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Located on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, and sharing borders with Saudi Arabia and Oman, Yemen has had a troubled recent history with civil wars and tribal conflicts predominating.

Quick Facts
CapitalSanaa
Governmentrepublic
CurrencyYemeni rial (YER)
Areatotal: 527,970 sq km
land: 527,970 sq km
note: includes Perim, Socotra, the former Yemen Arab Republic (YAR or North Yemen), and the former People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY or South Yemen)
water: 0 sq km
Population18,701,257 (July 2002 est.)
LanguageArabic
ReligionMuslim including Shaf'i (Sunni) and Zaydi (Shi'a), small numbers of Jewish, Christian, and Hindu

Cities

Sana'a - capital

Get in

By plane

By train

By car

By bus

By boat

Talk

Arabic is the official language.

While many locals will at least attempt to communicate with non-Arabic speakers in other languages, any visitor will almost certainly need at least some Arabic, particularly if travel to locations outside the capital is planned.
Even within Sana'a, the bilingual signs common throughout most of the Middle East are commonly absent, with Arabic script and numbers predominating.

Caucasian visitors will often be greeted (particularly in hill villages) with an exuberant display of European languages. This will almost certainly result in some unusual combinations, with greetings such as "Hola, monsieur, how are you today?" being almost commonplace.

Buy

Almost everywhere you look, you will have the chance to buy the local curved dagger (jambiya) worn by local men.

Eat

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Drink

Yemen is officially a dry country, however non-Muslims are entitled to bring up to two bottles of any alcoholic beverage into the country. These may only be drunk on private property, and venturing outside while under the influence is not a wise decision.

A wide range of juices and softdrinks are readily available. Many Yemenis will drink tea (shay) or coffee (qahwa) with their meals. Yemeni coffee is considerably weaker than the strong Turkish coffee found elsewhere in Peninsular Arabia.

Most importantly, however, do NOT drink the tap water, even in hotels in the capital. Bottled water - both chilled and at room temperature - is widely available.

Stay safe

Homosexuality is punishable by death.

While Yemen has often attracted negative media attention as a result of kidnappings of tourists and internal strife, this should not deter the careful traveller. Anyone entering the country is taking a small, but ever-present, risk and should try to keep up-to-date on the exact security situation of their intended destinations and be prepared to change plans if the situation mandates it.

Driving is on the right and generally quite safe, particularly in the capital. For trips outside Sana'a, however, a 4-wheel-drive is almost mandatory as most roads are not sealed. Travellers should also give serious consideration to hiring a local driver/guide, as maps tend not to be as useful as they can be in other countries.

Stay healthy

As mentioned above, the tap water should be avoided at all costs. Stick to the bottled variety.

Additionally, be aware that the country is exceptionally dusty. Travellers with breathing difficulties (such as asthma) may encounter problems in more remote destinations.

Respect

Three rules should always be followed in exploring Yemen:

1. This is a Muslim country. As such, be sensitive about where you point your camera. There are many great photo opportunities around every corner (the question is usually what to leave out of each image), but when photographing people, always ask first. The Arabic phrase "mumkin akhud sura minak?" is very useful indeed.

2. Despite being close to the richer oil-producing countries, Yemen is one of the poorest states on earth. Living conditions for many locals are very tough indeed, so this should be borne in mind when bargaining for souvenirs and the like. But do not worry too much. If you do not look Yemeni or speak Arabic with a native tongue, you will be getting ripped off no matter how well you bargain.

3. If an area is off-limits, it is that way for a very good reason. Tempting as it may be to play the intrepid explorer, there is no reason to increase your risk of being kidnapped or worse unless you absolutely have to.

In addition, be prepared to be asked for pens (qalam, galam) for the local schools, and also sweets (bonbon). In the former case, if you have one to spare you may wish to consider it. In the latter, resist the urge to give a handout as it will create an expectation for the next foreigner to arrive.

