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A Different Side To Travel: A Journey Through Yemen


by Korry Mix



Welcome to Yemen, a country rich in history, culture, and natural beauty. Nestled in the southwestern corner of the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen offers a unique and enlightening travel experience for adventurers seeking something off the beaten path. While the media often portrays Yemen as a land of unrest and conflict, there is so much more to this incredible country than meets the eye. In this article, we will take you on a journey through Yemen, exploring its historical background, cultural highlights, breathtaking landscapes, traditional cuisine, and the renowned Yemeni hospitality.


In recent years, Yemen has faced various challenges, including political instability and security issues. However, for travelers who exercise caution and stay informed, the rewards of visiting Yemen far outweigh the risks. By venturing to this hidden gem, you have the opportunity to delve into a world that has preserved its heritage, traditions, and way of life for centuries.


Yemen holds a prominent place in history, with ancient civilizations such as the Sabaean Kingdom, Himyarite Kingdom, and the legendary Queen of Sheba. These historical treasures are still evident today through the numerous archaeological sites that dot the landscapes. Stepping foot in Yemen is like stepping back in time, with every corner revealing remnants of a glorious past.


Prepare to be captivated by Yemen’s architectural wonders, such as the UNESCO World Heritage site of Old Sana’a, with its towering mud-brick buildings and intricate wood and stained-glass windows. The historic city of Shibam, often referred to as “the Manhattan of the desert,” will leave you in awe of its towering mud skyscrapers that have stood for centuries.


But Yemen is not just about its historical monuments; it is also a country filled with vibrant culture and traditions. Yemenis take great pride in their customs, from their traditional clothing to their lively music and dance. A visit to Yemen will introduce you to the rich tapestry of Yemeni art, crafts, and folklore, while the warm and welcoming Yemeni people will ensure you feel like a part of their extended family.


As you venture through Yemen’s diverse landscapes, you will be struck by its natural beauty. From the rugged mountains of Haraz and the breathtaking canyons of Wadi Hadramawt to the stunning beaches along the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea, Yemen offers a variety of outdoor adventures for nature enthusiasts. Explore hidden villages nestled amidst lush greenery, hike through pristine valleys, or dive into crystal-clear waters to witness the vibrant marine life that thrives along the coastline.


No journey through Yemen would be complete without indulging in its flavorful cuisine. Traditional Yemeni dishes feature an array of spices, herbs, and aromatics that tantalize the taste buds. From the famous lamb and rice dish known as “mandi” to the mouthwatering bread called “gahwah,” Yemeni gastronomy offers a unique blend of flavors and techniques that reflect the country’s cultural diversity.


Before embarking on your journey to Yemen, it’s crucial to obtain up-to-date travel information and take necessary precautions to ensure your safety. Stay informed about the current situation, seek advice from trusted sources, and consider traveling with a reputable tour operator who can guide you through the country with expertise and knowledge.


Come and discover the hidden treasures of Yemen, a land that is both breathtakingly beautiful and culturally rich. Immerse yourself in the history, embrace the warmth of the Yemeni people, and create memories that will last a lifetime. Get ready for a truly unforgettable adventure through the enchanting heart of Arabia.


Historical Background

Yemen’s history stretches back thousands of years, with the region being home to some of the oldest civilizations in the world. It was in Yemen where the legendary Queen of Sheba ruled and where the ancient kingdoms of Saba, Himyar, and Ma’in thrived.


The Sabaean Kingdom, also known as the Kingdom of Sheba, rose to prominence around 1,200 BCE and became a wealthy trading empire due to its monopoly on the lucrative spice and incense trade routes. Marib, the capital city of the Sabaean Kingdom, was a center of civilization and boasted splendid palaces, elaborate temples, and a remarkable irrigation system.


