11 Best Things to Do in Yemen


Yemen is a large coun­try in the south­ern part of the Ara­bi­an Penin­su­la, washed by the waters of the Ara­bi­an and Red Seas. This is the land of moun­tains, rocky deserts and plains, where mag­nif­i­cent his­tor­i­cal mon­u­ments have been pre­served.


Things to do in Yemen

South Ara­bia is the cra­dle of ancient civ­i­liza­tions. Even before our era, pow­er­ful king­doms exist­ed here and large cities were built. Almost two thou­sand years ago, the ter­ri­to­ry was con­quered by Ethiopia, and the first Chris­t­ian church­es appeared in Yemen. But they did not last long — soon the coun­try fell under the influ­ence of Mus­lims, went through wars and was cap­tured by the Ottoman Empire.

In 1918, Yemen gained inde­pen­dence, but con­flicts and ter­ri­to­r­i­al dis­putes hin­der nor­mal devel­op­ment. Since 2014, there has been a civ­il war that has caused destruc­tion and famine. In some areas, the unrest con­tin­ues to this day.

The coun­try is famous for its UNESCO world her­itage sites. Zabid, Shibam fortress, the old city of Sana keep ancient archi­tec­tur­al mon­u­ments. Among them are hous­es made of clay bricks, built in the desert to pro­tect from the scorch­ing rays of the sun.

The arid land of Yemen is an archae­o­log­i­cal site. In the west are the ruins of the king­dom of Sabah. Pre­sum­ably, this is ancient She­va, described in the Old Tes­ta­ment. In the north, frag­ments of the city of Barak­ish have been pre­served. Pagan tem­ples, necrop­olis­es, stone columns were found in the exca­va­tion area.

The Soco­tra arch­i­pel­ago, which con­sists of four islands, is also con­sid­ered part of Yemen. The wild zone is of inter­est to con­nois­seurs of nature and adven­ture. Endem­ic species of trees and shrubs grow on the islands, rare birds and insects live. Off the coast of Soco­tra, the most beau­ti­ful black pearls with a sil­very sheen are mined.

In Yemen, peo­ple live accord­ing to Mus­lim laws. Arriv­ing here, you need to hon­or local cus­toms, dress mod­est­ly and refrain from drink­ing alco­hol.

Notable cities



The cap­i­tal of Yemen and one of the old­est set­tle­ments in the world is locat­ed in a moun­tain­ous area at an alti­tude of 2300 meters above sea lev­el. The his­toric dis­trict is dom­i­nat­ed by mul­ti-storey old hous­es dec­o­rat­ed with com­plex geo­met­ric pat­terns.

In the south of Sana’a stands the Al Saleh Mosque. The grandiose build­ing, accom­mo­dat­ing 44 thou­sand peo­ple, is dec­o­rat­ed with five domes, six minarets, columns and arch­es. The gate of the mosque over­looks Al Sabin Square. Oppo­site ris­es the pres­i­den­tial palace and the par­lia­ment build­ing.

The roy­al palace of Dar al-Hajar has been pre­served in the vicin­i­ty. The man­sion belonged to the rul­ing fam­i­ly until the 1962 rev­o­lu­tion. Now it hous­es a his­tor­i­cal muse­um.

Shibam Hadhramaut

shibam hibromat

The for­ti­fied city of Shibam is the cap­i­tal of the king­dom of Hadhra­maut, which flour­ished in the 3rd cen­tu­ry AD. Today it is an impor­tant trans­port hub in Yemen with a pop­u­la­tion of 7,000 peo­ple.

The main streets attract atten­tion with spe­cial archi­tec­ture. Many hous­es are made of clay bricks and are tow­er blocks of 5–10 floors. Such build­ings are con­sid­ered the old­est sky­scrap­ers in the world, as they date back to the 16th cen­tu­ry. Shibam Fortress is sur­round­ed by a high wall, but its watch­tow­ers were sig­nif­i­cant­ly dam­aged dur­ing the mil­i­tary con­flict.



In the Hadhra­maut Val­ley of South Yemen lies the city of Tarim. This is the reli­gious cen­ter of the coun­try, in which Islam­ic mosques, libraries, and edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu­tions are con­cen­trat­ed. On the streets of Tarim, the palaces of the Ottoman rulers and hous­es dec­o­rat­ed with mul­ti-col­ored plas­ter flaunt.

Of great cul­tur­al val­ue is the Al-Muhd­har Mosque with an Islam­ic geo­met­ric design. The lay­out includes a court­yard with four cor­ri­dors and a square minaret 40 meters high. The inner hall is dec­o­rat­ed with fres­coes, flo­ral orna­ments, suras from the Koran. The base­ment of the mosque is occu­pied by a library of Islam­ic lit­er­a­ture.



