized, secular government. In urban areas, there has also been in increase in the number of private secular schools.

Higher education in Yemen has grown rapidly in recent years from a handful of universities at the time of unification to seven government universities and eight private ones at present.

Overall expenditure on education in Yemen has risen slightly in recent years. In 1996, total educational expenditure represented 3.6 percent of GDP, which was 23.5 percent of total public expenditure. As a percentage of GDP, the figure is expected to have risen after the economic growth of the late 1990s, although there are conflicting indications that, as the government seeks to reduce costs and its role in the economy, the total figure may actually have declined.

The academic year runs from September to June. Students have an extended summer break of almost three months, as well as shorter breaks for major Islamic and secular holidays.

The language of instruction at primary and secondary levels is Arabic, where students interact in colloquial Yemeni Arabic, but also study more formal Modern Standard Arabic, which is the medium of communication in formal settings such as newspapers, the law, formal political speeches, and international contexts with other Arabic speakers. English is used as the language of instruction in some technical areas at university level, where the most appropriate texts and journals are in English. This includes disciplines such as medicine and natural sciences. English has also become the most common second language studied by students.

Enrollment ratios demonstrate the fact that access to education remains a problem in Yemen, especially for females but also for students in remote areas. In 1996, the enrollment ratio for both sexes was 70 percent in primary level, 34 percent in secondary level, and 4 percent in tertiary level. By gender the figures were: primary, 100 percent for males and 40 percent for females; secondary, 53 percent for males and 14 percent for females; and tertiary, 7 percent for males and 1 percent for females. Female enrollment is, however, dramatically different across regions: at primary level, it is typically above 50 percent in urban areas and often less than half that number in rural areas.

The Ministry of Education oversees the education system. The Prime Minister selects the Minister for Education and must obtain the approval of the House of Representatives for the appointment. The Minister is the head of the Ministry of Education and has overall responsibility for implementing government policies and initiatives dealing with education.

In recent years, the role and relative influence of the Ministry has diminished in line with Yemen's economic liberalization program. Yemen's agreement with the International Monetary Fund for an Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility for the period 1999-2001 included a specific agreement to limit the role of the Ministry and place greater control into the hands of the private sector. Yemen agreed to establish annual per student current and capital expenditure figures, to remunerate teachers on the basis of qualifications and their willingness to relocate to rural and disadvantaged areas, to reduce the administrative costs of education, to increase education access for students from rural areas and for females, and to reduce the number of more expensive foreign teachers. These changes, which Yemen has begun to implement, will likely lead to a greater private sector role in secondary and higher educationindeed, this was already underway, with secular private schools growing in number and popularity during the 1990sand, in a socio-economic sense based on the experience of other Arab countries with economic reform, possibly a greater metaphorical distance between the state, the professional classes, and the broader population. This said, it is also given that the Ministry will retain its broad oversight role regarding education quality, funding, and strategic and policy direction, while decentralizing the day-to-day management and administration to governorates and districts and, in some areas, to individual schools.

Preprimary & Primary Education

Preprimary education, in the form of kindergartens and nursery schools, is still very much fledgling. In 1993-1994, the last year for which statistics were available, there were 62 public kindergartens with 680 teachers and a total student enrollment of 11,999, of which 47 percent were females. The figure had increased slightly from 1990-1991, when there were 51 kindergartens, 665 teachers, and 10,067 students. A report in the Yemen Times in May 1998, however, pointed to a strong growth from this low base. It stated that in the single school year 1995-1996, there were 110 new Preprimary schools opened, of which 43 were government schools and 63 private. This would indicate a dramatic growth, assuming that that particular year was not an anomaly and despite the fact that the private schools figure would include some nurseries.

Nurseries are much more numerous but are very expensive and, like kindergartens, not available everywhere. Despite this, there are estimated to be about 100,000 infants attending a nursery.

Primary education is, for the majority of Yemenis, their major education experience. With the education cycle of 9 years of primary and 3 years of secondary, with primary covering the ages of 6 to about 14, the primary level covers what many other countries consider both primary and lower secondary (or junior high school). It is, in other words, the mainstream level of education before students are then accepted into various streams of secondary school in preparation for a technical or education career or for tertiary study. By the end of primary level, therefore, students are expected to have basic skills in literacy, mathematics, and other core subjects and to have demonstrated their level of scholarly aptitude.

In 1993-1994, Yemen had 11,013 primary schools throughout the country with 2,678,863 students. In 1996-1997, the figure for the number of schools was not available, although the figure for the number of students had not increased significantly (only to 2,699,788). Given the rise in education spending and the fall in current spending as a proportion of this figure over the period, resources were going to other areas such as infrastructure and secondary education.

Completion rates for primary school are not high, partly as a result of the breadth of years covered at primary level, but also as a result of the cultural attitude towards education and the education expectations of parents. The former reason means that many students satisfy their educational needs before finishing high school; those that take up unskilled work, or who work with their parents in, for example, the family shop or farm, either do not perceive the need to continue to the completion of primary level, or their parents cannot afford to have them absent from the family business. The second reason, which involves cultural ones attitudes, is a common problem, but particularly so for females. In many cases, especially in rural areas, schools are simply too far from home and transport cannot be arranged or is not affordable. Less commonly, parents may be dissatisfied with the quality of teachers or materials. In the case of girls, especially in more traditional families, the parents do not see the need for extensive education, do not trust coeducational schools or male teachers, or simply cannot afford to have all their children fully educated and choose to educate the boys before the girls.

Secondary Education

Secondary education is a 3-year program that typically runs from ages 15 to 17 and is similar to upper secondary or senior high school in many countries. Secondary school allows students to develop specializations in preparation for particular careers or work that requires a comparatively advanced education. The main streams include a general academic one for students wishing to go to into higher education, covering both social and natural sciences, as well as specializations in vocational areas and in preparation for teacher training.

Secondary school enrollments increased dramatically during the 1990s, from 212,129 in 1993-1994 to 354,288 in 1996-1997 (the most recent years for which statistics are available). This latter figure included 286,405 students in general education, 52,349 in vocational training, and 15,534 in teacher training.

Completion rates at the secondary level are quite high, as a result of the large number of students who do not continue to this level and the emphasis at secondary school of preparing students for particular careers and/or for higher education. The completion rate is estimated at over 90 percent. As with other levels, females are under represented at secondary level, accounting for 71,309 students or 20 percent of total enrollments in 1996-1997 and 21 percent of enrollments in the general education stream.

A failing of secondary education in the past has been an over-emphasis on general, theoretical study in preparation for university at the expense of vocational and applied study. In the late 1990s, the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training introduced a policy to increase the emphasis placed on vocational and technical secondary education. It is too early to determine the success of this strategy, although in the past these areas of study have not been very popular with students.

Higher Education

Higher or tertiary education witnessed a dramatic expansion in the 1990s. In 2000, there were seven public universities and eight private ones, compared with only two public ones at unification in 1990. Further, there are a number of two year colleges, plus several postsecondary specialized education institutes.

In 1996-1997, there were 53,082 students enrolled at Yemeni universities, of which 8,224 or 13 percent were females. Academic staff in 1991-1992 totaled 1,800. In 1996-1997, the proportion of Yemeni tertiary students by field of study was 29.6 percent in social sciences, 24.3 percent in education, 10.9 percent in humanities, 10.2 percent in natural sciences, 3.9 percent in medicine and medical sciences, and 21.1 percent in other fields. The last group includes students in business studies, engineering, and law.

These figures were the latest available at the time of writing (2001) but should have increased markedly in the interim given the rise in enrollments at the University of Sana'a, the country's largest campus, as well as the growth in the number of private universities in recent years. One estimate in 1998 put the total number of university students at 170,000 with nearly half of all students being at the University of Sana'a.

While the University of Sana'a remains the largest university in Yemen, the University of Aden is also large and offers diverse courses of study. The expansion of university education began after the unification of the two Yemens in 1990. Around the mid-late-1990s, five new public universities were opened in Ta'izz, Hadramout, Ibb, Dhamar, and Hodeida. Eight private universities were also established during the 1990s.

There are also several institutions offering two-year diplomas, especially in teaching, technical, and vocational disciplines, but in comparison to universities proper, enrollments in two-year programs are low and not as popular with prospective students.

The most common issue with university education, as with secondary, is the fact that most students choose theoretical rather than applied courses. Even in applied courses, the lack of laboratory and other facilities has meant that students spend a disproportionate amount of their time on theoretical rather than practical learning making them poorly equipped when they graduate. The dramatic rise in numbers has also had a negative impact on class sizes and the general quality of tertiary education. Nonetheless, there have been improvements in recent years with a priority placed on better-equipping university libraries and with new courses and programs created in fields such as health, demography, environmental studies, and physical education.

Postgraduate and academic research in Yemen is extremely limited, including in crucial areas such as medicine, engineering, and business administration. This is due in part to the limited resources allocated to research, as well as the fact that there is virtually no culture within government or business that sees postgraduate study or research experience as a necessary step for appointment or promotion.

Figures on research expenditure are not available. Postgraduates account for 0.2 percent of the population, which, including students undertaking coursework, demonstrates a very low level of research emphasis. Yemenis studying or residing overseas are, on average, considerably better educated, although the total figure would still be minuscule.

Outside of academia, the figure is little better. The public sector undertakes some statistical research, often of good quality, although obviously it is mostly for reporting and policy purposes rather than being qualitative or original research for the purposes of inquiry or the development of new knowledge or techniques. The private sector undertakes very little research apart from a handful in the area of business trends and strategy.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

As mentioned, the Ministry of Education manages the public education system with some administrative and local decisions devolved to governorates, districts, and individual schools.

Government spending on education rose steadily during the 1990s as a combined result of greater focus on education, the need for improved and increased facilities as the population grew, and as increased income, especially from oil, provided some additional funds. In the early 1990s, unification brought the need for short-term higher spending to cover the costs of integrating the two education systems. Also, there had been an immediate education emergency in late 1990, almost immediately after unification of the YAR and PDRY, when almost one million Yemeni workers were expelled from the Gulf. This included about 150,000 school-aged children who suddenly flooded the education system, which in turn was financially stretched by the return of the parents who were usually unemployed.

For the most recent years available, total expenditure on education in Yemen as a percentage of Gross National Product (GNP) was 6.2 percent in 1993, 6.3 percent in 1994, 5.4 percent in 1995, 6.3 percent in 1996, and 7.0 percent in 1997. This strong growth was hampered by the civil war of 1994, after which the reconstruction process called on enormous finances to the detriment of education.

The country also suffered economic setbacks after the war. However, by 2001 spending should have reached the government's target of 8 percent or higher, although the figure is not yet available. Since the early 1990s, this spending has represented more than 20 percent of government expenditure, and, during that decade, the figure increased towards 25 percent.

Within these figures, current expenditure represented a large but falling proportion: 95.6 percent was current expenditure in 1993, 97.3 percent in 1994, 94.7 percent in 1995, 89.9 percent in 1996, and 80.1 percent in 1997. The decline may be accounted for, in part, by an increased emphasis during this time on improved public infrastructure and new education facilities.

Excessive bureaucracy in the administration of education has long been an issue. In the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, like many Arab states, both Yemens had developed a strong and influential bureaucracy to support modernization and government social initiatives; in the PDRY, a strong bureaucracy developed in line with a strong and penetrative nation-state, and in the YAR the republic era saw a strengthened bureaucracy, partly stemming from the Egyptian modernization influence in the 1960s. Recent agreements between Yemen and the IMF have included the reduction of bureaucracy and greater administrative efficiency, including in the education system, as important components.

Nonformal Education

There is very little information available on informal education. Formal private education has become increasingly widespread in recent years, and informal education, in terms of private tutoring and at-work learning and training, is probably also quite common. In many countries, including Yemen, deficiencies and poor quality in the public education system often leads to parents arranging for extensive tutoring for their children after-hours, which is also an important way for teachers to supplement their low incomes. At-work training is also a common method of staff development with experience usually placed above tertiary qualifications as a measure of competence, but no figures are available as to the extent or expenditure of this form on learning.

Adult education, especially in the Arabic language to counter the problem of extensive illiteracy, has long been pivotal to the governmental education policy, especially in the YAR and PDRY. In contemporary Yemen, adult education is in serious decline. Despite the on-going problem of illiteracy, enrollments in illiteracy eradication programs fell spectacularly from the peak of 631,228 students in 1990-1991 to 122,610 in 1994-1995. The main reason for this decline appears to be a failing in the quality and effectiveness of the teaching, whether real or perceived and whether in the system structure, teaching methods and quality, or student motivation. Anecdotal evidence suggests that all these are factors, that the programs are extremely bureaucratic, and, ultimately, that there is a very low success rate in achieving literacy.

Teaching Profession

According to one figure, Yemen had 85,688 teachers in 1996 across all levels, of which 79,044 were Yemeni nationals and 6,644 were non-Yemenis. This was probably a low estimate that did not include religious, private, or technical tertiary teachers. The true current (2001) figure is probably much higher, perhaps circa 120,000-125,000 plus some casual or informal teachers and private tutors. The figures (unfortunately available only for different years) for the various levels of education include the following. For preprimary education in 1993-1994, there were 680 teachers. At primary level in 1996-1997, there were 90,478 teachers, of which 17 percent were female, and a teacher to pupil ratio of 1 to 29.9. For secondary level education in 1996-1997, there were 13,787 teachers, of which 23 percent were female, and a teacher to pupil ratio of 1 to 25.7. A breakdown is not available of the teaching community for this level, although student figures, which would be similar for teaching numbers, were 81 percent in general education, 4 percent in teacher training, and 15 percent in vocational training. For tertiary level in 1991-1992, there were 1,800 teaching staff, of which 12 percent were female, and a teacher to pupil ratio of 1 to 29.5 (although this figure was from the time when there were only 2 universities rather than the current 15).

The usual mode of entry into the profession is to obtain a university degree or teaching institute qualification. Secondary education by itself has traditionally been adequate to teach at preprimary and primary levels, although this is changing and a diploma, or even a university degree, is becoming standard for any teaching position. University graduates wishing to teach at secondary level usually take a diploma from a teaching institute after studying. For older teachers who qualified without a degree or the formal qualifications typical today, the Ministry of Education runs mid-career and summer training courses to improve teacher skills. At universities, a doctorate is becoming standard for teachers in most disciplines with Yemeni nationals teaching at this level having higher degrees from a variety of places, including the United States, Europe, the former-USSR, and other Arab countries.

As a generalization, teaching, like most forms of public service, pays very poorly. As an indication, teachers earn around US$100 to $150 per month, slightly more at university level, and a little more again at senior levels such as headmaster or full professor. Furthermore, at times salaries have been paid late. To place salary levels in perspective, some example of costs (to live comfortably, but not luxuriously, with a family of five) are: rent on a small house for a family costs about US$100 to $120 per month, food for five would cost US$100 to $200 per month depending on consumption patterns, good qat (a mild stimulant chewed socially) might cost US$60 to $80 per month for one person, and utilities would cost around US$30 per month. Assets such as a car, telephone, or private education for the children are luxuries, available only to upper-income Yemenis. In other words, with total costs of US$400 to $600 to run a family of four or five comfortably, conditions are very tight without additional work such as providing private tutoring, having ideally at least two income-earners in the household, or otherwise, without owning one's house or having separate land as an income source.

In recent years, to improve the standard of education there has been an increase in teacher training, usually conducted by the Ministry of Education over the summer school holidays, as well as increases in teachers' salaries. This has met with some, albeit limited, success in improving the quality of education and the pay of teachers, but in both cases, there remain considerable problems.