Another notable kingdom in Yemen’s history is the Himyarite Kingdom, which existed from the 2nd century BCE to the 6th century CE. The Himyarites were skilled sailors and established a vast trading network that extended from the Arabian Peninsula to India, East Africa, and even the Roman Empire. They left behind impressive architectural marvels, such as the fortress of Ghumdan in the city of Zafar.


Yemen’s strategic location also made it a coveted territory throughout history. It was conquered by several empires, including the Persians, Greeks, Romans, and Ottomans. Each empire left its mark on Yemen, influencing its culture, architecture, and traditions.


Yemen was also an important center of Islam during the early Islamic era. It was the birthplace of the Himyarite king, Dhunnunid dynasty, who converted to Islam and established the first Muslim state in Yemen. The city of Zabid, with its beautifully preserved mosque and madrasas, became a center of Islamic education and scholarship.


Throughout its history, Yemen has been a crossroads of cultures, religions, and trade routes. This rich blend of influences is evident in the diverse architectural styles, religious practices, and cultural traditions that still thrive in the country today.


Unfortunately, in recent years, Yemen has faced significant challenges, including political instability and conflict. These conflicts have taken a toll on Yemen’s historical sites and monuments. However, efforts are being made to protect and preserve Yemen’s cultural heritage, and many archaeological sites still offer a glimpse into the country’s glorious past.


A visit to Yemen allows you to immerse yourself in the footsteps of ancient kings and queens, explore the ruins of once-great empires, and witness the enduring legacy of a civilization shaped by centuries of history.


Cultural Highlights

Yemen is a cultural treasure trove, offering visitors a chance to immerse themselves in a vibrant tapestry of traditions, art, and customs. Despite its tumultuous history, the Yemeni people have preserved their rich cultural heritage, ensuring that their customs and way of life thrive.


One of the most intriguing aspects of Yemeni culture is its traditional dress. Yemeni men often wear a long, loose-fitting garment called a “thobe,” while women don colorful embroidered dresses known as “bint al-sahn.” These garments reflect both the Islamic modesty and the region’s unique style. The intricate patterns and vibrant colors of the fabrics showcase Yemen’s skilled craftsmanship.


Yemeni music forms an integral part of the country’s cultural identity. The mesmerizing sounds of traditional Yemeni instruments, such as the oud (a stringed instrument similar to a lute) and the qanbus (a plucked string instrument), fill the air at weddings, festivals, and social gatherings. The expressive melodies and heartfelt lyrics often reflect love, longing, and the beauty of Yemen’s landscapes.


Yemen is also renowned for its rich tradition of poetry and oral storytelling. Poetry has long been considered a paramount form of artistic expression in Yemen, and its poets are celebrated as national treasures. Yemeni poetry embraces themes of love, honor, and resilience, often conveying deep emotions and capturing the essence of Yemeni culture.


The architecture of Yemen is a testament to the country’s rich heritage. The old cities of Sana’a, Shibam, and Zabid showcase unique architectural styles, characterized by towering mud-brick buildings adorned with intricate woodwork and stained-glass windows. These architectural marvels have stood for centuries, reflecting Yemen’s enduring craftsmanship and a deep connection to its past.


Yemeni cuisine is another cultural highlight that should not be missed. Influenced by its Arab, Indian, and African neighbors, Yemeni cuisine offers a tantalizing array of flavors. Traditional dishes include the famous “mandi,” a savory lamb and rice dish cooked in an underground clay oven, and “salta,” a hearty stew made with vegetables, legumes, and aromatic spices. To complement the meal, sip on a cup of traditional Yemeni coffee, known as “qahwa,” and indulge in sweet delicacies such as “balah” (Yemeni honey cake) or “basbousa” (semolina cake soaked in rosewater syrup).


Yemeni hospitality is legendary, and visitors are warmly welcomed into homes and invited to share meals with locals. Yemenis take great pride in their ability to make guests feel at home, and the genuine kindness and generosity of the people create lasting memories for visitors.


From the vibrant traditions and captivating music to the architectural wonders and mouthwatering cuisine, Yemen’s cultural highlights offer a glimpse into a world steeped in history, artistry, and the warmth of its people.