Contact

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External links

North Yemen became independent of the Ottoman Empire in 1918. The British, who had set up a protectorate area around the southern port of Aden in the 19th century, withdrew in 1967 from what became South Yemen. Three years later, the southern government adopted a Marxist orientation. The massive exodus of hundreds of thousands of Yemenis from the south to the north contributed to two decades of hostility between the states. The two countries were formally unified as the Republic of Yemen in 1990. A southern secessionist movement in 1994 was quickly subdued. In 2000, Saudi Arabia and Yemen agreed to a delimitation of their border.


Geography

Location 
Middle East, bordering the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, and Red Sea, between Oman and Saudi Arabia
Geographic coordinates 
15 00 N, 48 00 E
Map references 
Middle East
Area 
total: 527,970 sq km
land: 527,970 sq km
note: includes Perim, Socotra, the former Yemen Arab Republic (YAR or North Yemen), and the former People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY or South Yemen)
water: 0 sq km
Area - comparative 
slightly larger than twice the size of Wyoming
Land boundaries 
total: 1,746 km
border countries: Oman 288 km, Saudi Arabia 1,458 km
Coastline 
1,906 km
Maritime claims 
contiguous zone: 24 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM
continental shelf: 200 NM or to the edge of the continental margin
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
Climate 
mostly desert; hot and humid along west coast; temperate in western mountains affected by seasonal monsoon; extraordinarily hot, dry, harsh desert in east
Terrain 
narrow coastal plain backed by flat-topped hills and rugged mountains; dissected upland desert plains in center slope into the desert interior of the Arabian Peninsula
Elevation extremes 
lowest point: Arabian Sea 0 m
highest point: Jabal an Nabi Shu'ayb 3,760 m
Natural resources 
petroleum, fish, rock salt, marble, small deposits of coal, gold, lead, nickel, and copper, fertile soil in west
Land use 
arable land: 2.75%
permanent crops: 0.21%
other: 97.04% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land 
4,900 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards 
sandstorms and dust storms in summer
Environment - current issues 
very limited natural fresh water resources; inadequate supplies of potable water; overgrazing; soil erosion; desertification
Geography - note 
strategic location on Bab el Mandeb, the strait linking the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, one of world's most active shipping lanes

People

Population 
18,701,257 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure 
0-14 years: 47% (male 4,468,928; female 4,317,648)
15-64 years: 50.1% (male 4,783,769; female 4,587,309)
65 years and over: 2.9% (male 273,282; female 270,321) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate 
3.4% (2002 est.)
Birth rate 
43.3 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate 
9.31 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio 
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.01 male(s)/female
total population: 1.04 male(s)/female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate 
66.78 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)
Life expectancy at birth 
total population: 60.59 years
female: 62.46 years (2002 est.)
male: 58.81 years
Total fertility rate 
6.9 children born/woman (2002 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate 
0.01% (1999 est.)
Nationality 
noun: Yemeni(s)
adjective: Yemeni
Ethnic groups 
predominantly Arab; but also Afro-Arab, South Asians, Europeans
Religions 
Muslim including Shaf'i (Sunni) and Zaydi (Shi'a), small numbers of Jewish, Christian, and Hindu
Languages 
Arabic
Literacy 
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 38%
male: 53%
female: 26% (1990 est.)

Government

Country name 
conventional long form: Republic of Yemen
conventional short form: Yemen
local short form: Al Yaman
local long form: Al Jumhuriyah al Yamaniyah
Government type 
republic
Capital 
Sanaa
Administrative divisions 
19 governorates (muhafazat, singular - muhafazah); Abyan, 'Adan, Ad Dali', Al Bayda', Al Hudaydah, Al Jawf, Al Mahrah, Al Mahwit, 'Amran, Dhamar, Hadramawt, Hajjah, Ibb, Lahij, Ma'rib, Sa'dah, San'a', Shabwah, Ta'izz
note: there may be one additional governorate of the capital city of Sanaa
Independence 
22 May 1990, Republic of Yemen was established with the merger of the Yemen Arab Republic [Yemen (Sanaa) or North Yemen] and the Marxist-dominated People's Democratic Republic of Yemen [Yemen (Aden) or South Yemen]; previously North Yemen had become independent on NA November 1918 (from the Ottoman Empire) and South Yemen had become independent on 30 November 1967 (from the UK)
National holiday 
Unification Day, 22 May (1990)
Constitution 
16 May 1991; amended 29 September 1994 and February 2001
Legal system 
based on Islamic law, Turkish law, English common law, and local tribal customary law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage 
18 years of age; universal
Flag description 
three equal horizontal bands of red (top), white, and black; similar to the flag of Syria which has two green stars and of Iraq which has three green stars (plus an Arabic inscription) in a horizontal line centered in the white band; also similar to the flag of Egypt which has a heraldic eagle centered in the white band