Many of the weaknesses and problems have been highlighted previously and include problems of equitable access for males and females and for urban and rural students, the problems introduced by poverty and very limited public funds, excessive bureaucracy, and the variance between students' preferred areas of study and the graduates that the country most needs.

There are some other general points that can be made about the education in system in Yemen. The first, which is a considerable failing but one that is common to many countries, is the overemphasis on rote learning and memorization at the expense of independent analysis. The second is the lack of materials and equipment stemming from a preference in recent years for education quantity over quality. While there has been a strong and positive attempt to provide education widely and equitably, this is perhaps better achieved at the primary level to tackle problems such as illiteracy and poor numeracy skills than at the higher education level, where more needs to be done to improve the standard of education, especially in areas important to development such as medicine, natural sciences, business administration and management, engineering, and other applied fields. Finally, a coherent plan for developing Yemen's research capabilities and for converting discoveries and inventions into applied products and methods that enhance economic development has yet to be developed and successfully implemented, although it is gradually gaining greater attention in the education debate.

Yemen has faced enormous problems in developing its education system. It is one of the poorest countries in the Middle East and the world, and its education system has faced serious problems throughout the 1990s, including those stemming from international and domestic conflict, economic austerity, and the problems from unification. In this sense, to have expanded access to education to the extent that Yemen has and to merge two different systems into one is quite an achievement. That said, however, the future is not likely to be much easier. Yemen will probably remain economically disadvantaged for many years (despite the development of oil as a source of export income), unemployment at 30 percent remains high, the need for economic reform is urgent, and population growth at 3.4 percent (1999 figure) places considerable pressure on public finances, unemployment, and education requirements.


Al-Mutawakil, Ahlam. "School Libraries Bereft of Books and Readers." Yemen Times VIII 17 (27 April-3 May 1998).

Al-Qadhi, Mohammed Hatem. "Fighting for Salary." Yemen Times VIII 17 (27 April-3 May 1998).

Al-Saeed, Mohammed, K. E. Shaw, and Alan Wakelam. "Issues of Educational Administration in the Arab Gulf Region." Middle Eastern Studies 36 (October 2000): 63-74.

Al-Saqqaf, Imad and Farooq al-Kamali. "Universities in Yemen: Too many students and unqualified graduates. Is it Time to Scrap University Education?" Yemen Times XI 17 (23-29 April 2001).

Carapico, Sheila. Civil Society in Yemen: The Political Economy of Activism in Modern Arabia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

The Central Intelligence Agency. CIA World Factbook 2000. Available from

Constitution of the Republic of Yemen, 1994. Government of the Republic of Yemen, 1994. Available from

Dresch, Paul. A History of Modern Yemen. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Europa Publications. The Europa World Year Book 2000 (Volume II). London: Europa Publications Limited, 2000.

Joffé, E.G.H., M.J. Hachemi, and E.W. Watkins, eds. Yemen Today: Crisis and Solutions. London: Caravel, 1997.

Minister of Education. "Private Education must be monitored and guided more in depth by the Ministry of Education." Yemen Times IX 12 (22-28 March 1999).

Noman, Laila. "Education of girls in the Yemen."The British-Yemeni Society, November 1995. Available from

Sa'ad, Abdul-Jabbar A. "Educational Challenges Facing Yemen." Yemen Times VIII 19 (11-17 May 1998).

Tansel, Aysit, and Abbas Kazemi. "Educational Expenditure in the Middle East and North Africa." Middle Eastern Studies 36 (October 2000): 75-98.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). UNESCO Statistical Yearbook 1999. Paris: UNESCO & Bernan Press, 1999.

Matthew Gray

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Republic of Yemen

Al-Jumhuriyah al-Yamaniyah



Yemen is located in the Middle East at the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. The Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the Red Sea bound its south and west. It is also bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north and Oman to the east. Yemen also includes the island of Socotra in the Indian Ocean, and the Kamaran group in the Red Sea. With an area of 527,970 square kilometers (203,849 square miles) and a coastline of 1,906 kilometers (1,184 miles), Yemen is slightly larger than twice the size of Wyoming. The capital city, Sanaa, is located in the west. Other major cities include Aden in the south and al-Hudaydah on the Red Sea coast.


With a population of 18,078,035 (est. July 2001), Yemen is one of the most populous countries on the Arabian Peninsula. The 1990 population estimate was only 11.88 million. The population growth rate in 2000 was estimated at 3.36 percent, but is expected to drop significantly in the coming decade. With a projected growth rate of 2.8 percent between 2000 and 2015, the population is expected to reach 36 million by the year 2029. The majority of the population are Muslims of the Sunni Shaf'i and the Shi'ite Zaydi traditions. There is also a small minority of Jews and Christians.

Yemen's population growth is very high by world standards, and the highest in the Middle East. The population is generally young, with some 50 percent below the age of 15. About 25 percent of the population live below the poverty line, up from 19 percent in 1992, and the average annual income is less than US$400. Widespread malnutrition and diseases make the infant mortality rate in Yemen one of the highest in the region. An estimated 38 percent of Yemenis age 15 or older could read and write in 1990. Among women, the rate was only 26 percent.


Yemen's domestic economy is largely dependent on oil, which accounts for about 85 percent of export earnings and 75 percent of government revenue. Yemen's oil reserves, however, are small in comparison to its larger oil-producing neighbors, such as Saudi Arabia. Oil reserves are concentrated in the north and south, with the southern field of Masila being the largest, followed by the Ma'rib field, also in the south. Agriculture, the second largest sector, accounts for 20 percent of real gross domestic product (GDP) and employs over half of the labor force . Higher oil prices fueled GDP growth of 2.8 percent in 1999 and 6.0 percent in 2000, and that upward trend is expected to continue in the coming years, barring a drop in oil prices.

Yemen entered the 20th century as part of the Ottoman Empire, administered by officials appointed by the Ottoman sultan based in Istanbul. For most of the 20th century Yemen was divided into 2 separate states: South Yemen and North Yemen. South Yemen was carved out by the British, who had established a protectorate area around the southern port of Aden in the 19th century. The British withdrew their forces from Aden in 1967. In 1970, when the government declared a Marxist state in the south, hundreds of thousands of Yemenis relocated to northern Yemen. North Yemen became an independent state in 1918, after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

In 1990, after years of hostilities and occasional conflict, north and south Yemen formally united to form the Republic of Yemen. Since unification, the country has struggled to overcome the legacy of the civil war that broke out between the north and the south in 1994, and to reform the economy. In 1995, Yemen launched an economic reform program in coordination with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). By the end of the 20th century, however, Yemen still had not created a vibrant economy or diversified its sources of income. As a result, Yemen remains dependent on oil revenue and on international lending agencies for financial assistance.

Yemen's economy is an underdeveloped free market economy with limited state control. Despite political violence, it has a fairly stable multiparty system and enjoys the support of the United States and the European Union. The economy's main exports are cotton, coffee, and dried and salted fish, but oil remains by far the largest single contributor to the national economy. Agricultural products account for one-fifth of GDP. Industry and mining, which are concentrated in Masila in the north and Ma'rib in the south, account for approximately one-fifth of GDP. Limited manufacturing, retail trade, and services are centered in the urban centers of Sanaa and Aden. Because of its limited productive capacity and industrial base, the country is heavily dependent on imported goods and on foreign debt relief and assistance to sustain its struggling economy.

Neither the agricultural sector nor the oil sector is capable of providing enough jobs to counteract long-standing problems with unemployment, which is exacerbated by rapid population growth. Unemployment reached 35 percent in Yemen during 1998, while the unemployment rate in the United States was just 4.2 percent in 1999. Despite the government's efforts to address the problem, unemployment will continue to present a serious challenge to the government for a long time to come.

Yemen's economic difficultiessluggish GDP growth and high unemploymenthave traditionally been offset by remittances from Yemeni workers abroad, and foreign aid from neighboring countries, especially Saudi Arabia. The Saudi government, however, both expelled Yemeni workers and cut off aid in 1990, due to Yemen's support for the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait that started the Gulf War. The country has also sustained a heavy foreign debt as a result of the 1990 unification, which, at its peak in 1990, was valued at almost twice the gross national product . Unable to make its debt payments, Yemen was forced to reschedule its debt to the Paris Club (a grouping of country creditors that extends loans to poor developing countries) in 1996. However, foreign assistance in the form of grants and loans, mainly from the United States and Europe, has alleviated the country's debt burden.

Corruption is a major problem in Yemen, and is especially so in the overstaffed and underpaid government bureaucracy. Chief illicit practices include soliciting bribes, evading taxes, and nepotism (favoring relatives, especially in hiring). The government has taken a tough stand against corruption, but with little success.


Since independence, Yemen has been ruled by one party, the General People's Congress (GPC), which holds an absolute majority in parliament. The party is liberal and committed to reform. The emerging multiparty political system coexists with a feudal tribal system, and suffers from a legacy of deeply embedded rivalry between the north and the south. Until its unification with North Yemen, a Marxist-oriented government dominated South Yemen, and its economy was in ruins at the time of unification. For the first 3 years after unification in 1990, the country was governed by a transitional legal code under which the government was a hybrid of the pre-unification cabinets and parliaments of North and South Yemen. Before the 1994 civil war, the Marxist Yemeni Socialist Party ruled South Yemen. Its role diminished greatly after its leaders were sent into exile by the northern government as a pre-condition for peace.

Following the marginalization of the Socialist Party, the government was able to launch an economic reform program in 1995, which was formally endorsed by the IMF in 1997. The program stipulated deep spending cuts and the privatization of numerous state-owned facilities, including the National Bank of Yemen, the Yemen Cement Company, and Yemenia airlines, among other state-owned enterprises. It also aimed at keeping inflation levels low and encouraging foreign investment in the country. Although some progress has been achieved in the areas of cost-cutting and expanding the government's revenue base, the overall performance of the economy has been rather weak.

Taxes are an insignificant source of government revenue. As a result of the reform program, however, the government has attempted to improve its tax revenue collection system by computerizing its customs clearance at ports and airports. The government, however, has been largely reluctant to reform the income tax system in line with the IMF's recommendations. These efforts have been complicated by economic and political uncertainties, such as high unemployment rates, widespread poverty, and a high incidence of political violence. As a result, dependence on the oil sector for revenue is likely to persist.


Yemen's infrastructure is relatively poor and underdeveloped. The country is serviced by a network of over 67,000 kilometers (41,634 miles) of primary and secondary roads, only 7,700 kilometers (4,785 miles) of which are paved. Southern Yemen's road system is in especially bad condition, as parts of many roads are washed away by flash floods and heavy rains. As a result, the country's road system constitutes a serious obstacle to economic development. There is no railway system.

Yemen has 5 major airports: the Sanaa, Aden, Rayyan, Taiz, and Hodeida airports. Renovation of the Sanaa and Aden airports began in 2000. Yemenia airline is the country's official airline and is largely protected against foreign competition. The carrier is slated for privatization, but the government has been reluctant to sell its 51 percent share in the airline. Yemen has 6 ports. With the exception of the Port of Aden, all ports experience delays in loading and unloading. Most domestic activity is concentrated at the Port of Hodeidah. Aden Container Terminal, which opened in March 1999 and is still being expanded, is gradually taking over as the country's main port.

Electrical power is supplied to Yemenis by the Public Electricity Corporation, which has a capacity of 400 Megawatts of power. The company can barely meet local demand; electricity reaches only 30 percent of the population. As a result of repeated blackouts and severe shortagesespecially in Mukalla and Hadramawt, both

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Yemen 15 64 29 N/A 1 N/A 1.2 0.02 10
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Saudi Arabia 57 321 262 N/A 31 N/A 49.6 1.17 300
Oman 29 598 595 0.0 43 2.7 21.0 2.87 50
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

of which are not connected to the national gridseveral factories and residences either have their own generators, or are forced to operate only one shift a day. The situation is worse in rural areas, where an estimated 60 percent of households have no electricity. The government has launched a program to upgrade and extend power supplies, largely with the help of the World Bank.

Telecommunications services in Yemen are unreliable. The country had 249,515 working lines in 1998, with a capacity of 296,129 lines. Telephone service, mobile included, is often interrupted for security reasons. Internet service is available, but is both costly and unreliable. In 2000, the country had just 1 Internet service provider for its 12,000 Internet users.


Yemen's economic sectors reflect the small size of the economy. The 2 largest economic sectors are agriculture and oil. Agriculture accounted for 20 percent of GDP in 1998, industry (including oil) for 42 percent, and services for 38 percent. Oil accounts for 85 percent of export earnings and is the largest source of government revenue. Two of the greatest obstacles to growth in all of Yemen's economic sectors are overstaffing in all of the state institutions and the sensitivity of the oil sector to changes in world oil prices. Since 1995, the government has targeted certain areas of economic growth especially the manufacturing and construction sectors to fuel growth and to diversify the sources of revenue by investing in both the oil and non-oil sectors. Growth in these sectors, however, has been rather sluggish.


Agricultural production is the single most important contributor to Yemen's economy, accounting for 20 percent of GDP. The agricultural sector provides approximately 58 percent of the country's employment. The labor-intensive sector is largely underdeveloped and inefficient, as a result of soil erosion, the high cost of credit and land, a lack of investment, and the scarcity of water. Most of the cultivated land is irrigated and dependent on groundwater, but high demand could exhaust water supplies by 2008. Although agricultural output has increased steadily in the past few years, crop yields remain low relative to those produced by comparable countries.

Major agricultural products include fruits, vegetables, and cereals, but production is rarely sufficient to meet domestic demand. As a result, Yemen continues to import most of its food. Yemen also cultivates qat, a mildly narcotic plant indigenous to Africa. Although legal, the government has recently moved to ban its consumption in public offices and on army duty due to economic and social costs associated with those under the influence. It continues to be widely consumed, and future efforts to ban it are unlikely.


Though Yemen's location would suggest a booming fishing industry, actual fishing production remains low, largely due to under-exploitation. Most fishing activity continues to center around small boats and family-owned businesses. The sector employs some 41,000 people and produced over 127,000 tons of fish catch in 1998. Yemeni fishing would likely benefit from regulation and effective enforcement to avoid the over-fishing of some species.



Oil is a significant source of revenue for the government and of export earnings. Yemen's oil reserves, however, are small by regional standards. Oil reserves, proven and unproven, are estimated to be about 4 billion barrels, in comparison to Saudi Arabia, which has over 260 billion barrels of proven and unproven reserves. Most of the oil production is concentrated in the country's 2 largest fields at Ma'rib and Masila. There are also significant oil fields in Jannah, East Shabwa, and Iyad. Unlike neighboring Arab oil producing states, oil production is dominated by foreign companies. Several foreign companies, such as Hunt Oil Company (U.S.) and Canadian Occidental, enjoy production-sharing agreements, but Yemen's uncertain political atmosphere and dim oil prospects have limited the number of foreign companies interested in the oil sector. The sector's future lies in the successful exploration of new fields.

In addition to oil, Yemen's Ma'rib region is home to natural gas reserves estimated at 16.9 trillion cubic feet. Although small by regional standards, the gas is produced in commercial quantities, but competition and the lack of potential clients have thus far hindered the development of this endeavor. Other minerals include gypsum, salt, and gold.


The manufacturing sector is an important and growing contributor to the Yemeni economy, accounting for about 12 percent of GDP in 1998. The sector has grown steadily in the last decade, but its growth is hindered by competition from imported goods and the lack of funding. Oil refining accounts for half of manufacturing activity. Refining activities are mostly concentrated in Aden and Ma'rib.

