(Al-Jumhūriyyah al-Yamaniyyah, Yemeni Republic, لجمهورية اليمنية)
- Location: Middle East (Southern portion of the Arabian Peninsula)
- Capital: Sana’a
- Language(s): Arabic
- Population: 24,635,334
- Total Area: 555,000 sq km
- Currency: Yemeni Rial
- Curious Alcohol Fact: The consumption of alcohol in Yemen is among the lowest in the world.
- Annual Average Liquor Consumption Per Capita: 0.02 liters
- Most Popular Drink(s): Tea, coffee
The name ‘Yemen’ is said to mean ‘South’, and I must say that I find that description very appropriate especially with the regards to its geographical location –the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. Yemen is bounded by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west and is flanked by Oman on its eastern border. The northern border with Saudi Arabia falls in one of the most barren places on earth –the Rub al-Khali or the Empty Quarter. Although it is easy to see Yemen as a bloc in the Arabian Peninsula, it is very interesting to know that the country controls hundreds of islands and the best known and largest of these is Socotra (Suqutra) which lies in the Indian Ocean. Sana’a is the capital and the largest city. Yemen was once split into north and south but there was reunification in 1990.
An overwhelming proportion of the people in the country are Yemeni Arabs. However, one interesting feature is that tribal loyalty is still very strong in the country. This is a trend that I also noticed in Somalia where people revere the clan before the nation. Tribes in Yemen are in the hundreds, and that makes the tribal relations quite complex and fragile. Other ethnic groups are those whose ancestors migrated from Africa (they are called the Aqdam), Mahras, Indonesians and Bedouins. More than 90% of Yemenis are Muslims while the others are Hindus, Jews or Christians. The official language is Arabic and is used all over the country.
Before you eat anything in Yemen, there is something you must chew. If you visit the markets, villages and even farms, you see the young and the old chewing this substance. Curiosity got the better of me and blurted out a question to my guide who named the substance qat. I later learnt that the chewing of qat leaves is a deeply-rooted culture of the Yemenis and most chew the leaves so as to be stimulated. I tried a few leaves but none compared to the tasty meal called fasah. This delicious meal is made from vegetables, mutton and spices. Served hot, you can cool it down with a cup of hot coffee! Yes, most of the foods are hot, as the drinks too! But, every bite is sumptuous.
Yemen has one of the lowest levels of alcohol consumption in the world and you may find it difficult to get a cold bottle of beer, even in the capital city of Sana’a. Tourists are allowed to bring in a limited quantity of alcohol but that must not be taken in the public. Coffee and tea are the main drinks in the arid country but you will find the drinks to be spicy and strongly flavored. I enjoyed cups of tea flavored with cardamom and I must say that the taste was really exciting.
Football is quite popular in the country and there are many local football clubs. Also being a mountainous country, sports such as hiking, climbing and bicycle riding are enjoyed in the country. In the coastal areas, swimming, diving and surfing are the main physical activities.
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