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Major Religions: Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism
Currency: Yemeni Riyal
Main Agriculture Products: grain, fruits, vegetables, pulses, coffee, cotton; dairy products, livestock (sheep, goats, cattle, camels), poultry; fish
Main Industries: crude oil production and petroleum refining; small-scale production of cotton textiles and leather goods; food processing; handicrafts; small aluminum products factory; cement; commercial ship repair; natural gas production
Main Natural Resources: petroleum, fish, rock salt, marble; small deposits of coal, gold, lead, nickel, and copper; fertile soil in west
Area - Comparative: slightly larger than twice the size of Wyoming
Yemen borders the Arabian Sea, Red Sea and Gulf of Aden between Oman and Saudi Arabia. It has a total area of 527,970 sq km. It has a desert climate that is hot and humid along the coast, temperate in the western mountains and extremely hot and dry in the eastern desert. A little less than 3% of their land is arable. As with many other Middle Eastern countries, Yemen experiences sand and wind storms in the summer.
Currently, Yemen is dealing with overgrazing, desertification, soil erosion and limited access to natural, fresh water.
Socotra: Natural History - This article details the flora and fauna of Yemen’s Socotra Island, a treasure of biodiversity and plant and animal life.
Yemen Nature- This website provides images and information on nature in Yemen and its several natural habitats.
History and Government:
Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the Arab world, but it is also one of the oldest centers of civilization in the world, dating back to 2200 BC. Between the 12th century BC and the 6th century, Yemen was one of the centers of civilization. It was along the spice trade route, which provided a lucrative income. During the 6th century, it fell under Ethiopian and Persian rule. The 7th century brought a series of Islamic caliphs who ruled the area until the 11th century. During the 11th century, Egyptian Sunni caliphs took control of much of northern Yemen. Northern Yemen and parts of Southern Yemen later became a part of the Ottoman Empire. Northern Yemen joined the Arab League in 1945 and the United Nations in 1947 as representatives of Yemen. In 1962, the Yemeni Arab Republic was established.
Southern Yemen was controlled by the British Empire from the mid 1800’s until 1937 as a part of British India. In 1937, Southern Yemen joined South Arabia Federation, which was a British protectorate. In 1965, two competing nationalist groups sought to gain control of South Yemen. The result was five bloody years during which the Front for the Liberation of Occupied South Yemen (FLOSY) and the National Liberation Front (NLF) used terrorist tactics to gain control. In 1970, the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen was established, which united the parties into the Yemeni Socialist Party. They began to have close relations with the Soviet Union, China and Cuba.
In 1972, the governments of the Yemeni Arab Republic (YAR) and the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY) announced that they were working toward a union. No progress was made for almost two decades though, as tensions increased and the PDRY launched several attacks in YAR. Finally in 1988, discussions were renewed that eventually let to the establishment of the Republic of Yemen on May 22, 1990. There was a 30 month transition period as the governments merged.
Yemen has a president that rules for 7-year terms. The parliament was initially made up of 159 members from the north, 111 members from the south and 31 independent members. There was significant infighting among government members that led to a weak government. In 2001, a constitutional amendment established a bicameral legislature: the Shura Council (111 seats appointed by the President) and the House of Representatives (301 seats elected by the people). The members of the legislature have 6-year terms. Men and women 18 and over have the right to vote, but freedom of press is guarded closely.
People and Languages:
The population of Yemen is close to 23.5 million and its population is growing at a high rate. They are typically of Arab descent, but there are minorities of Africans in the west, South Asians in the south and Europeans in metropolitan areas. Some have immigrated in search of work while others are ancestors of European colonies.
The education system experienced many years of turmoil as the new united Yemen was being formed. The Yemeni government has increased emphasis on education over the past 30 years. There are now two levels of education: basic and secondary. Basic school is the first nine years and secondary school is the second nine years. Students must pass on exam in order to receive their General Secondary Education Requirement Certificate. Yemen has seven universities: Sana'a University, University of Science and Technology Sana'a, University of Aden - Faculty of Education, TCL Yemen - Tayba Center for Languages, Queen Arwa University, Al-Ahgaff University, and Lebanese International University.