Yemen's small industrial base is built around small-sized, family-owned enterprises. Yemen has some 33,284 industrial establishments employing 1 to 4 workers. All large-and medium-sized establishments account for 5 percent of the total number of industrial enterprises. The bulk of Yemen's industrial base is centered on food processing and beverages, but production of cooking oil and flour has increased in recent years. The production of mixed metal products, such as water storage tanks, doors, and windows is the second largest industry, followed by the production of non-metallic products.



Tourism is not a significant contributor to Yemen's economy, despite the government's continuous effort to promote the country as a tourist destination. The sector suffers from a number of problems, foremost among which are political instability and the absence of modern facilities and infrastructure. Furthermore, at least 100 foreigners were reported kidnapped in 1999. Western countries have been advising their nationals against travel to Yemen since the 1998 abduction and killing of 18 foreigners. The number of tourists visiting the country dropped significantly after the 1998 incident, from 87,000 in 1987 to 45,000 in 1999.


Yemen's banking system is poor and suffers from a number of problems, including a poor loan collection record, low bank monetary assets, and questionable policies regarding the extension of loans to clients. Despite government efforts to reform the financial sector by setting new standards for local banks in 1997, the sector continues to suffer from poor enforcement and compliance, a weak judicial system to ensure collection, and a general lack of public trust in the banking system as a whole. Furthermore, the government's efforts to sell its 2 major commercial banks have been rather slow, mainly due to the long preparation time required to bring these banks up to standard for sale.

Both public and private banks operate in Yemen. Both state-owned commercial banks and 3 of the 12 private banks follow Islamic banking practices, which includes not charging interest on loans. There are also 4 foreign-operated banks. Banking facilities are virtually absent in rural areas, and most loans are extended to well-known businessmen or on the basis of personal connections, making it hard for independent entrepreneurs to access funding.


Yemen lacks well-developed commercial centers even in the larger coastal citiesand, therefore, has a poorly developed retail sector. The majority of shops in major cities are small and family-owned and run. Small family shops and temporary road stands characterize this sector in the majority of inland towns.


Over the past several decades, Yemen has relied more and more on imports, but, despite periodic peaks in the amount of imports, Yemen's oil exports have kept its trade balance positive. In 2000, exports stood at US$4.2 billion, while imports were worth US$2.7 billion. In addition to legitimate trade, the smuggling of firearms, alcohol, and consumer goods to and from Saudi Arabia is rampant on the Red Sea. Yemen imports a wide variety of goods, except oil and oil products. Neighboring Gulf countries, mainly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, supply the majority of Yemen's imports, followed by France, the United States, and Italy.

Oil accounts for over 85 percent of total sales abroad. Non-oil exports include semi-processed agricultural products, mostly foods. Given its weak industrial base, oil is expected to remain the country's major export. Sales of liquefied natural gas are expected to surge, but the prospects for that eventuality are far from certain. Yemen exports the majority of its oil to Asia, especially Thailand, China, South Korea, and Singapore.


Since 1996, the government has allowed the value of the Yemeni riyal to floatmeaning its value is determined by supply and demand, not by the government. Before 1996, the government officially set the price, which led to it being widely sold on the black market . The riyal was devalued in 1996 from YR12 per US$1 to YR50 per US$1. Since 1996, the value has fluctuated sharply. Between 1996 and 1997, the value of the riyal remained stable, selling for an average of YR125 per US$1 for most of that period. Since 1998, however, the value of the riyal has declined steadily, mainly due to rising fears about Yemen's increasing foreign debt and budget deficit . As a result, the riyal traded at YR170 per US$1 in mid-1999. The Central Bank's efforts to keep the value at a stable rate since then have been largely successful. Since late 1999, it has been trading at an average of YR160 per US$1.


With a per capita income of US$254 annually, Yemen is by far the poorest country in the region. Living standards in the country have fallen sharply since 1990 as a result of high inflation, which in 1995 peaked at 56.3 percent. Although inflation dropped to 10 percent in 2000, the value of wages also decreased, forcing

Exchange rates: Yemen
Yemeni rials per US$1
Oct 2000 164.590
2000 160.683
1999 155.718
1998 135.882
1997 129.281
1996 94.157
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].
GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Yemen N/A N/A N/A 266 254
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Saudi Arabia 9,658 11,553 7,437 7,100 6,516
Oman 3,516 3,509 5,607 5,581 N/A
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.
Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Yemen
Lowest 10% 2.3
Lowest 20% 6.1
Second 20% 10.9
Third 20% 15.3
Fourth 20% 21.6
Highest 20% 46.1
Highest 10% 30.8
Survey year: 1992
Note: This information refers to expenditure shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita expenditure.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

Yemenis to spend more than half their income on food and beverages and limiting their ability to purchase imported goods. An estimated 25 percent of the population lived below the poverty line in 1997, up from 19 percent in 1992.


Yemen's poor education system has meant that the majority of Yemen's labor force is unskilled. About 62 percent of Yemeni adults are unable to read and write. This problem is aggravated by the fact that the majority of Yemen's labor force is concentrated in the agricultural sector, in jobs that do not require advanced skills. The unemployment rate in the country is quite high by regional and international standards, reaching 35 percent in 1998. Local training programs are also poor by regional standards, and job opportunities for graduates of local universities are limited. As a result, thousands of skilled and semi-skilled laborers are forced to seek employment opportunities in neighboring Arab countries. Child labor has been prohibited since 1999, but it remains widespread, especially in the agricultural sector. Government work hours are from 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM. Private businesses maintain a different work schedule, which runs in 2 shifts: from 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM, and from 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM.

Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Yemen 25 5 26 3 5 5 31
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Saudi Arabia N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Oman 22 8 25 13 21 5 7
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
aExcludes energy used for transport.
bIncludes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.


1538. Yemen falls under Ottoman rule.

1839. The British occupy Aden in southern Yemen.

1918. North Yemen gains independence from the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I (1914-1918), calling itself the Yemen Arab Republic.

1935. The British create the Aden Protectorates.

1962. A group of nationalist officers revolt against the British and proclaim the Yemen Arab Republic (YAR) under the leadership of Abdullah al-Sallal.

1967. South Yemen gains independence from the United Kingdom.

1970. South Yemen, renamed the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, nationalizes foreign-owned properties and establishes close ties with the Soviet Union.

1974-1978. A series of military coups in North Yemen leads to the ascendancy of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who rules until the 1990 unification.

1986. A 12-day civil war erupts within the government of South Yemen. Former premier Haydar Bakr al-Attas is elected president in October.

1990. The Republic of Yemen is established peacefully on 22 May.

1993. Fair, multi-party, universal-suffrage elections are won by the General People's Congress.

1994. The south rebels against northern domination. The north wins, and the constitution is amended to establish a multiparty democracy.

1995. The government launches an economic reform program.

1999. In the first direct presidential election, Saleh returns to office.

2001. First municipal elections in country's history. The ruling General People's Congress wins the majority of seats. The constitution is amended to extend the term of the president from 5 to 7 years and parliamentary terms from 4 to 6.


Yemen entered the 20th century under a cloud of economic decline. For much of the century, the rivalry between northern Yemen and the Marxist-led government of the south sapped the country's resources. The legacy of socialism left the southern economy in ruins. The reunification of the countries in 1990 and the subsequent civil war in 1994 further contributed to Yemen's economic decline. Government policies to stabilize the economy enacted in the mid-1990s have significantly improved the country's macroeconomic and structural conditions.

Yemen will likely address the unemployment problem, attempt to curb population growth, and implement the privatization policy in hopes of achieving long-term economic growth. The government has yet to lift subsidies on diesel fuel completely, cut military spending, downsize the public bureaucracy, or quash corruption in its public institutions and ministries. Much work will need to be done on the political front to achieve social and political stability, particularly to soothe the tensions between the current government and rural tribal groups and southern Marxists.


Yemen has no territories or colonies.


Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Yemen. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

Embassy of the Republic of Yemen. <>. Accessed September 2001.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2001. <>. Accessed September 2001.

U.S. Department of State. FY 2001 Country Commercial Guide: Yemen. <>. Accessed September 2001.

Reem Nuseibeh




Yemeni riyal (YR). One riyal equals 100 fils. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 fils riyals, and notes of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 riyals.


Crude oil, cotton, coffee, and dried and salted fish.


Food, live animals, machinery and equipment, and manufactured goods.


US$14.4 billion (purchasing power parity, 2000 est.).


Exports: US$4.2 billion (f.o.b., 2000). Imports: US$2.7 billion (f.o.b., 2000).

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A state on the southwestern corner of the Arabian Peninsula.

The Republic of Yemen was created in May 1990 as a result of the merger of the two previous states that used the name Yemen: the Yemen Arab Republic (YAR; often called North Yemen) and the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY; often called South Yemen). The merger brought together two disparate political systems: the North had been governed by a military/tribal elite, which supported a free-market economy, whereas the South had been governed by a Marxist-Leninist political elite, which had introduced one of the most centrally directed economies in the modern world. After a transition period, the president of the North, Ali Abdullah Salih, was made president of the new unified state.


In 2000, the population was estimated at 17.5 million, not including an indeterminate number of Yemenis living and working abroad, primarily in Arabian Peninsula states. Yemen has one of the highest birthrates in the world, as well as a high infant mortality rate; the net rate of annual increase is estimated at 3.6 percent.

Area and Borders

Since Yemen is one of the few states in the modern world without completely demarcated borders, it is not possible to give a precise figure for its total area. The northeast and east still have no internationally (or even locally) accepted borders. This has led to numerous border disputes and even wars between Saudi Arabia and both of the previously existing Yemens since the 1920s. The border with Saudi Arabia was demarcated as far as the Najran oasis after the Saudi-Yemeni War of 1934; this conflict also gave control of the Asir region to the Saudi state through a treaty renewed every twenty years, creating continued difficulties in relations between the two states. In the northeast, the generally recognized end of Yemeni sovereignty lies east of Maʾrib; with the discovery of oil and gas deposits in this area, however, new conflicts over the border between the two states arose in this area in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The demarcation of the border with Oman was officially completed in 1995, but despite repeated memoranda of agreement with Saudi Arabia in the 1990s, as well as a contract with a German firm to undertake its delineation in 2001, that process has yet to be completed. In the mid-1990s, a new set of border disagreements arose; these involved numerous islets in the Red Sea, the ownership of which was disputed with Eritrea as well as Saudi Arabia. A UN arbitration panel awarded the islands to Yemen in 1999, but the agreement specifically avoided defining the maritime boundary in a way that would offend the claims of Saudi Arabia. To the south, Yemen lies on the Gulf of Aden. The old border between the North and Southcreated by the Ottoman and the British empires in the early years of the twentieth century and technically abolished as a result of the union of 1990nevertheless continues to be of some political importance.

Major Cities

Sanʿa is the most important, largest, and probably the oldest city in Yemenit is mentioned in the Bible under its old name, Uzal. By 2000, its population was considerably more than 1 million. It has been the capital city of Yemen for most of the past two millennia (with the exception of the reign of Imam Ahmad, 19481962, in which he moved the capital to Taʿiz) and became the administrative (political) capital of the new republic after unification. Its old city has been placed on the list of World Heritage Sites because of its unique architecture and historical importance; many of the buildings are more than 800 years old.

Aden, the capital of the former PDRY, has the best port on the Arabian Peninsula. For more than a century, until the late 1960s, it was a major British military and commercial possession. After unification, it was made the economic and commercial capital of the country, but its role in the civil war of 1994 and subsequent events caused it to lose some of its significance.

Hodeida (al-Hudayda) is the major port of the former North Yemen. Its facilities were extensively modernized by the Soviet Union in the 1960s. Consequently, it grew rapidly from a sleepy Red Sea fishing port handling primarily local trade to a major metropolitan area.

Taʿiz, the major city of the southern highlands of the former North Yemen, is located in one of the richest agricultural areas. Its population, predominantly of the Islamic Shafiʿi sect, had the longest and best-developed contacts with the outside world during the reigns of Imams Yahya and Ahmad in the twentieth century.

Although the country has a few smaller cities (e.g., Ibb, Dhamar, Saʿada and Zabid in the north, and Mukalla, Tarim, and Shibam in the south), the vast majority of the population lives in villages, each with an average population of fewer than 200 people. Yemen probably has the most decentralized population of any contemporary state.

Geography and Climate

Yemen's location, combined with its geographical characteristics, gives it the most favorable climate and agricultural resources of any country on the Arabian Peninsula. The country is divided into a number of relatively clear zones: The first of these, along the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea coasts, is hot and humid; from there, the land slopes upward into the first range of hills and low mountains, where the climate is considerably more temperate; eventually, after a series of high plains, the peaks of the central
massif reach between 11,000 and 13,000 feet (3,3553,965 m). These mountains have been terraced from time immemorial, and a vast array of fruits, vegetables, and grains (and the infamous qat plant) can be raised in the many microclimates created by this geography. In the central mountains, the humidity is low and the temperatures moderate, although in the winter it is not unusual to find temperatures below freezing and the occasional snow or ice storm. Over the centuries, the Yemenis have developed plant strains to occupy the many microcli-mates. On the other side of the central massif and away from the monsoons, which deliver the rain that makes extensive agriculture possible on the westward side, the land slopes away into the great central desert of Arabia, the Rub al-Khali, broken only by the great Hadramawt Valley, the home of numerous towns exploiting the limited water resources found there. The rainfall that the various mountain ranges wring out of the prevailing winds varies widelyfrom less than 3 inches (7.62 cm) per year in the deserts and northern reaches of the country to about 38 inches (96.52 cm) per year in some of the areas around Taʿizabout the same as in Seattle, New York, or Chicago.

Political Subdivisions

Administratively, the two preunification Yemeni states varied considerably. The units into which the two states were organized were frequently modified, sometimes as the result of political expediency and at other times due to the nature of the personnel available for major administrative duties. For example, in the PDRY, the first administrative reorganization sought to get rid of the old tribally organized political entities, which had been called the protectorates. Later, the state undertook to recreate some of these entities under new names to regain popular support. In the North, after the revolution, the number of administrative units (governorates) rose with the growth in the population as well as with the increasing number and variety of demands for governmental services. In the immediate aftermath of reunification, the number and characteristics of the administrative subunits within the two separate entities were largely retained. On the other hand, electoral districts have been substantially increased and modified over the years.

The Economy

The natural resource base of Yemen has begun to be developed, largely because it was not until the 1960s that either the North or the South had the opportunity to assess that base or attempt its development. The most important contemporary resources are oil and gas deposits, which were discovered in both North and South Yemen prior to unification and which contributed significantly to the push for unification. The majority of the population of Yemen continues to be employed in the agricultural sector, although productivity is not adequate to the requirements of the population. The multiplicity of microclimates makes it possible to grow just about any fruit or vegetable, from the citrus fruits, bananas, and cotton of the hot coastal plain, through the coffee, grains, and qat (a small tree valued for the alkaloids contained in its leaves) of the middle highlands, to the pears, grapes, and nuts of the high mountains.

Although industrial development has been a priority in both North and South Yemen since independence, it has not reached the stage where industry is a significant factor in the economy of either region. In fact, Yemen operates a monumental deficit in its current accounts because it has few exportable resources. Until 1991, the most important positive element in its balance of payments was the remittances of its large workforce in the various Gulf states and in other countries. Following the 1991 Gulf War, however, the majority of Yemenis abroad were forced to return home (some 800,000 from Saudi Arabia alone), creating a massive social and economic problem. Since then, a variety of international loans and development assistance funds have helped to ameliorate the continuing economic problems.