Exploring the Landscapes

Yemen is a country of diverse and breathtaking landscapes, providing endless opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. From rugged mountains and fertile valleys to pristine beaches and picturesque deserts, Yemen offers a wealth of natural wonders waiting to be explored.


The Haraz Mountains, located in the western part of the country, are a paradise for hikers and nature enthusiasts. Towering peaks, lush terraced fields, and cascading waterfalls create a mesmerizing backdrop for treks and walks. The famous town of Manakha, nestled amidst the mountains, offers stunning views and a glimpse into traditional Yemeni village life.


The towering cliffs and deep canyons of Wadi Hadramawt, located in the eastern part of Yemen, are a sight to behold. The rugged terrain and stunning rock formations provide a dramatic landscape for adventurers to explore. Visit the ancient city of Shabwa, an archaeological treasure trove that transports you back in time with its well-preserved ruins.


The Yemeni coastline offers pristine beaches and clear turquoise waters, perfect for swimming, snorkeling, or simply relaxing. Al-Mukalla, located along the coast of the Arabian Sea, is known for its beautiful beaches, palm-lined promenades, and vibrant fish markets. The Red Sea coastline is a haven for divers, boasting colorful coral reefs and diverse marine life.


Yemen’s deserts are an enchanting sight, with vast stretches of golden sand dunes that seem to go on forever. The Rub’ al Khali, also known as the Empty Quarter, is one of the largest sand deserts in the world and covers a significant portion of southern Yemen. This barren and hauntingly beautiful landscape offers a sense of solitude and awe-inspiring views that are truly unforgettable.


Exploring Yemen’s landscapes goes beyond just admiring the scenery. The country is also home to numerous hidden villages that offer a glimpse into traditional Yemeni life. Take a break from the bustling cities and step into picturesque villages like Al-Hajjarayn or Al-Jawf, where time seems to stand still and the hospitality of the locals leaves a lasting impression.


When exploring Yemen’s landscapes, it is essential to respect the environment and follow any guidelines for preservation. Take care not to disturb the natural habitats and be mindful of the fragile ecosystems that exist.


Whether it’s hiking through majestic mountains, diving into crystal-clear waters, or roaming through vast desert landscapes, Yemen’s diverse and captivating landscapes offer an adventure like no other. Prepare to be mesmerized by the breathtaking beauty that awaits you at every corner of this remarkable country.


Traditional Cuisine

Yemeni cuisine is a culinary delight that tantalizes the taste buds with its rich flavors, aromatic spices, and unique cooking techniques. Influenced by Arab, Indian, and African culinary traditions, Yemeni dishes offer a distinct and unforgettable gastronomic experience.


One of the most well-known Yemeni dishes is “mandi,” a mouthwatering combination of tender lamb or chicken and fragrant rice. The meat is slow-cooked in a tandoor-like underground clay oven, infusing it with smoky flavors. The rice is seasoned with a blend of aromatic spices, including cardamom, cloves, and saffron, to create a fragrant and flavorful accompaniment. The result is a dish that is both savory and satisfying.


Another popular Yemeni dish is “salta,” a hearty and flavorful stew made with vegetables, legumes, and meat. Salta varies from region to region, but the base typically consists of a thick broth seasoned with a mix of spices like turmeric, cumin, and black pepper. Ingredients such as lamb, chicken, potatoes, carrots, and tomatoes are added to create a satisfying and nourishing meal. The dish is often served with freshly baked bread called “malawah” to soak up the flavorful broth.


No Yemeni meal is complete without a cup of traditional Yemeni coffee, known as “qahwa.” Yemeni coffee is famous for its intense aroma and unique flavor profile. The coffee beans are roasted and ground before being brewed in a traditional coffee pot called “dallah.” The strong and aromatic coffee is often served with dates, a symbol of hospitality in Yemeni culture.