The healthcare system in Yemen is extremely underdeveloped. Health services and emergency services in rural areas are almost non-existent. There are not enough hospitals or doctors. There are problems due to malaria and malnutrition and there is also a growing problem with AIDS.
The dominant religion in Yemen is Islam and the legislation is based on Sharia law. The people follow either the Shafii Order of Sunni Islam or the Zaydi Order of Shia Islam. The Sunnis are mostly in the south and the Shia’s are concentrated in the north. The number of people practicing either type is almost equal. There is a small minority of Christians, Jews and Hindus. Freedom of religion is not expressly granted in the Constitution, but governmental policies encourage it.
The culture of Yemen has been influenced by two factors—religion and history. The cultures of North and South Yemen have merged and created a new culture.
Art is a developing part of Yemeni culture. Prior to the 1960’s, the Imam had made it illegal to create art. This has left Yemen with some ancient art and modern art, but there is a section of their history that has not be represented.
Architecture of Yemen-This website from ArchNet’s digital library offers images and information on significant architecture in Yemen.
Yemeni Art-This website provides access to several modern Yemeni artists’ biographies, works, and opportunities to purchase pieces.
Art of Yemen - This site showcases 30 Yemeni artists, some of their pieces, and their biographies.
Yemen Web - This site has a wonderful photo gallery and also details other interesting cultural information, such as Yemeni superstitions.
Yemeni Museums-This website provides images of artifacts and descriptions of museums in Yemen.
Yemen is the home to many architectural and religious sites. There are ruins that date back to its early history and mosques that were built during the rule of the caliphates. One of the most popular sites is Aden Port, which was controlled by the British for until the 1900s.
Spiritual Tourism-This website provides information on culturally and spiritually significant mosques, schools, and tombs. Included are some excellent photos of each location.
The music of Yemen has been influenced by its history and traditional folk music is still popular. It is played during festivals and ceremonies, as well as in casual home settings. Homayni, the traditional music, has poetic lyrics and is played with drums. Some pieces of Yemeni music are several hours long. Hip hop and pop music are growing in popularity.
Bab al-Yemen -This site has a virtual tour of Yemen and links to a number of videos, including music videos.
Hip-hop in Yemen -Hip-hop is also booming in Yemen, with dancers performing to traditional instruments such as the oud mixed with tracks by famous artists, such as DJ Malik.
Arab instruments -Al-Bab talks a little bit about each instrument and what countries it is mainly used in.
The people of Yemen love to play sports. Soccer, basketball, golf, water sports and racket ball are the most popular. Several after school clubs have been developed to encourage children to be active. Soccer is the most popular sport in Yemen. Clubs have been organized, so players can compete and the best of the best represent Yemen in international arenas.
FIFA: Yemen -FIFA provides information on the current standing of the national Yemeni football (soccer) team.
Yemen vs. Pakistan, Kung Fu -The Yemeni wushu, or kung fu, team has attended many international championships after intense training with their Chinese coach.
Yemen Tennis Federation -It has grown much over the past few years and continues to teach youths the sport of tennis.
Yemen Culture-This Hilal Plaza website has brief sections on Yemeni culture such as language, clothing, food, and social life.
Cultural Sites in Yemen-This website discusses several significant sites in Yemen. These sites are important historically, archaeologically, anthropologically, and ecologically.
Yemen: food and drink -Al-Bab has links to articles about the beverages and food of Yemen and also a number of recipes.
The Exotic Cuisine of Yemen -Habeeb Salloum discusses Yemeni cuisine and culture and provides a few recipe links at the end of the article.
Literacy through Poetry -This project is a government-endorsed program that teaches rural Yemeni women who do not desire traditional education how to read and express themselves through poetry; some excerpts of their work are available on the site.
Yemen Background-This website provides information on the Yemeni culture. Topics include history, urbanism, food, economy, social structure, gender roles, government, marriage, arts, medicine, and religion.
Yemen: Country Profile-This profile on Yemen from al-Bab includes pages on basic information, arts and culture, books, the economy, the environment, food and drink, history, maps, media, news, and politics.