The population of Yemen is ethnically Arab, although of different origins. The majority is descended from the ancient south Arabian peoples, and the remainder immigrated from the Fertile Crescent area more than a thousand years ago.

Arabic is the official language. Although everyone speaks it, there are substantial differences in dialect from region to region. In some of the more remote areas of the island of Socotra (located in the Gulf of Aden) Mahri is still spoken.

The overwhelming majority of Yemenis are Muslims. They are, however, divided into different sects: In the northern areas, the Zaydis, members of a branch of Shiʿism, predominate; in the southern areas, the Shafiʿis, who follow a branch of Sunni Islam, are in the majority. There are, in addition, Ismaʿilis, members of another branch of Shiʿism, in the northern mountains; in and around Saʿada there are also small settlements of Jews.

The educational infrastructure is in a state of flux. Until the revolution of 1962, an insignificant number of people received any formal education. After the revolution, the government embarked on a major program to establish educational institutions, from primary schools to universities, of which there are several, including those at Sanʿa, Taʿiz, and Aden; these were, in the overwhelming majority of cases, coeducational. In the 1990s, however, Islamists gained increasing political power and began to impose their views on the educational establishment. Owing to several incidents in which the government saw the hand of Islamic extremists, the government began to implement earlier legislation intended to bring independent religious institutions under the control of the Ministry of Education, closing many, eventually even the private al-Iman University, operated by perhaps the most extreme Islamic leader in Yemen, Shaykh Abd alMajid al-Zindani, and considered the center of Islamic extremism.


Yemen is governed under a constitution that was approved by the parliaments of the two Yemens in 1990 and by popular referendum in 1991. This constitution declares Yemen to be a parliamentary democracy, with an executive appointed by and responsible to the parliament (the Council of Deputies). In 1994, Ali Abdullah Salih was elected by the council
to a five-year term as president. In 1999, due to changes in the law, the first direct elections to the presidency were held; Salih was overwhelmingly elected to a seven-year term. His only real opponent was the son of the former leader of the PDRY, Najib Qahtan al-Shaʿabi, although there were two additional candidates.

Elections to the new parliament were held in April 1993, with some eight parties and a sizable number of independents taking seats. Three parties dominated the outcome: the General People's Congress (GPC), formerly dominant in the North and associated with Ali Abdullah Salih; the Islah, now commonly referred to as the Yemeni Islah Party (YIP), a coalition of tribal and Islamic interests led by the second most influential political figure in the country, Shaykh Abdullah al-Ahmar of the Hashid Tribal Confederation; and the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP), formerly dominant in the South and led by Ali Salim al-Baydh, who had become vice president of the new state. Other parties exist, including a Nasserist party. The second election to the Council of Deputies took place in 1997; the aftermath of the 1994 civil war, however, meant that the role and influence of the YSP was considerably reduced, and the YSP boycotted the elections (alBaydh went into exile). Consequently, the GPC gained 187 of the 301 seats, with its only serious competition, the YIP, gaining only 53. In the next round of elections, in April 2003, the GPC's margin of victory increased to 238 of 301 seats; the YIP could only manage 46 seats, and the YSP was reduced to 8 seats.


Some 2,000 years ago, Yemen (known as Arabia Felix to the Roman geographers) was famous and its city-states (e.g., Saba/Sheba, Maʿin), grew powerful and wealthy due to their monopoly over the trade in frankincense and myrrh. Once this monopoly was broken, Yemen retreated from the world stage. It was not until coffee became an important international trade commodity in the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries that Yemen once again achieved renown. However, its early monopoly over coffee was broken by foreign traders and governments, and it once again became a little-known province of various empires on the Red Sea.

The contemporary state of Yemen was created by two states with different historical experiences during the past two centuries. Although occasionally united in the past, they had not been so since 1728. Developments in the nineteenth century, however, are most important to an understanding of the events that led to the reunification of North and South Yemen in 1990.

In 1839, the British took the city of Aden in South Yemen in order to have a major port in the western Indian Ocean and to forestall further expansion by other parties in the Arabian Peninsula. Over the years, British interests continued to grow, and they eventually established extensive links with the multitude of principalities located in Aden's (Yemeni) hinterland.

Meanwhile, the Ottoman Empire, which had occupied Yemen for a variety of strategic and economic reasons but which had departed in the early seventeenth century, decided to return. One motive was to play a role in the Red Sea trade, as it had in the past, although there were other factors; this goal increased in importance with the completion of the Suez Canal in 1869. Eventually, British and Ottoman interests in southwestern Arabia clashed; the two powers decided to negotiate a frontier between their zones of influence and interest. Beginning in 1902, they agreed to demarcate a border between them; the agreement that was eventually signed in 1914 created the frontier between the Ottoman possession that became the Kingdom of Yemen (North Yemen) after World War I and the British Aden Protectorates, which became South Yemen.

Under the reigns of Imams Yahya and Ahmad (19181962), North Yemen remained largely cut off from the rest of the world, while Aden and the protectorates in the south received British subsidies and Aden developed into one of the world's busiest ports. Both states, however, had political movements that sought change. In 1962, a revolution broke out in North Yemen, which sought to create a republic and remove the conservative Zaydi imam(s) from power. After an eight-year civil war, the two major factions compromised and created the Yemen Arab Republic. Imam Muhammad al-Badr, the titular head of the effort to restore the imamate, fled to Saudi Arabia and eventually died in exile in Great Britain. Shortly after the revolution broke out in North Yemen, various groups in South Yemen began to work for independence from Great Britain. After a lengthy and often violent conflict, the British agreed to withdraw from Aden and its protectorates in 1967. The group to which they ceded power, the National Front for the Liberation of South Yemen, created the People's Republic of South Yemen (later the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen).

Although both Yemens spoke of the goal of re-unification, relations between them were often extraordinarily poor, due largely to their different economic and political systems. The North was governed by a military elite, which was tied to the West and permitted an almost unrestricted, though underdeveloped, capitalist economy to operate; in the South, a Marxist-Leninist political elite took power and tied the country to the communist bloc. Relations between the two states deteriorated into two separate warsin 1972 and 1979.

In the late 1980s, oil (and later natural gas) was discovered in both Yemens; more importantly, it was found in the disputed border areas between them. The effort to develop these deposits without wasting further resources in fruitless wars largely overlapped with the decline of the Soviet Union (and some of its satellites that had provided important assistance to South Yemen). As a result, the potential benefits of a unified effort to develop their oil and gas deposits overcame the mutual suspicions and frictions that had characterized the previous twenty-five years, leading to the unity agreement of 1990. Friction between the North and the South did not disappear, however. Disputes within the original coalition government of the General People's Congress and the Yemeni Socialist Party led to a civil war from May through July 1994. The South suffered a complete defeat, which resulted in the forced exile of its leaders and the concomitant ascent of the Islah Party (YIP).

Perhaps the most important development of the 1990s, however, was the increase in Islamist sentiment and support. Fearful of its growing influence, the GPC (and Salih) undertook various measures to limit Islamist power, including seeking a rapprochement with a truncated YSP. The growing influence of the Islamists in Yemen was most dramatically illustrated by the attack, in 2000, by allies and supporters of al-Qaʿida against the USS Cole while it was refueling in Aden. Numerous incidents of political violence involving previously unknown groups (e.g., the Sympathizers of al-Qaʿida) heightened fears in Yemen and the West that the country had become a major breeding and training ground for radical Islamist groups. Salih's government had to walk a fine line between recognizing the increased Islamist sentiment in the population and accommodating the interests and concerns of its grantors of financial and political support, including the United States. The fact that the government did not control all of its territory and that its borders were porous did nothing to assuage the fears of the United States and Europe.

see also aden; cole, uss; hadramawt; hodeida; ismaʿili shiʿism; maʾrib; people's democratic republic of yemen; qaʿida, al-; salih, ali abdullah; sanʿa; socotra; taʿiz; yemen arab republic; yemen civil war; yemen dynasties; zaydism.


Burrowes, Robert. The Yemen Arab Republic: The Politics of Development, 19671986. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1987.

Carapico, Sheila. Civil Society in Yemen: The Political Economy of Activism in Modern Arabia. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Dresch, Paul. A History of Modern Yemen. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Halliday, Fred. Revolution and Foreign Policy: The Case of South Yemen, 19671987. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Joffe, E.G.H.; Hachemi, M.J.; and Watkins, E.W. Yemen Today: Crisis and Solutions: Proceedings of a Two-Day Conference Held at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, November 25 and 26, 1995. London: Caravel, 1997.

Wenner, Manfred. The Yemen Arab Republic: Development and Change in an Ancient Land. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1991.

manfred w. wenner

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Yemen (yĕm´ən), officially Republic of Yemen, republic (2005 est. pop. 20,727,000), 207,300 sq mi (535,800 sq km), SW Asia, at the southern edge of the Arabian peninsula. The present nation of Yemen was formed in 1990, when the Yemen Arab Republic (the former Yemen or Northern Yemen) and the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (the former Southern Yemen) were unified. Yemen is bordered on the north by Saudi Arabia, on the east by Oman, on the south by the Gulf of Aden, and on the west by the Red Sea. The islands of Kamaran, in the Red Sea, Perim, in the Bab al-Mandeb, and Socotra, in the Arabian Sea, are part of Yemen. Sana is the capital; the port of Aden is the country's commercial capital. Other important cities are Hodeida, Mukalla, Taiz, Ibb, and Abyan.

Land and People

Yemen has a narrow coastal plain, stretching more than 700 mi (1,130 km), along the southern edge of the Arabian peninsula. It also has interior highlands and an eastern desert. The highlands, which are actually a section of the upturned Arabian plateau, are the highest part (rising to more than 12,000 ft/3,660 m) of the Arabian peninsula. They receive an annual average rainfall of c.20 in. (50 cm), making them also the wettest part of the peninsula; most of the precipitation occurs during the summer rainy season. The remainder of Yemen is hot and virtually rainless in the coastal regions. Numerous wadis radiate from the highlands, but there are no permanent streams; oases and springs provide local water needs.

Yemen is the most populous country on the Arabian Peninsula. The population is predominantly Arab, but there are also Afro-Arabs, South Asians, and Europeans. The north of Yemen is nearly 100% Muslim, both Sunni and Zaydi Shiite; the south is predominantly Muslim, but also has Christians and Hindus. Between 1948 and 1950 about 50,000 Yemeni Jews emigrated to Israel. Arabic is the nation's principal language. The tribal social structure is still prevalent in the country, although its importance diminishes along the coast, due to more foreign contact.


Most Yemenis are engaged in agriculture and herding. N Yemen produces grain, fruits, vegetables, khat (a stimulant-containing shrub), coffee, cotton, and livestock (sheep, goats, cattle, and camels) but is dependent on imports for most of its essential needs. Terraced agriculture, dating from ancient times, is still practiced. S Yemen is one of the poorest areas of the Arabian peninsula. The climate is arid, and only a fraction of the land is arable. Pastoralism is prevalent in the south, and the greatest amount of industry is located in Aden. There is fishing, food processing, salt mining, and small-scale manufacturing, including cotton textiles, leather goods, handicrafts, and aluminum products. The country produces and refines petroleum, and oil export revenues have boosted the economy since the late 1980s, but oil reserves are now being depleted. Imported oil is also processed into petroleum products for export. Other exports include coffee and processed fish. Foodstuffs, live animals, machinery, and chemicals are imported. Important trading partners include China, the United Arab Emirates, India, and Switzerland. Yemen's GDP is supplemented by remittances from Yemenis working abroad and by large amounts of foreign aid. One of the principal reasons for Southern Yemen's merger with (Northern) Yemen in 1990 was the steady decline of its economy and the loss of Soviet political and economic support. Pervasive corruption, however, has hindered new economic development in unified Yemen.


Yemen is governed under the constitution of 1991 as amended. The president, who is head of state, is elected by popular vote for a seven-year term. The government is headed by the prime minister, who is appointed by the president. The bicameral legislature consists of the Shura Council, whose 111 members are appointed by the president, and the House of Representatives, whose 301 members are popularly elected to six-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into 19 governorates.


Northern Yemen

The earliest recorded civilizations of S Arabia were the Minaean and Sabaean. The Sabaean kingdom (see Sheba) flourished from c.750 BC to c.115 BC, with Marib (located east of Sana) the capital after c.600 BC Sabaean society was highly developed technically, as witnessed by the remains of a great dam at Marib that was the center of a large irrigation system. The Himyarites, who followed the Sabaeans, were invaded by the Romans (1st cent. BC) and were occupied by the Ethiopians (c.AD 340–AD 378). During the second Himyarite kingdom Christianity and Judaism took root in Yemen. Ethiopia again conquered the country in 525. After a Persian period (575–628), Islam came to Yemen, which was soon reduced to a province of the Muslim caliphate.

After the breakup of the caliphate, Yemen came under the control of the rising Rassite dynasty, imams of the Zaidi sect who built the theocratic political structure of Yemen that lasted until 1962. The Fatamid caliphs of Egypt occupied most of Yemen from c.1000 until c.1175, when it fell to the Ayyubids, who ruled until c.1250. By 1520, Yemen formed part of the Ottoman Empire, which exercised at least nominal sovereignty until the end of World War I. A turbulent wave of Wahhabism, a puritanical sect of Islam, swept across the Arabian peninsula at the opening of the 19th cent. and drove out the Zaidi imams. Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt, acting in the name of the Ottoman sultan, drove out the Wahhabis in 1818, and the Egyptians remained until 1840. The Ottoman Turks then replaced the Egyptians, giving the imam full autonomy in the interior.

After the Ottoman evacuation (1918), Imam Yahya moved to expand Yemen's territory, but his only gain was the port and surrounding area of Hodeida. In 1934, after a brief Saudi Arabian invasion and skirmishes with Great Britain (which had the protectorate of Aden), Yemen's boundaries were fixed by treaty with Saudi Arabia and Great Britain. However, clashes on the Aden border continued sporadically. Modifying its traditional policy of isolation, Yemen became more active in foreign affairs after World War II; it joined the Arab League in 1945 and the United Nations in 1947 and established diplomatic relations with other nations. However, the imam, as both king and spiritual leader, continued to rule along theocratic lines.

Dissatisfaction, hitherto rapidly suppressed, grew, and in 1948 a palace revolt broke out, and the old Imam Yahya was assassinated. Crown Prince Ahmad drove out the insurgents and succeeded as imam. The new ruler accepted technical and economic assistance from both the West and the Communist bloc. From 1958 to 1961, Yemen joined with the United Arab Republic (Egypt and Syria) to form the United Arab States, which in reality was a paper alliance. Disorders broke out in 1959, and Imam Ahmad survived an assassination attempt in 1961. After his death in 1962, Imam Ahmad was succeeded by Crown Prince Muhammad al-Badr (later Imam Mansur Billah Muhammad), who favored a neutralist foreign policy. Soon afterward a revolt headed by pro-Egyptian army officers deposed the imam, but he escaped and led royalist tribes against the new government.

The ruling junta, commanded by Col. Adallah al-Salal, proclaimed a republic, and the army contained the imam's forces. Yemen then became an international battleground, with Egypt supporting the republicans and Saudi Arabia and Jordan the royalists. The Yemeni republicans split into opposing factions on the issue of Egyptian support. In an administrative reorganization in 1966, the independent government of Premier Hassan al-Amri was ousted by a strongly pro-Egyptian regime, with al-Salal assuming the office of premier. Many of al-Amri's supporters were arrested or removed from office. In 1967, by mutual agreement, Egyptian troops were withdrawn from Yemen, and Saudi Arabian aid to the royalists was halted. In Nov., 1967, al-Salal's government was overthrown while he was abroad, and a three-man republican council was formed with Qadi Abd al-Rahman al-Iryani (one of the anti-Egyptian leaders) as chairman; al-Amri resumed the premiership.