Yemeni cuisine also includes a variety of breads, with “gahwah” being one of the most popular. Gahwah is a thick and fluffy bread that is often enjoyed with savory dishes or used as a scoop for dips and sauces. Another well-known Yemeni bread is “malawah,” a thin and crispy bread that is perfect for tearing and dipping into stews or enjoying with cheeses and spreads.


Sweets and desserts hold a special place in Yemeni cuisine, with traditional delicacies like “balah” and “basbousa” satisfying the sweet tooth. Balah is a Yemeni honey cake made with a blend of spices and topped with nuts, while basbousa is a semolina cake soaked in a fragrant rosewater syrup. Both are delightful treats that showcase the country’s love for sweet flavors and aromatic infusions.


When dining in Yemen, it’s common to share meals with others, as Yemenis value the importance of communal eating. Meals are often enjoyed together, with large platters in the center of the table, encouraging conversation, laughter, and a sense of togetherness.


Yemeni cuisine is a true reflection of the country’s culture and traditions, with every dish telling a unique story. The bold flavors, warm spices, and hearty ingredients combine to create a culinary experience that will leave a lasting impression on your taste buds.


Yemeni Hospitality

Yemeni hospitality is legendary, with the people of Yemen known for their warm welcomes, genuine kindness, and generosity towards guests. Travelers to Yemen are often pleasantly surprised by the overwhelming hospitality they experience during their visit.


Yemeni hospitality is deeply ingrained in the culture and is seen as an essential part of daily life. Yemenis take great pride in their ability to make visitors feel at home and ensure their comfort during their stay. From the moment you arrive, you will be treated with utmost respect and made to feel like an honored guest.


The welcoming nature of the Yemeni people is evident in their greetings. It is common for Yemenis to greet visitors with a smile, a firm handshake, and a warm embrace. This gesture instantly puts travelers at ease and creates a sense of familiarity.


One of the most remarkable aspects of Yemeni hospitality is the tradition of “qat chewing.” Qat is a leafy plant with mild stimulant properties, and it is traditionally chewed in social settings. Yemenis frequently invite visitors to join them in a qat session, where discussions flow, stories are shared, and bonds are formed. It is through these gatherings that true connections are established and friendships are forged.


When visiting a Yemeni home, you can expect to be offered a cup of traditional Yemeni coffee, known as “qahwa.” Yemeni coffee is more than just a beverage; it is a symbol of hospitality and generosity. The rich aroma and unique flavors of Yemeni coffee are meant to be savored slowly while engaging in conversation and building connections.


Yemeni hospitality extends beyond just food and drink. Yemenis often go out of their way to ensure visitors have a comfortable and enjoyable stay. Whether it’s offering a helping hand, providing guidance and recommendations, or inviting you to experience local customs and traditions, Yemenis are eager to share their culture and make your visit memorable.


Guests in Yemen are often treated as part of the family. Yemeni hosts take pride in offering their guests the best of what they have, whether it’s a simple meal or a comfortable place to rest. They believe that no one should leave their homes feeling unattended or hungry.


An important aspect of Yemeni hospitality is the concept of “dawar,” which means going above and beyond for guests. Yemenis go to great lengths to ensure that visitors are well taken care of and that their needs are met. This can include providing transportation, arranging accommodations, or assisting in navigating the local customs and traditions.


Yemeni hospitality is a reflection of the genuine kindness and generosity of its people. Their warm smiles, open hearts, and willingness to embrace visitors create an environment that fosters meaningful connections and unforgettable experiences.


When you visit Yemen, embrace the kindness and hospitality of the Yemeni people, and you will be rewarded with memories that will last a lifetime.