Economy

Economy - overview 
Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the Arab world, reported strong growth in the mid-1990s with the onset of oil production, but has been harmed by periodic declines in oil prices. Yemen has embarked on an IMF-supported structural adjustment program designed to modernize and streamline the economy, which has led to substantial foreign debt relief and restructuring. Aided by higher oil prices in 1999-2000, Yemen worked to maintain tight control over spending and implement additional components of the IMF program. A high population growth rate and internal political dissension complicate the government's task.
Inflation rate (consumer prices) 
10% (2001 est.)
Labor force - by occupation 
most people are employed in agriculture and herding; services, construction, industry, and commerce account for less than one-fourth of the labor force
Unemployment rate 
30% (1995 est.)
Industries 
crude oil production and petroleum refining; small-scale production of cotton textiles and leather goods; food processing; handicrafts; small aluminum products factory; cement
Industrial production growth rate 
NA%
Electricity - production 
3.2 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - production by source 
fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
other: 0% (2000)
nuclear: 0%
Electricity - consumption 
2.976 billion kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products 
grain, fruits, vegetables, pulses, qat (mildly narcotic shrub), coffee, cotton; dairy products, livestock (sheep, goats, cattle, camels), poultry; fish
Exports - commodities 
crude oil, coffee, dried and salted fish
Imports - commodities 
food and live animals, machinery and equipment
Currency 
Yemeni rial (YER)
Currency code 
YER
Exchange rates 
Yemeni rials per US dollar - 171.860 (December 2001), 168.678 (2001), 161.718 (2000), 155.718 (1999), 135.882 (1998), 129.281 (1997)
Fiscal year 
calendar year

Communications

Telephones - main lines in use 
291,359 (1999)
Telephones - mobile cellular 
32,042 (2000)
Telephone system 
general assessment: since unification in 1990, efforts have been made to create a national telecommunications network
domestic: the national network consists of microwave radio relay, cable, tropospheric scatter, and GSM cellular mobile telephone systems
international: satellite earth stations - 3 Intelsat (2 Indian Ocean and 1 Atlantic Ocean), 1 Intersputnik (Atlantic Ocean region), and 2 Arabsat; microwave radio relay to Saudi Arabia and Djibouti
Radio broadcast stations 
AM 6, FM 1, shortwave 2 (1998)
Radios 
1.05 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations 
7 (plus several low-power repeaters) (1997)
Televisions 
470,000 (1997)
Internet country code 
.ye
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) 
1 (2000)
Internet users 
17,000 (2002)

Transportation

Railways 
0 km
Highways 
total: 69,263 km
paved: 9,963 km
unpaved: 59,300 km (1999)
Waterways 
none
Pipelines 
crude oil 644 km; petroleum products 32 km
Ports and harbors 
Aden, Al Hudaydah, Al Mukalla, As Salif, Ras Issa, Mocha, Nishtun
Airports 
49 (2001)
Airports - with paved runways 
total: 16
over 3,047 m: 3
2,438 to 3,047 m: 9
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 1 (2002)
Airports - with unpaved runways 
total: 28
over 3,047 m: 2
2,438 to 3,047 m: 7
1,524 to 2,437 m: 4
914 to 1,523 m: 11
under 914 m: 4 (2002)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international 
demarcation of delimited boundary with Saudi Arabia involves nomadic tribal affiliations; Yemen has asserted traditional fishing rights to islands ceded to Eritrea in ICJ ruling