Fighting between the republicans and the royalists continued until 1970, when Saudi Arabia formally recognized the republican regime and stopped aid to the royalists. Between 1967 and 1972 frequent border clashes occurred between Yemen and Southern Yemen, until an accord was signed (1972) to merge the two countries. However, by 1974 the agreement had not been implemented, and fighting continued between the two states. On June 12, 1974, Chairman al-Iryani resigned after a period of internal political tension, and the next day a group of army officers led by Col. Ibrahim al-Hamidi staged a nonviolent coup. The officers established a command council to govern the country, suspended the constitution, and reestablished civilian rule.

Al-Hamidi was assassinated in Oct., 1977, and was succeeded by Lt.-Col. Ahmad al-Ghashmi, who continued civilian administration until his assassination in June, 1978. Lt.-Col. Ali Abdullah Saleh then was elected president. In early 1979 border fighting with neighboring Southern Yemen erupted into full-scale war. Peace was soon established, however, and another unification agreement was devised. Saleh was elected to a second term in 1983 and a third term in 1988.

Southern Yemen

A number of ancient empires, including the Minaean, Sabaean, and Himyarite, flourished in southern Yemen. The region came under Muslim influence in the 7th cent. In the 16th cent. it became part of the Ottoman Empire and came under the suzerainty of the imams of Yemen. (For a more detailed history, see above history of Northern Yemen or see Arabia.)

The British presence in Southern Yemen began in 1839, when forces of the British East India Co. occupied Aden. In 1854 and 1857 the Kuria Muria and Perim islands were ceded to the British, and other mainland areas were purchased by them. Between 1886 and 1914, Britain signed a number of protectorate treaties with local rulers. In 1937 the area, which by then consisted of 24 sultanates, emirates, and sheikhdoms, was designated the Aden Protectorate and was divided for administrative purposes into the East Aden protectorate and the West Aden protectorate. In 1959 six small states of the West Aden protectorate formed the Federation of the Emirates of the South; it was later enlarged to 10 members. Despite considerable opposition from its population, the Aden colony proper was made part of the federation (1963), which was then renamed the Federation of South Arabia (see South Arabia, Federation of).

By 1965, 16 tribal states had joined the federation. However, nationalist groups in Aden remained adamantly opposed to the federation and began a terrorist campaign against the British. Two rival nationalist groups emerged: the National Liberation Front (NLF) and the Front for the Liberation of Occupied South Yemen (FLOSY). Although Britain had promised to withdraw from the region by 1968, the NLF, which had emerged as the dominant group by 1967, forced the collapse of the federation after taking control of the governments of all the component states. Britain accelerated its withdrawal, and Southern Yemen became independent in Nov., 1967, with Qahtan al-Shaabi of the NLF the first president. In June, 1969, he resigned, and was succeeded by Rubayi Ali. In 1970 the country received a new constitution and was renamed the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen.

Following independence border disputes arose with Oman and the Yemen Arab Republic, some of which led to armed clashes. An accord was signed with the Yemen Arab Republic in 1972 calling for the end of fighting and the merger of the two countries. However, the agreement was not to be implemented for several years. In Apr., 1972, the government of Southern Yemen suffered a severe blow when 25 of its top officials were killed in an airplane crash. Rubayi Ali was ousted in June, 1978, by Abdalfattah Ismail, a radical rival who in 1979 signed a 20-year relation treaty with the Soviet Union. Soviet influence, including the presence of naval bases, became predominant in Southern Yemen, which was the Arab world's only Marxist state. Fighting with Northern Yemen again broke out in Feb., 1979, but was resolved one month later by a peace treaty.

In 1983, Ali Nasser Muhammad, Ismail's successor as president, restored relations with Saudi Arabia and Oman. In Jan., 1986, Muhammad tried to eliminate internal party opposition by killing party leaders and former president Ismail, but rival political fighting erupted for two weeks, after which Muhammad fled to Ethiopia. His supporters were mostly eliminated by the administration of Haider Abu Bakr al-Attas, Muhammad's successor. In Oct., 1988, Attas visited Oman, the first Southern Yemen leader to do so.

Unified Yemen

The leaders of the two Yemens met in Dec., 1989, when final unification agreements were made, and the borders were opened in Feb., 1990. On May 22 of that year, the two Yemens were officially united. North Yemen president Saleh became the leader of a unified Yemen, and Sana became the nation's capital. By 1993, however, relations between north and south had again grown tense. Fighting between northern and southern army units in 1994 erupted into a civil war between southern secessionists and Yemen's northern-based government. The war lasted for nine weeks and was decisively won by northern forces. Subsequently, Saleh was officially elected by parliament as president of the country, and a coalition government that excluded the leading southern party was established. The new government imposed unpopular economic austerity measures. Muslim extremists committed sporadic acts of violence in the south, and armed tribespeople from remote areas staged kidnappings of foreign tourists.

Yemen's armed forces clashed with Eritrea over control of the Hanish Islands in the Red Sea in the early 1990s; the Hague Tribunal awarded the islands to Yemen in 1998. The president's party won nearly two thirds of the seats in the 1997 legislative elections. In Sept., 1999, in Yemen's first direct presidential election, Saleh was returned to office; candidates from opposition parties were not approved to run, and the government was charged with fraudulently inflating the vote count. In Oct., 2000, the U.S.S. Cole was damaged by a suicide bombing while anchored at Aden and the British embassy was bombed. Also in 2000, a border treaty ending disputes with Saudi Arabia that dated to the 1930s was signed.

President Saleh announced support for the U.S. "war on terror" in 2001 and subsequently received American aid and made some moves against Muslim extremists, but the terror attacks also continued. Saleh's General People's Congress won more than two thirds of the seats in the 2003 legislative elections. In June, 2004, government forces began raids against supporters of Shiite cleric Hussein al-Houthi, who was accused of sedition and extremism. The cleric had denounced the government's pro-American policies and government corruption. Several months of fighting in NW Yemen, in which hundreds died, followed, and in September Sheikh Houthi was killed and a cease-fire mediated. Fighting erupted again in Apr., 2005, when the government attacked his followers, commonly referred to as Houthis or Hawthis, after unsuccessful negotiations. Almost a year later some 600 rebels were released in an amnesty, but attacks continued spordically until June, 2007, when a cease-fire was agreed to. There were, however, additional attacks by Jan., 2008, and in subsequent months, and fighting with the rebels intensifed in the second half of 2009, displacing some 200,000 persons. In Nov., 2009, a rebel incursion into Saudi Arabia led also to fighting between Saudi forces and the rebels. The conflict extended into Feb., 2010, when a truce was established; the rebels also withdrew from Saudi Arabia. The truce largely held, although there were clashes in July, 2010. There also have been clashes with Islamic militants linked to Al Qaeda, with an increase in operations against them in E Yemen in early 2010 after an attempted bombing (Dec. 25, 2009) of a plane in the United States by a Nigerian with ties to the Yemeni Islamists.

Meanwhile, in July, 2005, fuel price increases sparked protests and riots across Yemen, leading the government to roll the increases back somewhat. That same month the president said he would not seek a new term in Sept., 2006, a position he reversed a year later. In the 2006 presidential Saleh was reelected with more than three-fourths of the vote, but the opposition rejected the results. Despite irregularities, the election was generally regarded as an improvement over the previous presidential poll.

By early 2008, S Yemeni unhappiness with unification was again becoming pronounced, as protests and riots occurred in parts of S Yemen; sporadic unrest continued into 2010. Amid protests in early 2011 against his rule (which echoed similar protests in Tunisia and Egypt against entrenched rulers there), the president promised in February not to seek reelection. Recurring demonstrations, however, were stoked by the killings of demonstrators, which also split the ruling party and the military. By April, the widespread protests had crippled the country.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) attempted to negotiate Saleh's resignation, but the president several times reneged on agreements. The unsettled situation invigorated militant Islamists, who mounted attacks in S Yemen and were able to seize control of some areas; fighting with the Islamists continued into 2012. In late May tribal militias became increasing active in opposing Saleh, and fought with government forces in Sana and Taiz. In early June Saleh was severely wounded in an attack on the presidential compound and went to Saudi Arabia for treatment; he returned in September. A truce with the tribal militias largely held during the summer, but beginning in September there were more serious outbreaks.

In November, Saleh agreed to transfer his powers to Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi under a GCC-brokered plan, remaining on as titular president until an election (later were called for Feb., 2012). An interim government, with cabinet posts divided equally between the government and opposition and headed by Prime Minister Mohammed Basindwa, an opposition politician, was appointed in Dec., 2011; the new government subsequently approved a law granting immunity to Saleh. In Feb., 2012, Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi was elected president in an election in which he was the only candidate, but Saleh remained a political force and attempted to undermine the interim government through his supporters in it and the military. The military subsequently mounted an offensive against the militant Islamists in S Yemen, and by mid-2012 had largely reestablished government control there, but the area continued to be the scene of sporadic fighting.

In August and in December, Hadi ordered armed forces reorganizations designed to reduce the influence of Saleh and others in the military. Not all the changes. however, came into effect in subsequent months. In Apr., 2013, Hadi ordered further changes and removed Saleh's relatives from military command positions. A national dialogue conference intended to help develop a new constitution for Yemen began in Mar., 2013, and ended in Jan., 2014; it approved a six-region federal system for the country and extended Hadi's term by a year.

In Sept., 2013, the prime minister was the subject of an assassination attempt. Houthi Shiites attacked in a Sunni Salafist school in NW Yemen in October and November, accusing the Salafists of running a training camp for foreign fighters. Fighting continued into 2014, spreading to other areas in the northwest as the Houthis expanded the area under their control with increasing support from Yemen's Shiites. They captured Amran (Omran), N of Sana, in mid-2014. In Apr., 2014, government forces began a new offensive against Al Qaeda–aligned militants in S Yemen; the militants launched a number of attacks in the capital in retaliation.

In August, the Houthis mounted protests around Sana against the government. When a peace deal was signed ending the conflict in September they secured control of the capital and then expanded in October W into Hodeida and, fighting Al Qaeda–aligned Sunni militants, S into central Yemen, but the Sunni militants subsequently mounted a violent retaliatory campaign. The prime minister, whom the Houthis objected to, resigned in September, and after appointment of a new prime minister (Khaled Bahah), they objected to the makeup of the cabinet, which was re-formed in December. They also seized control of a number of ministries. The Houthis received support from Saleh and military forces that continued to support him, and in November the United Nations sanctioned Saleh.

By Feb., 2015, the Houthis had formally seized control of the government, and Hadi, who they had placed under house arrest, had fled to Aden, where he attempted to rally progovernment forces. Houthi and Saleh forces advanced south toward Aden, seizing Taiz (subsequently contested by progovernment forces), and by March the opposing forces were fighting for control of Aden; that month Hadi left Yemen for Saudi Arabia. Also in March, Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations began an air campaign against the Houthis, and there were clashes with the Houthis along the Saudi border. The air strikes slowed the advance of Houthi and Saleh forces. The civil war in W Yemen allowed the Al Qaeda–aligned forces to seize Mukalla, a port on the central Gulf of Aden coast, in April, and that same month the United Nations imposed an arms embargo on the Houthis and their military allies.


See C. Fayein, A French Doctor in the Yemen (tr. 1957); E. Macro, Yemen and the Western World since 1571 (1968); E. O'Ballance, The War in the Yemen (1971); R. W. Stookey, South Yemen (1982); R. Bidwell, The Two Yemens (1983); R. F. Nyrop, ed., Yemens (1986); P. Dresch, Tribes, Government and History in Yemen (1989); F. Halliday, Revolution and Foreign Policy: The Case of South Yemen (1989); T. Mackintosh-Smith, Yemen: The Unknown Arabia (2000); P. Dresch, A History of Modern Yemen (2001); V. Clark, Yemen: Dancing on the Heads of Snakes (2010).

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Official name: Republic of Yemen

Area: 527,970 square kilometers (203,850 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: An-Nabī Shùayb (3,760 meters/12,336 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern

Time zone: 3 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 540 kilometers (336 miles) from north to south; approximately 1,250 kilometers (777 miles) from southwest to northeast

Land boundaries: 1,746 kilometers (1085 miles) total boundary length; Oman 288 kilometers (179 miles); Saudi Arabia 1,458 kilometers (906 miles)

Coastline: 1,906 kilometers (1,184 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


Yemen is located in the Middle East on the southwestern part of the Arabian Peninsula, bordering Oman and Saudi Arabia. It has a western coastline on the Red Sea and a southern coast on the Arabian Sea. With a total area of about 527,970 square kilometers (203,850 square miles), the country is slightly larger than twice the size of the state of Wyoming. Yemen is administratively divided into seventeen governorates.


Yemen has no outside territories or dependencies.


Yemen has a very hot, semitropical climate, with temperatures as high as 54°C (129°F). The average temperature varies over the two basic seasons, ranging from 22°C (72°F) in summer to 14°C (57°F) in winter. The Red Sea coast is particularly hot and humid. The interior mountain regions experience frost in winter. Sandstorms often appear in both summer and winter as winds sweep across Yemen.

Monsoon rains drench much of otherwise dry Yemen twice each year, from March through May and July through September. In the southwest corner of the country there is more consistent rain, with constant fog along the coast. Yemen's average annual rainfall is 51 to 91 centimeters (20 to 36 inches), with great regional variation. Less than 12 centimeters (5 inches) of precipitation falls on the coastal lowlands, contrasting with 100 centimeters (39 inches) in the highlands above 3,000 meters (9,842 feet).


Yemen has five principal geographic regions: the Tihama coastal plain; the mountainous interior; the high plateau, the Wadi Hadhramawt region, and the Al Mahra uplands; the Rub'al-Khali interior desert; and the offshore islands.


Seacoast and Undersea Features

The Red Sea lies to the west of Yemen. The Red Sea is a narrow, landlocked sea that separates Africa from the Arabian Peninsula. It links to the Mediterranean Sea through the Gulf of Suez and the Suez Canal. In the south, the Red Sea links to the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea through the Strait of Mandeb (Bab el Mandeb).

The Arabian Sea, which is an extension of the Indian Ocean, lies to the south of Yemen. The Gulf of Aden, to the southwest of Yemen, is an extension of the Arabian Sea. Some 5 percent of Yemen's coast has nearby coral reefs, with particularly diverse marine habitats in the Red Sea.

Sea Inlets and Straits

One of the world's most important shipping lanes, the Strait of Mandeb, connects the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden southwest of Yemen, and separates Yemen from the African countries of Djibouti and Eritrea. The natural harbor of Aden lies on the Gulf of Aden. The coast curves inward at Cape Fartak, forming the Qamr Bay (Ghubbat al Qamar) near Yemen's border with Oman.

Islands and Archipelagos

Yemen has more than 115 islands, including Perim in the Strait of Mandeb and the Hanīsh Islands and Kamaran further north. Yemen also possesses the 3,626-square-kilometer (1,400-square-mile) island of Socotra in the Arabian Sea. Socotra has numerous endemic species, with intact land and marine ecosystems. The Brothers, a chain of small islands near Socotra, also belong to Yemen.

Coastal Features

Cape Kathib (Ras al Kathib) interrupts the north-south stretch of Yemen's Red Sea coast near the port of Al Hudaydah. The town of Turba marks the corner on the Strait of Mandeb where the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden coasts converge. Yemen's Gulf of Aden coast runs from southwest to northeast. Coastal plains follow on the Gulf of Aden, with sandy beaches including Cape Sharma and Dhobbah, which are nesting sites for endangered green turtles.