Precautions and Safety Tips

While Yemen is a beautiful and culturally rich country, it is important to exercise caution and be aware of safety considerations when traveling. It is essential to stay informed about the current situation and take necessary precautions to ensure your well-being. Here are some essential safety tips to keep in mind:

  1. Stay informed: Before planning your trip to Yemen, research the current security situation and travel advisories issued by your country’s embassy or foreign affairs department. Stay updated on any changes or developments that may affect your travel plans.
  2. Travel with a reputable tour operator: Consider traveling with a reputable tour operator who has extensive experience in organizing trips to Yemen. They can provide guidance, ensure your safety, and help navigate through any potential challenges you may encounter.
  3. Respect local customs and traditions: Familiarize yourself with the cultural norms, customs, and traditions of Yemen. Respect local traditions, dress modestly, and be mindful of your behavior to avoid offending the local population.
  4. Secure proper documentation: Ensure you have all the necessary travel documents, including a valid passport and appropriate visas. Check if there are any entry requirements specific to Yemen and comply with them before your trip.
  5. Stay connected: Make sure you have a reliable means of communication, such as a local SIM card or a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, so that you can stay connected with your tour operator, embassy, and loved ones in case of emergencies.
  6. Stay vigilant: Maintain situational awareness at all times. Be aware of your surroundings, avoid crowded areas or demonstrations, and follow any instructions given by local authorities or your tour guide.
  7. Avoid unnecessary travel at night: It is advisable to limit traveling at night, especially in unfamiliar areas. Stick to well-lit and busy areas, and use registered taxis or transportation services for added security.
  8. Take necessary health precautions: Consult with a healthcare professional prior to your trip to ensure you are up-to-date on vaccinations and medications. Take precautions against insect bites, drink bottled water, and maintain good hygiene practices.
  9. Secure your belongings: Keep your valuables secure and be cautious of pickpockets or potential theft. Use a money belt or a secure bag to carry your important documents and avoid displaying flashy jewelry or expensive accessories.
  10. Follow local laws and regulations: Observe and abide by the local laws and regulations of Yemen. Familiarize yourself with the cultural, religious, and legal customs to avoid any misunderstandings or legal complications.

It is important to note that the security situation in Yemen can change rapidly, and it is crucial to stay updated with the latest information before and during your trip. As always, personal safety should be the top priority, and it is advisable to reconsider your travel plans if the situation becomes unstable.


By taking these precautions and staying informed, you can minimize risks and ensure a safer and more enjoyable travel experience in Yemen.



Yemen is a country that holds a wealth of treasures for adventurous travelers seeking an immersive and unique experience. Despite its challenges, Yemen offers a captivating journey through its rich historical background, vibrant culture, breathtaking landscapes, tantalizing cuisine, and legendary hospitality.


By exploring Yemen’s historical sites, you will step back in time and witness the ancient civilizations that once thrived in this land. The cultural highlights of Yemen, from traditional dress and music to architectural wonders and poetic traditions, provide a glimpse into a society deeply connected to its heritage.


The landscapes of Yemen are diverse and awe-inspiring, offering opportunities for hiking, diving, and exploring hidden villages. From the rugged mountains and deep canyons to the pristine beaches and vast deserts, Yemen’s natural beauty is unparalleled.


Yemeni cuisine, with its aromatic spices and flavorful dishes, will leave a lasting impression on your taste buds. The warmth and generosity of the Yemeni people make the experience even more memorable as you are embraced as part of their extended family.


Safety is paramount when traveling to Yemen, and it is crucial to stay informed, follow travel advisories, and take necessary precautions. By respecting local customs, securing proper documentation, and staying vigilant, you can enjoy a safer and more fulfilling experience in Yemen.


While Yemen has faced its share of challenges, the essence of its beauty and the resilience of its people continue to shine through. By venturing to Yemen, you not only embark on a journey of discovery but also play a role in supporting a country on its path towards stability and growth.


So, pack your bags, open your mind, and get ready for an extraordinary adventure through the hidden gems of Yemen. Explore a world steeped in history, immerse yourself in a vibrant culture, and create memories that will last a lifetime. Yemen awaits, ready to captivate your heart and awaken your sense of adventure.