Jebel al Houf, on the coast far to the east, has Yemen's largest forest (200 square kilometers/77 square miles), in an area where mountains trap monsoon moisture to create a foggy, misty zone; it is protected by the local community.


Yemen has no significant natural freshwater lakes. There are some small brackish lagoons along the coast, however, and several hot springs in the highlands.

Wastewater lagoons north of Ta'izz and northeast of Al-Hudaydah, and a treated-sewage outflow area west of the city of Aden, have become important bird habitats. Mudflats, sandbars, and mangroves form wetlands with individual ecosystems along the Red Sea coast.


Yemen's highlands are interspersed with deep wadis, or riverbeds. The wadis are usually quite dry with little vegetation, but many of them will fill dramatically during times of heavy rains. Rainfall drains through seven major wadis that can flow west as far as the Red Sea. These are the Rima, Rasyan, Mawr, Surdud, Siham, Zabid, and Mawza. Wadis that drain south into the Gulf of Aden from the eastern regions include Hajar, Jahr, Warazan, and Yemen's longest, Wadi Hadhramawt, at 240 kilometers (149 miles).


Inland from the mountains and north of the Wadi Hadhramawt valley, gravel deserts transition into the sand dune deserts of the Rub'al-Khali, or Empty Quarter, which extends across the border from Saudi Arabia. Even in this inhospitable region, oases are inhabited during the rainy season. Productive salt pans are found in the Rub'al-Khali.

On the Gulf of Aden coast is a coastal fog desert ecosystem, with vegetation that eventually gives way to the Tihama desert. The Tihama is a narrow, hot, humid, yet almost waterless strip that extends along the Red Sea coast and covers approximately 10 percent of the country.


Scrub grasslands, with sparse ground cover and shrubbery, are common throughout Yemen. This type of terrain, which covers about 30 percent of Yemen's area, is used for raising livestock. Over-grazing is an environmental threat.

Yemen's eastern mountains slope down into hills that merge with the sands of the Rub'al-Khali desert. Other hill areas include the Hadhramawt and Al Mahra uplands in the east. Throughout Yemen, the foothills of mountain ranges are terraced for farming.

The valleys of Wadi al-Malih and Wadi Warazan near the city of Ta'izz, as well as Wadi Zabid near the port of Al Hudaydah, contain marshes that are decreasing in area due to demands on the groundwater, agricultural conversion, and grazing.

The valley of Wadi Hadhramawt extends from the central part of the country south-eastward to the Gulf of Aden. Surrounded by desolate hills and desert, the upper and middle parts of the Hadhramawt, with their alluvial soil and seasonal floodwaters, are relatively fertile and are inhabited by a farming population. The lower eastern part of the valley, which turns southward to the sea, is barren and largely uninhabited.


The term "Middle East" was coined by western Europeans as a geographic designation for those countries of southwest Asia and northeast Africa that stretch from the Mediterranean Sea to the borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan, including the nations on the Arabian Peninsula. This area was considered to be the midpoint between Europe and East Asia, which was often called the Far East.

In a cultural sense, the term sometimes refers to all the countries of that general region that are primarily Islamic. In this sense, the Middle East also includes the countries of Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as some of the North African countries that border the Arabian Peninsula.


Yemen's interior is quite mountainous, with several ranges running along a north-south axis parallel to the Red Sea and also along an east-west axis parallel to the Gulf of Aden. The mountains, which include extinct volcanoes, reach 2,438 meters (8,000 feet) in the extreme west, gradually tapering off to the east. Elevations in the interior mountains range from 2,133 to 3,048 meters (7,000 to 10,000 feet). Rocky spars and sharp, steep ridges dominate these systems; the rugged landscape limits access to the country's interior.

There are western, central, and eastern ranges. The western mountains, although steep, are terraced to support intensive agriculture. The central mountain range begins in the vicinity of the old city of Ta'izz and includes Arabia's highest peak, An-Nabī Shu'ayb, which rises to 3,760 meters (12,336 feet). Yemen's capital, Sanaa, is located in one of the largest basins of the central range, at an elevation of 2,400 meters (7,874 feet). The eastern highlands rise to heights of 762 to 1,067 meters (2,500 to 3,500 feet).

Efforts are being made to preserve the forests of the mountainous Utma region of the central highlands, which include medicinal and fragrant tree species.


Yemen's canyons include the Al Guedam canyon in the mountains north of Sanaa, Wadi Dahero canyon on Socotra Island, and the Bir Maqsur limestone crevasse, also on Socotra. Deeply eroded ravines cut by extinct or seasonally flowing rivers (the wadis ) fissure much of Yemen's interior.


Yemen's eastern region occupies the irregular southern end of the Arabian Plateau, which was formed from ancient granite and has been partially covered by sedimentary limestone and sand. The central highlands of Yemen are broken into plateaus ranging in height from 1,200 to 3,000 meters (4,000 to 10,000 feet). The Harra Plateau, north of Sanaa, is a spectacular landscape of lava rock, sandstone striations, and extinct volcanic cones.


The largest lake in Yemen is the artificial Marib Reservoir, which was created by a dam built in 1986. The 30-square-kilometer (12-square-mile) reservoir is shrinking in size as its water levels have been depleted; it also has been afflicted with algae blooms. Throughout history, Yemeni residents have built small dams and canals along the country's riverbeds in order to collect water for drinking and irrigation. Unfortunately, since few of the rivers are permanent, these dams have not always been helpful. In fact, flash floods have destroyed some of these damsswept away by the waters they were meant to contain.



Hansen, Eric. Motoring with Mohammed: Journeys to Yemen and the Red Sea. New York: Vintage, 1992.

MacKintosh-Smith, Tim. Yemen: The Unknown Arabia. New York: Overlook Press, 2001.

Stark, Freya. The Southern Gates of Arabia: A Journey in the Hadhramawt. London: John Murray, 1940.

Wald, Peter. Yemen. London: Pallas Athene, 1996.

Web Sites

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations: Yemen. (accessed May 5, 2003).

Yemen Gateway. (accessed May 5, 2003).

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Basic Data

Official Country Name: Republic of Yemen
Region (Map name): Middle East
Population: 17,479,206
Language(s): Arabic
Literacy rate: 38%

In 1990 Southern and Northern Yemen merged to become the Republic of Yemen (Al Jumhuriyah al Yamaniyah ), which in size is about about twice the size of the state of Wyoming. While unification has proved difficult, with a secession attempt occurring in 1994, the state has remained relatively cohesive and there are indications that understanding and acceptance of national identity continues to increase. This is in part supported by Yemen's (Al Yaman ) bold moves toward pluralism and democracy (22 registered political parties were reported in 2000) through conducting elections that on the whole continue to be open and fair, despite controversies that have arisen.

While economic and technological modernization is occurring in the country, Yemen, remains primarily rural (66 percent). Recent statistics suggest that in a country of almost 18 million people there are per 1,000 people: 283 television sets, 64 radios, 15 daily newspapers, 2 mobile phones, 19 mainline telephones overall with 77 conglomerated in the largest urban areas, and 2 personal computers. As well, approximately 15,000 use the internet.

Radio in both North and South Yemen began in the 1950s and was utilized by parties to promote their competing ideologies. The South was particularly helped by Voice of the Arabs and Radio Cairo in those early years and later by the Soviet Union and East European countries. The North received significant aid from the BBC Arabic Service and from Sharq al-Adna based in Cyprus and also operated by the British.

Today, while illiteracy is decreasing in Yemen especially among menradio remains a significant medium by which to communicate to the general populace. Radio is state-controlled through the Ministry of Information with the main broadcasting contact being Yemen Radio and Television Corporation (Dir. Ali Caleh Algamrah). There are two main domestic Arabic stations, one located in San'a and one in Aden, along with local stations in four other areas. Saudi and Omani broadcasts can also be picked up. Short wave and satellite frequencies are utilized on top of other domestic frequencies.

North Yemen first saw television in 1965 and the South in 1975. Today there are two channels with Yemen Radio and Television Corporation overseeing these. They broadcast primarily in Arabic with some news available in English. As well, Arabsat is utilized to broadcast to Europe and other regions of the Middle East.

The Press of the Republic of Yemen remains under significant state-control despite legislation that was enacted in 1990 guaranteeing its freedom. There are a small number of dailies and quite a number of weeklies/ monthlies operating. Dailies include:

  • Al-Jumhuriya (circulation 100,000)
  • Ar Rabi' 'Ashar Min Uktubar (circulation 20,000; chief editor, Muhammad Hussain Muhammad)
  • Ash-Sharara (The Spark, circulation 6,000)
  • Ath-Thawra (The Revolution; govt. owned; circulation 110,000; editor, Muhammad Az-Zorkah)

Of the other publications, some of the more largely circulated include:

  • Al-Wahda al-Watani (National Unityformerly Al-Omal; circulation 40,000; monthly)
  • The Yemen Times (circulation 30,000; independent weekly; editor-in-chief, Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf)
  • 26 September (circulation 25,000; armed forces weekly)
  • Al-Fanoon (circulation 15,500; monthly; arts review)
  • Ash-Shura (circulation 15,000)

Other publications without circulation numbers include:

  • Yemeni Women (monthly)
  • Al-Yemen (weekly; center-right)
  • Ath-Thawri (weekly; used by the Yemen Socialist Party (YSP)
  • At-Ta'awun (Co-operation, weekly, supports cooperative societies)
  • Al-Bilad (weekly; center-right), Attijarah (monthly; trade)
  • Ar-Ra'i al-'Am (Public Opinion; weekly; independent)
  • As-Sahwa (Awakening; weekly; Islamic Fundamentalist)
  • Dar as-Salam (Peace; weekly; political, economic and general essays)

There were two news agencies operating in Yemen: Aden News Agency (ANA), which was government owned (Director General Ahmad Muhammad Ibrahim), and SABA News Agency (Editor Husein Al-Awadi). However, recent BBC material suggests that only SABA remains. The Yemeni government maintains an Internet site and a number of other Yemeni publications are accessible via the Internet. SABA's Internet site has links to eleven other local Yemeni Internet publicationssome solely Internet based and others operating both electronically and traditionally.


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Boyd, Douglas. Broadcasting in the Arab World: A Survey of the Electronic Media in the Middle East, 3rd ed. Iowa State University Press. Ames, IA: 1999.

Carapico, Sheila. Civil Society in Yemen: The Political Economy of Activism in Modern Arabia. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge, Mass: 1998.

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International Telecommunications Union (ITU). Available from

Kurian, George, ed. World Press Encyclopedia. Facts on File, Inc. New York: 1982.

Leveau, R., F. Merimer, and U. Steinbach, Eds. Le Yémen contemporain. Karthala. Paris: 1999.

Maher, Joanne, ed. Regional Surveys of the World: The Middle East and North Africa 2002, 48th ed. Europa Publications. London: 2001.

Redmon, Clare, ed. Willings Press Guide 2002, Vol. 2. Waymaker Ltd. Chesham Bucks, UK: 2002.

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Yemen News Agency (SABA). Available from

Yemen Times. Available from

Clint B. Thomas Baldwin

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Country statistics


527,970sq km (203,849sq mi) 18,862,999

capital (population):

Sana'a (1,590,624)


Multi-party republic

ethnic groups:

Arab 96%


Arabic (official)


Sunni Muslim (Shaf'i order) 65%, Shi'a Muslim 35% (Zaidi order)


Yemen rial = 100 fils

Republic on the s tip of the Arabian peninsula. The Republic of Yemen lies on the s tip of the Arabian peninsula. Much of Yemen's interior forms part of the Rub al Khali (Empty Quarter) desert. The desert is bisected by a central plateau. A narrow coastal plain borders the Red and Arabian seas. The Arabian coastal plain includes Aden, the former capital of South Yemen, and the fertile Hadramaut valley. The w plain is backed by highlands, which rise to more than 3600m (12,000ft) near the capital Sana'a.

Climate and Vegetation

Most of Yemen is hot and rainless, except during the monsoon month of August. The highlands are the wettest part of Arabia and the temperature is moderated by altitude. Palm trees grow along the coast. Plants such as acacia and eucalyptus flourish in the interior. Thorn shrubs and mountain pasture are found in the highlands. The Rub al Khali is a barren desert.

History and Politics

The ancient kingdom of Sheba (Saba) flourished in present-day s Yemen between c.750 bc and 100 bc. The kingdom was renowned for its advanced technology and wealth, gained through its strategic location on important trade routes. Romans invaded the region in the 1st century bc.

Islam was introduced in ad 628. The Rassite dynasty of the Zaidi sect established a theocratic state, which lasted until 1962. In c.1000, the Fatimids conquered Yemen. In 1517, the area became part of the Ottoman Empire, and largely remained under Turkish control until 1918. In the 19th century, the Saudi Wahhabi sect ousted the Zaidi imams, but were in turn expelled by Ibrahim Pasha.

In 1839, the British captured Aden. In 1937, Britain formed the Aden Protectorate. Following the defeat of the Ottomans in World War 1, Imam Yahya of the Hamid al-Din dynasty ruled Yemen. In 1945, Yemen joined the Arab League. In 1948, Yahya was assassinated and Crown Prince Ahmed became imam. From 1958 to 1961, Yemen formed part of the United Arab Republic (with Egypt and Syria).

In 1962, a military coup overthrew the monarchy and established the Yemen Arab Republic. Civil war ensued between republicans (aided by Egypt) and royalists (aided by Saudi Arabia and Jordan). Meanwhile, the Aden Protectorate became part of the British Federation of South Arabia.

In 1967, the National Liberation Front forced the British to withdraw from Aden and founded the People's Republic of South Yemen. Marxists won the ensuing civil war in South Yemen and renamed it the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (1970). Border clashes between the two Yemens were frequent throughout the 1970s, and erupted into full-scale war in 1979.

In 1990, after lengthy negotiations, the two Yemens merged to form a single republic with Ali Abdallah Salih as president. Yemen's support for Iraq in the Gulf War (1991) led to the expulsion of 800,000 Yemeni workers from Saudi Arabia. A coalition government emerged from 1993 elections, but increasing economic and political tensions between North and South led to civil war in 1994. The South's brief secession from the union ended with victory for the Northern army. In 1995, Yemen reached agreements with Saudi Arabia and Oman over disputed boundaries, but clashed with Eritrea over the Hanish Islands in the Red Sea. In 2000, a suicide bomb attack on the USS Cole in Aden killed 17 US personnel. In 2001, President Salih offered support to the USA in its "war on terrorism".


Civil war devastated Yemen's economy, seriously damaging the country's infrastructure, such as the oil refinery at Aden. Yemen is a low-income developing nation (2000 GDP per capita, US$820). In 2000, unemployment stood at more than 30% and inflation at more than 10%. Nearly 50% of the population are under 15 years old. Agriculture employs 63% of the workforce, mainly at subsistence level. The major economic activity is livestock-raising, principally sheep. Crops include sorghum, wheat and barley. Oil extraction began in the nw in the 1980s. Natural gas is also exploited.

Political map

Physical map


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Culture Name


Alternative Names

South Arabian, al-Yamani


Identification. The name of the country is derived from the legendary ancestor Yaman, the son of Qahtan, or from the Arabic root ymn ("the right") since Yemen is located to the right of the Meccan sanctuary of Kaaba. Some scholars compare the Arabic word yumna ("happy") with the Roman name for the southwest Arabia, Arabia Felix ("Happy Arabia"). Inhabitants feel that they have a common culture, although local and class identities are still important.

Location and Geography. Medieval Arab geographers thought of Yemen as covering the entire southern strip of the Arabian peninsula, from the mountainous southwest, including Najran and Asir, to Hadhramaut and Oman on the east. Today that area includes the regions that make up the Republic of Yemen (RY), which was formed in 1990 when the Yemen Arab Republic (YAR, or North Yemen) with its capital in Sana'a, and the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY, or South Yemen), with its capital in Aden, were unified. The capital is Sana'a, and Aden is referred to as the country's economic capital. The approximate size of the nation, since some of its borders are not demarcated, is 187,000 square miles (North: 75,000 square miles; South: 112,000 square miles), or 482,100 square kilometers.

There are six cultural and economic zones. The Tihama, a coastal plain and hilly area along the Red Sea, is fifteen to twenty-five miles (twenty-five to forty kilometers) wide. It is an area of fishing, commerce, and trade in the ports of al-Mukha (Mocha) and al-Hudayda as well as agriculture in oases (the main crops are millet, maize, sugarcane, watermelons, tobacco, and cotton) as well as livestock breeding. Handicrafts are made in Zabid, Bayt al-Faqih, and other centers. The highlands in the west have regular seasonal rains. Terraced agriculture (millet, wheat, barley, grapes, coffee, tobacco, vegetables, fruits, qat) is practiced, and goats, sheep, cows, and donkeys are raised. The central mountains consist of wide plateaus and basins. Fields are watered from wells and rainfall is sufficient for most crops. This region includes urban centers such as Sana'a and Sa'da. The high plateau in the east gradually merges with the desert Rub al-Khal. Date palms are cultivated in small oases, and the population is semi nomadic. There are salt deposits near Shabwa, Safir, and Harib. The limestone tableland of Hadhramaut and Wadi Masila has valleys (wadis) carved deep into the plateau. Cultivated patches are irrigated with rain and flood waters and from wells. Hinterlands towns include Shibam, Sayun, and Tarim in the Inner Wadi, and there are seaports at al-Mukalla and al-Shihr. The adjacent Mahra province and Socotra island are culturally related to this zone. The Gulf of Aden coastal plain, which is five to ten miles (eight to sixteen kilometers) wide, is discontinuous. Its ports, from Aden in the west to Sayhut and al-Ghayda in the east, are connected with the inland regions rather than with one another.

Demography. The population is ethnically Arab, divided between Sunni Muslims of the Shafi'i school and Shi'a Muslims of the Zaydi school. There are small groups of Jews, Hindus, and Christians. In 1949 and 1950, about fifty thousand Yemeni Jews left for Israel. In 1998, the population was 17,071,000. The annual growth rate is limited by migration and a high infant mortality rate. The birthrate is high, and almost half the population is under fifteen years of age.

Linguistic Affiliation. Yemenis speak Arabic, which belongs to the Semitic language family. Classical Arabic, the language of Islam and the Koran, is used on formal occasions. The spoken dialects, whose areas roughly correspond to the six cultural zones, are used in everyday life. Some groups have maintained their ancient oral tongues of the south Arabic branch. The most commonly used foreign language is English, and Russian is still understood in Sana'a and Aden.

Symbolism. The notion of allegiance is shaped by kinship, the native land, language, faith, and a shared culture. The symbol of male honor is a curved dagger, the jambiyyah ; lineage is symbolized by a clan's tower at the top of a hill; and generosity and hospitality are expressed in making and serving coffee. The coffee tree, the state eagle, the national colors, and the Marib Dam are shown in the new national emblem. The colors of the national flag (horizontal bands of red, white, and black) reflect pan-Arab symbolism, being similar to the flags of Syria, Iraq, and Egypt. The national anthem and national days of celebration emphasize the unification of the country.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. The ancient walled city Sana'a is said to be the oldest city in the world, founded by Noah's eldest son, Shem, the forefather of Qahtan. Bilqis, the Queen of Sheba (Saba), is mentioned in the Bible and the Koran. The kingdom of Saba, with its capital, Marib, had existed since the first millennium b.c.e. The Marib Dam provided irrigation for about twenty-five thousand acres of arable land; its collapse in the first centuries c.e. is depicted in the Koran as a punishment from God. The prosperity of the principal rival kingdoms, Saba, Hadhramaut, Awsan, Qataban, and Ma'in, was based on the cultivation and overland exportation of frankincense, myrrh, and spices to the Mediterranean. Ancient South Arabian culture developed an intricate architecture and created masterpieces of figurative and decorative arts. It maintained contacts with Egypt, Greece, Palmyra, Chaldea, and Abyssinia, which was founded by Sabaeans, as well as India. In 2524 b.c.e., the Roman emperor attempted to conquer the Sabaean kingdom, which was the southernmost outlet of the trade route to India. At that time, caravan traffic became less important than the shipping route between Egypt and India. The whole of southwestern Arabia was united by the kingdom of Himyar (circa 100 b.c.e. 525 c.e., which controlled the Red Sea and the coasts of the Gulf of Aden. After the fall of Jerusalem in 70 c.e., many Jews settled in the region, and the Christian (Nestorian) faith was propagated. In the early sixth century, the kings of Himyar converted to Judaism and persecuted local Christians, leading the Abyssinians to take control of South Arabia in 525. The Persian Sassanians followed in 575.

The advent of Islam to South Arabia in the seventh century ousted local pantheons and monotheistic cults. Yemeni tribes took an active part in the Arab conquests and the construction of an Islamic state, and the tribal principal became a distinct form of communal organization in the area. In 898, al-Hadi Yahya proclaimed himself the first Zaydi imam, establishing a Shi'a dynasty that ruled in several regions of northern Yemen until 1962. The Egyptian Ayyubids invaded in 1173 and controlled all of Yemen until 1228. Their local vassals, the Rasulids, ruled until 1454, the golden age of art, science, and prosperity. The Tahirid tribesmen succeeded the Rasulids but were overthrown by the Egyptian Mamluks (15151517), who opened Yemen to invasion by the Ottoman Turks.

The Portuguese, the French, and the British as well as the Ottoman Empire tried to seize the main routes to the Indian Ocean. The local coffee mocha (named after the town al-Mukha), became an important item in world trade. The split of Yemen into the south and the north was caused by British and Ottoman politics. In 1839, the British occupied Aden. The Ottomans took control over main regions of the north in 18481872 in spite of armed resistance by the Zaydi imams, who had defeated the Turks in 1568, 1613, and 1635. Frequent uprisings forced the Ottomans to grant autonomy to the Zaydi regions in 1911. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, the Turks withdrew from the north; its independence under the Zaydi imams was internationally recognized in 1923. The imams claimed the right to all of historical Yemen but ceded the province of Najran to Saudi Arabia in 1934. In 1962, the rule of imams was overthrown, and YAR was paroclaimed.

The South was administered by British Bombay presidency until 1937, when it was designated the Crown Colony of Aden and Protectorate. In 1963, the Aden Colony became part of the British-sponsored Federation of South Arabia, which was scheduled to become independent in 1968. The British had to withdraw in 1967, and power was seized by the Marxist-oriented National Liberation Front. The south was proclaimed the People's Republic of South Yemen in 1967 and the PDRY in 1970. The tribal, religious, and pro-Western YAR and the Marxist, secular, and pro-communist PDRY engaged in border warfare in 1979 and 1987. In 1989, the YAR and the PDRY signed a draft document for unification. On 22 May 1990 the new Yemeni nation was born. Six months after unification, the Gulf War started. Yemeni labor migrants from the Arab oil states were forced to return home, causing a population increase, a slowdown in the migrants' remittances, and a reduction in foreign aid.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Apart from a relatively few pastoral nomads who live in tents or caves, most residents are urban dwellers (one-fourth) and sedentary agriculturalists. Since ancient times builders have used local materials to build cities and villages on mountain slopes, dry islets at the bed of a valley, stony plateaus, and sandy seashores. Most localities, from walled cities to tiny hamlets, are still divided into traditional quarters or neighborhoods. Public spaces, especially markets, foster communication among men.

Cultural zones vary in the use of building materials. In villages in northern Tihama timber and straw are used, while in towns shell lime is more common; in southern Tihama timber and brick are used. In the central mountainous region, hewn stone is used; in the highlands, houses are made of stone, burned brick, and stamped clay. In the desert, houses are built from stamped clay and sun-dried mud bricks. These materials also are used in Hadhramaut, whose multistory "skyscrapers" in Shibam are reputed to be the highest mud constructions in the world. Natural stone is used mainly in Mahra and on Socotra.

The majority of buildings originate from pre-Islamic fortified towers that combine in a single structure under a whitewashed flat roof the functions of dwelling, storage, and fortress.

The traditional division of Arab dwellings into men's and women's halves led to the use of separate staircases and room entrances hidden behind partitions. There is a minimum of furniture: cushions and mattresses are placed along the walls for sitting, and special mattresses, which are taken away in the daytime, are used for sleeping. The floor is covered with palm leaf matting, goat-hair rugs, or imported rugs. Cubbyholes are made in thick walls for books, utensils, and clothes.

UNESCO has sponsored international campaigns to protect the architectural heritage, encouraging the use of local materials and building methods. These principles were maintained in the building of the Ministry of Justice in Sana'a and Provincial Health Center and Hospital in Dhamar. The 1990s witnessed a construction boom in the urban centers.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Yemenis usually eat three times a day at home. The traditional diet varies locally and socially and is open to innovations. Generally, there is an early breakfast of sweet strong tea with bread made of sorghum, wheat, or barley; dinner includes a porridge prepared from fenugreek with meat, eggs, vegetables, herbs, and spices, which is served hot in a stone or clay bowl; a light supper consists of vegetables and/or dates. One can drink a glass of tea or a brew of coffee husks outdoors in the daytime. Lentils and peas are traditional staples in addition to sorghum. Many inexpensive restaurants have opened, some of them Lebanese. Local food taboos are those common to the Islamic world: alcohol and pork are officially prohibited.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. At feasts and celebrations, the festive meal of the nomads, roasted or boiled meat from goat or sheep served on heaps of rice, is eaten. In town and villages it is served with side dishes of roasted or fried eggplant and mixed green salads, with fruit or custard with raisins or grapes for dessert. People now consume more fish, poultry, and dairy products. Among the variety of sweets is bint as-sahn, a puff pastry covered with honey. Yemenis prepare special dishes and sweets for nightly breaks during the Ramadan fast. At wedding celebrations and religious feasts, coffee is drunk. In decorated drawingrooms, people smoke water pipes and chew qat.

Basic Economy. About one-fourth of the gross domestic product is derived from agriculture. However, the nation imports more than sixty percent of its food needs. About twenty percent of the population suffers from malnutrition. Agriculture employs more than half the labor force. The principal crops are sorghum, potatoes, dates, wheat, grapes, barley, maize, cotton, millet, and garden vegetables, but only part of the harvest is produced for sale. This is also the case for sheep, goats, and camels. Coffee, biscuits, grapes, sesame seeds, sugar, honey, and dried and salted fish are exported.

Land Tenure and Property. Land can be state, private, or communal. Traditionally, state lands were used for cultivation and public purposes and were controlled by the state authorities; private property consisted of agricultural, building, and other plots; there were Islamic endowments and tribal land was used for grazing livestock and served as areas of tribal responsibility for travelers and protected groups. In the north, customs, laws, and practices concerning land and water allocation are based on Islamic, customary, and, after 1962, civil regulations. In the south, the first two practices were supplemented by British law and, after 1967, socialist legislation. After unification, agricultural land was denationalized and returned in the south to those who owned it under the British. About 6 percent of the national territory is arable, 30 percent is occupied by pastures, and 7 percent is forest and woodland.

Commercial Activities. Shops and permanent and weekly markets offer local and imported foodstuffs, qat and frankincense, livestock, manufactured goods, fabrics, and clothing. Goods traditionally associated with the culture, such as side arms, textiles, leather, and agates, also are available for purchase.

Major Industries. The petroleum refinery in Little Aden produces a major share of the industrial output. Other products are foodstuffs, including soft drink bottling and dairy plants; cement and cinder blocks, tiles, and burned bricks; textiles; aluminum utensils, rubber and plastic; and salt. Yemenis still practice traditional handicrafts such as silver and copperwork, dagger manufacturing, carpentry, boat building, pottery, weaving and dyeing, wickerwork, and leather tanning. Electricity is generated from thermal power plants. The major sea ports are Aden, al-Hudayda, al-Mucha, al-Mukalla; international airports are situated in Sana'a, Aden, al-Hudayda, Ta'izz, and al-Mukalla. Economic prospects depend on the development of oil resources.

Trade. The principal exports are livestock and food, cigarettes, leather, and petroleum products, which are shipped mainly to Saudi Arabia, Japan, and Italy. Yemen traditionally exports labor to the Arab world, East Africa, the Indian Ocean area, and the United States. All manner of staples from food to consumer goods are imported.

Division of Labor. Most of the population is employed in agriculture and herding or works as expatriate laborers. Industry (about 5 percent of total labor power), services, construction, and commerce employ for less than half the workforce. There is a labor hierarchy that conforms to the traditional social strata.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Under law all citizens are equal. The traditional social structure, however, has at the top the Sayyids stratum, descendants of the Prophet Muhammad. The Sayyids competed for the office of Zaydi imam and control sacred enclaves, solved tribal conflicts by mediation, engaged in theology and law, and owned and leased land. Slightly lower on the social scale are the Qadis or Fuqaha (in the south, the Mashayikh ) who perform the same social functions. Qabilis (tribesmen) control their territory and caravan routes, own arable land that most of them cultivate, and carry weapons. The lower strata are underprivileged and have an obscure genealogy. Being under tribal protection, they traditionally were deprived of land ownership and were not allowed to bear arms. The members of this group are called the Bani Khums in the north and the Masakeen and Du'afa (the poor and the weak) in the south. They engage in low-status occupations that in most cases are hereditary, working as smiths, carpenters, potters, brokers, barbers (who also perform circumsion), bloodletters, musicians, heralds, butchers weavers and dyers, and tanners. The Akhdams (servants) wash and bury the dead and clean latrines. The majority of Akhdams and exslaves (Abeeds ) are of African or Ethiopean descent. All these strata tend to be endogamous or, in the south, observe the marital rule of hypergamy, in which men marry within their strata or lower and women marry their equals or higher-status men. The mass return of expatriates in 1990 has raised the social problem of muwalladin, or Yemenis of mixed origins.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Male Sayyids and Qadis traditionally wore long robes and covered their heads with white or green turbans; their authority also was symbolized by a staff, a ring, and a flag. Tribal symbols include weapons (firearms), dances, greetings, call songs, and tribal poetry. Women's dress reflects not so much class differences but social and regional ones except for the fact that women in nomadic tribes and the most under-privileged strata leave their faces unveiled. In the south, the jambiya is worn only by tribesmen. In the north, men in most social strata carry daggers. Today all Yemeni men prefer to wear jambiyas that are placed vertically at the center of the belt.

Political Life

Government. United Yemen proclaimed itself a presidential republic and a multiparty parliamentary democracy. The parliament consists of the House of Deputies and an appointed Upper Chamber, or Senate. The constitution was approved by referendum in 1991 and was amended in 1994. The president is elected for a five-year term; the last campaign for the presidency was won in 1999 by the general Ali Abdullah Saleh. Executive authority is vested in the prime minister and the cabinet. The Supreme Court heads the judicial branch. The press is among the freest in the Arab world.

Leadership and Political Officials. Politics is practiced mostly outside the new democratic institutions. Real power is exercised through a network of personal relations and patronage and clientele ties that involve family, class, and local affinities. Since a multiparty system was not allowed before unification, the strength of party leadership matters today more than does ideology. Among about forty political parties and organizations, the most significant are: the General People's Congress (GPC) of the president, the Yemeni Congregation for Reform (the Islah ) with active Islamic and tribal trends, and the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP), which, after abortive secession of the south in 1994, has regrouped as a loyal opposition.

Social Problems and Control. In 1991, the court system was set up with the Supreme Court of the Republic at the top in Sana'a, provincial courts of appeal in every governorate, and uniform district courts in the main local centers. In 1994, laws regarding crimes, punishments, and criminal procedures were promulgated; the police and security forces were organized. Those measures were aimed at eradicating corruption, bribery, and favoritism. Other common crimes are larceny in large cities, smuggling along the border, and the taking of hostages in tribal areas; robbery and murder are not widespread. Crime statistics are not representative, since disputes traditionally are solved through mediation, customary tribal arbitration, and mutual accord. Yemenis regard customary justice as less expensive than state courts. Legal practice includes contradictory aspects of secular, religious, and customary regulations.

Military Activity. Military campaigns took place in 1979, 1986, 1987, and 1994. The Defense Forces include an army, a navy, an air force, and paramilitary forces that include the police. Most tribes have their own militias.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

The current development strategies are documented in a five-year plan that calls for a market economy led by the private sector. External assistance, which was withdrawn in the early 1990s, returned after 1994, when the government launched an ambitious economic, financial, and administrative reform program under the auspices of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. In 1996, those sources were joined by the Arab Fund for Social and Economic Development, the Arab Monetary Fund, and the European Union. About an eighth of external aid goes for health and human resources development.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

There are trade unions, professional syndicates, human rights groups, and sport, religious (including charitable), and other informal organizations and associations, most of which have a top-down structure.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. In the cultural stereotype, women are viewed as subordinate and indulgent mothers, sisters, and wives who perform household duties; men are seen as financial providers in the outside world, responsible for the wellbeing and prestige of the family. Long-term male labor migration has resulted in a modification of the traditional division of labor, since women and older children have had to take over some male tasks, particularly in agriculture. Some women in urban centers have jobs in education and health care. Women Islamic activists are very active in the Islah Charitable Society, which helps the poor.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. The 1994 constitution states that women are men's sisters and have rights and duties guaranteed by Islamic Shari'a and secular law. However, gender disparity in all aspects of life outside the family is striking, since religious authorities strongly recommend gender segregation. For example the testimony of two women in court equals that of one man.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Most marriages are arranged by the families: a bridegroom's female relatives suggest potential brides to him and his father, who come to a decision according to the rules of martial conformity. In most cases, the woman's father asks her about her wishes before the marriage contract is prepared. Groom and bride are attached to their respective descent groups through the male line: The father of the groom has to pay a brideprice mahr, and the family of the bride is expected to help her in times of hardship. Arab custom regards as ideal a parallel cousin marriage in which the father's brother's daughter is the bride as well as other endogamous marriages. Shari'a law allows a man to marry up to four wives if he treats them all as equals; the rate of polygamy is low. Half of the adult population is married, four percent is widowed, and one percent is divorced. Both men and women can request a divorce. If it was initiated by the husband, the ex-wife keeps her brideprice and can remarry after four months and ten days, during which time the ex-husband has to support her. Children up to seven years of age remain with the mother if she does not remarry. Divorce and remarriage are not stigmatized.

Domestic Unit. The most common type family, especially outside urban centers, is patrilocal and extended. There are also nuclear families, as well as fraternal joint families (households consisting of the nuclear families of two or more brothers). The average household has 6.7 persons. Most of the household economy is controlled by men. In villages, men are responsible for qat and cultivation of the crops, whereas women grow vegetables and take care of domestic animals.

Inheritance. Inheritance customs stress the right of primogeniture, which gives preference to the oldest brother. In accordance with Shari'a law, after a husband's death, his mother inherits one-sixth of his estate and one-eighth goes to his widow; a woman inherits half of her brother's share. If she has no brothers or sisters, she gets half the property. Formally inherited property, including land, is at a woman's disposal, but often it is managed by her male relatives.

Kin Groups. This stratified society is based on the tribal idiom of common descent, which serves as the source of mutual rights and obligations within each group. This flexible structure has several levels above the nuclear family: a unit of patrilineal kin (bayt ), whose members share a house or closely interact in other ways; the larger descent group, the clan or subtribe (fakhdh ); a tribe (qabila ); and a tribal confederation (silf ). Individuals usually identify themselves with the lowest or highest levels of kinship, since alliances are not determined solely by kin principles.


Infant Care. Children are culturally, socially, and religiously valued, although infant mortality is high. Mothers are responsible for the care of young children, and older daughters take an active part in raising their siblings. Only male children give their mother high status. Small children usually are carried by their caretakers. Girls and small children sleep in the women's half of the house, while adolescent boys sleep apart. Children rarely are punished. If they fight, they are separated by adults.

Child Rearing and Education. Most women give birth at home. A son's birth involves a circumcision festivity during which the mother gets presents. Circumcision (clitoridectomy) of newly born female children usually is done without a special ceremony. Babies are swaddled, and children are regarded as incapable of self-control until age four. Male children are believed to be particularly vulnerable to the evil eye. More emphasis is placed on the education of sons than on that of daughters in free public, or private as well as religious schools, all of which are sexually segregated.

Higher Education. Gender segregation is practiced in higher education, which has been developing rapidly since unification. In addition to national universities in Sana'a and Aden, state and private universities are being organized in al-Mukalla, Taiz, Ibb, Dhammar, and al-Hudayda.


Social and individual interactions are determined by customary law and religious regulations, which include structured series of verbal exchanges and salutations in greeting or saying good-bye and the avoidance of women who are not close relatives. The strata disparity reflected in behavioral norms has been lessening but still exists in regard to marital and other rules. Cultural values include hospitality, respect for elders, decency, and good manners while eating from a communal dish. Guests do not accept more than three cups of coffee or tea and wobble the cup from side to side to show that nothing more is required, and shoes are left outdoors before one enters a dwelling. Physical distance between social interactors is close. The spatial disposition of social interactors is circular at tribal meetings and linear during ritual ceremonies in mosques and outdoors; indoors, it is at the perimeter, with the best position at the far corner of the wall in which the door is situated. In a market one is expected to enjoy the process of bargaining. During social events, poets, singers, and dancers may transgress the precepts of acceptable behavior.


Religious Beliefs. Sunni Islam of the Shafi'i school dominates in the south and many regions of the north; the Zaydi Shi'a school with its center in Sa'da is practiced mainly among the tribes of central mountains and the adjacent highlands. A much smaller Islamic group near Manakha is the Isma'ilis, who are divided into the Sulaymani (Makarima ) branch, which is connected with Najaran, and the Dawudi (Boharas ) which is linked with India.

Religious Practitioners. Islamic scholars, judges, managers of charitable property, elders in sacred enclaves, and leaders of communal prayer used to be recruited primarily from the two upper strata but now may belong to other classes as well.

Rituals and Holy Places. Yemenis observe the Five Pillars of Islam, including five prayers a day and a daytime fast during the month of Ramadan. The weekly day of rest is Friday. Religious celebrations include 27 Ramadan, the Night of Power; 1 Shawwal, the Lesser Feast; 10 Dhu al-Hijja, the Greater Feast, or the Feast of Sacrifice, commemorating the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca; 12 Rabi' al-Awwal, the birthday of the Prophet; 10 Muharram, the day of the martyrdom of Imam Husayn; and 27 Rajab, the day of the Prophet's miraculous journey. In mid-Rajab, pilgrimages are usually made to the tombs of local saints.

Death and the Afterlife. The body of the deceased is washed, perfumed, and wrapped in a white, unseamed shroud. The deceased has to be buried before sunset on the day of death. Women do not accompany the body to the grave, staying outside the cemetery. During the first three days of mourning, the Koran is read and relatives and friends visit the family of the dead person. Remembrance sessions usually are held on the seventh and fortieth days after death.

Medicine and Health Care

The Sayyids and Qadis/Mashayikh are reputed to be effective in giving verbal therapy; some are said to heal illnesses by placing their hands over or breathing on a patient. Tribesmen are known as healers of wounds and snake bites, barbers specialize in blood letting, and both use cauterization, preventive diets and herbal treatments. Traditionally, disease is seen as the effect of bad winds and an imbalance of the four humors of the body. Modern health programs have been established.

Secular Celebrations

National Day on 22 May commemorates the country's unification. The Revolution of 26 September 1962 in the north and the beginning of revolt in the south on 14 October 1963 also are celebrated.

The Arts and Humanities

Literature. Medieval culture was rich in historical, geographic, and religious works; agricultural almanacs; astronomical treatises; and rhymed prose. Poetry in classical and colloquial styles is the most popular art form. Since the Middle Ages, poetry has been spoken, sung, and improvised during social events, at performances, and in competitions.

Graphic Arts. Rich traditions of decorative art, such as silver jewelry, embroidered garments, handwoven textiles, and architectural decor, are still practiced. There are art galleries in large cities with modern drawings, paintings, and sculptures.

Performance Arts. Traditional performaces include musical-poetical improvisations called dan in the Hadhramaut, at which singers chant a tune without words and poets offer them a freshly created text line by line. There are choral ritual processions, tribal call songs, special types of regional songs, and local and strata dances.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

The General Organization for Antiquities, Museums, and Manuscripts (GOAMM), with the help of the main universities, does archaeological, historical, and ethnographic studies. GOAMM also coordinates research run by the American Institute for Yemeni Studies, the German Archaeological Institute, the French Center for Yemeni Studies, the British-Yemeni Society, and Russian scientific expeditions. These institutions study social activities, methods of administration, urbanization, land tenure practices, and other aspects of the social and political sciences. Physical sciences and applications, as well as vocational and technical education, require further development.


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Since independence, the population has been almost entirely Arab. Many ethnologists contend that the purest "Arab" stock is to be found in Yemen. There is a small minority of Akhdam.

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YemenAlabaman, Amman, Ammon, Drammen, gammon, Mammon, salmon •Bradman, Caedmon, madman, madmen •flagman, flagmen •trackman, trackmen •hangman, hangmen •chapman, chapmen •cragsman, cragsmen •cracksman, cracksmen, Flaxman •batsman, batsmen •batman, batmen •Tasman •clansman, clansmen, Klansman, Klansmen, landsman, landsmen •backgammon •barman, barmen, Brahman, Carman, Carmen, shaman, Sharman, Tutankhamencraftsman, craftsmen, draftsman, draftsmen, draughtsman, draughtsmen, raftsman, raftsmen •marksman, marksmen •atman •guardsman, guardsmen •leman, Lemmon, lemon, Yemen •headman, headmen, Stedman •Beckmann •bellman, bellmen, Hellman •gentleman, gentlemen •penman, penmen •Helpmann •pressman, pressmen •freshman, freshmen •Welshman, Welshmen •Frenchman, Frenchmen, henchman, henchmen •desman •headsman, headsmen •helmsman, helmsmen •lensman, lensmen •airman, airmen, chairman, chairmen •Bremen, caiman, Damon, Eamon, layman, laymen, stamen •railman, railmen •brakesman, brakesmen •statesman, statesmen •tradesman, tradesmen •salesman, salesmen •gamesman, gamesmen •plainsman, plainsmen •railwayman, railwaymen •highwayman, highwaymen •cacodemon, daemon, demon, Freeman, freemen, Philemon, Riemann, Schliemann, seaman, seamen, semen •Friedman •liegeman, liegemen •Eastman, policeman, policemen •beadsman, beadsmen, seedsman, seedsmen •fieldsman, fieldsmen •wheelsman, wheelsmen •persimmon, Rimmon •pitchman, pitchmen •Bridgman • milkman • Hillman •signalman, signalmen •Lippmann •pitman, pitmen, Whitman •guildsman, guildsmen •kinsman, kinsmen •Betjeman • regimen •clergyman, clergymen •tallyman, tallymen •talisman •Englishman, Englishmen •businessman, businessmen •Cornishman, Cornishmen •journeyman, journeymen •cavalryman, cavalrymen •ferryman, ferrymen •vestryman, vestrymen •dairyman, dairymen •Irishman, Irishmen •quarryman, quarrymen •Orangeman, Orangemen •congressman, congressmen •countryman, countrymen •infantryman, infantrymen •nurseryman, nurserymen •liveryman, liverymen •midshipman, midshipmen •harvestman, harvestmen •serviceman, servicemen •Hyman, Simon •Eichmann •rifleman, riflemen •Feynman, lineman, linemen •Weismann • Wiseman •tribesman, tribesmen •linesman, linesmen •exciseman, excisemen •common, Roscommon •watchman, watchmen •Godman, hodman, hodmen •Hoffman •frogman, frogmen •stockman, stockmen •dolman, dolmen •Scotsman, Scotsmen, yachtsman, yachtsmen •Boltzmann • Cotman •bondsman, bondsmen •Bormann, doorman, doormen, foreman, foremen, Mormon, Norman, storeman, storemen •Kauffmann • Walkman •horseman, horsemen, Norseman, Norsemen •sportsman, sportsmen •oarsman, oarsmen, outdoorsman, outdoorsmen •swordsman •longshoreman, longshoremen •bowmen, cowman, cowmen, ploughman (US plowman), ploughmen (US plowmen) •councilman, councilmen •Hauptmann • Housman •groundsman, groundsmen, roundsman, roundsmen, townsman, townsmen •warehouseman, warehousemen •Bowman, Oklahoman, Oman, omen, Roman, showman, showmen, yeoman, yeomen •coachman, coachmen •Coleman, Goldman •nobleman, noblemen •postman, postmen •spokesman, spokesmen •boatman, boatmen •lifeboatman, lifeboatmen •dragoman •crewman, crewmen, energumen, human, ichneumon, Newman, numen, Schumann, subhuman, Trueman •woman •woodman, woodmen •bookman, bookmen •Pullman •Bushman, Bushmen •footman, footmen •woodsman, woodsmen •ombudsman, ombudsmen •clanswoman •backwoodsman, backwoodsmen •charwoman •craftswoman, draughtswoman •gentlewoman • Welshwoman •Frenchwoman •airwoman, chairwoman •laywoman • stateswoman •saleswoman • policewoman •kinswoman • Englishwoman •businesswoman • Irishwoman •congresswoman • countrywoman •jurywoman • servicewoman •tribeswoman •Scotswoman, yachtswoman •forewoman • horsewoman •sportswoman • oarswoman •townswoman • spokeswoman •Dutchwoman • frontierswoman •alderwoman • anchorwoman •washerwoman • Ulsterwoman •churchwoman • acumen • summon •Dutchman, Dutchmen •gunman, gunmen •busman, busmen, dustman, dustmen •huntsman, huntsmen •Newcomen • Layamon •privateersman, privateersmen, steersman, steersmen •frontiersman, frontiersmen •fireman • Dobermann • lumbermen •abdomen • Omdurman •alderman, aldermen •Turkoman •cellarman, cellarmen, telamon •cyclamen •Highlandman, Highlandmen •Solomon • trawlerman • cinnamon •Chinaman, Chinamen •trencherman, trenchermen •fisherman, fishermen, militiaman, militiamen •washerman, washermen •ottoman •waterman, watermen •Ulsterman, Ulstermen •Burman, firman, German, Herman, sermon, Sherman •churchman, churchmen •turfman, turfmen •Bergman •kirkman, kirkmen, workman, workmen •Perelman •herdsman, herdsmen

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