The city of Zabid is the old­est his­tor­i­cal mon­u­ment locat­ed in the coastal zone. 50 thou­sand peo­ple live on its ter­ri­to­ry. In 1993, the nar­row Arab streets and col­or­ful hous­es were declared a World Her­itage Site.

The cen­ter is dec­o­rat­ed with the Great Mosque of Zabid, erect­ed 1400 years ago. The white Islam­ic-style build­ing has a tall minaret with a bal­cony and a nar­row dome. The out­er walls are dec­o­rat­ed with intri­cate pat­terns.

Walk­ing around the city, you can also see the ancient citadel, the mau­soleum of Muham­mad Ezzud­din, the palaces of the Ottoman Empire and the ori­en­tal mar­kets.

archaeological sites



Near Marib — a live­ly city 120 km from Sana — there are the ruins of the Sabaean king­dom. Among the stones and the desert, archae­ol­o­gists have found frag­ments of streets, places of wor­ship and res­i­den­tial build­ings.

At the exca­va­tion site, you can see the tem­ple of Avvam, ded­i­cat­ed to the pagan deity. From the reli­gious shrine there remained high square columns, set strict­ly to the east, and sacred stones with ancient inscrip­tions. Near the tem­ple, they found a vast necrop­o­lis with tombs made of pol­ished lime­stone blocks.



The set­tle­ment of Barak­ish was once the cap­i­tal of the king­dom of Minai. Lit­tle is known about this civ­i­liza­tion, but the Minays man­aged to leave behind inter­est­ing archi­tec­tur­al mon­u­ments. In the archae­o­log­i­cal area are the ruins of a tem­ple ded­i­cat­ed to Attar (the god of water and fer­til­i­ty) and a ceme­tery.

Not far from them are gran­ite columns and anoth­er tem­ple with an intact roof. Inside there are stone altars, nich­es for sac­ri­fices, fig­urines of ani­mals. Alas, in 2015, Barak­ish received seri­ous dam­age dur­ing the bomb­ing.


Palace of Queen Arva

dvorec korolevi arvi

The city of Jibla has many unique his­tor­i­cal mon­u­ments. The pearl among them is the palace of Queen Arva, who lived almost 2 thou­sand years ago. This is the only woman in the Mus­lim world rec­og­nized as a ruler. She found­ed mosques, schools and made a great con­tri­bu­tion to the devel­op­ment of Yemen.

The roy­al palace had sev­er­al floors, spa­cious halls and a good drainage sys­tem. Today the build­ing is par­tial­ly destroyed and needs restora­tion. Tourists can see the out­er walls, arched win­dows, stone fence, gran­ite steps.

Dar as-Sa’d

dar as sad

The Roy­al Palace of Sana’a is locat­ed in Tahrir Square. The mag­nif­i­cent ori­en­tal man­sion was the res­i­dence of the Yemeni imam before the rev­o­lu­tion. Now it hous­es the Nation­al Muse­um, which stores archae­o­log­i­cal and cul­tur­al exhibits.

Exhi­bi­tions tell about ancient king­doms, wars with the Ottoman Empire, the strug­gle for inde­pen­dence. Arti­facts brought from Marib and Barak­ish are stored in sep­a­rate rooms. The col­lec­tion includes sculp­tures of deities, ceram­ics, stone boul­ders with ancient inscrip­tions.

Mosque of Queen Arva

mechet korolevi arvi

The mosque, erect­ed by order of the same Queen Arva in 1111, has been per­fect­ly pre­served to this day and is con­sid­ered an adorn­ment of Dji­bla. The struc­ture has an open court­yard sur­round­ed by four cor­ri­dors. In the north­ern part is the qibla with the mihrab. The prayer niche is topped with a stone orna­ment and framed with inscrip­tions from the Koran. The mosque has two minarets.

In the north­west cor­ner of the com­plex is the mau­soleum of Queen Arva, which is a cen­ter of pil­grim­age.

natural attractions

Jabal Haraz

dgabal haras

The hilly region of Yemen, Jabal Haraz, includes the high­est moun­tain in the Ara­bi­an Penin­su­la, An-Nabi Shuaib. Its height is 3760 meters. A mil­i­tary post and the mosque of the prophet Shuaib were built at the top. Vil­lages with red sand­stone hous­es are scat­tered on the slopes. The set­tle­ments resem­ble impreg­nable fortress­es and reli­ably pro­tect the inhab­i­tants from the wind and ene­my inva­sion.

Rare birds and ani­mals live in the moun­tain val­leys. Tourists will be able to admire the beau­ti­ful nature, herds of wild goats, and also go to vil­lages to study the life of local tribes.

Abd al-Kuri

abd el kuri

The sec­ond largest island in the Soco­tra arch­i­pel­ago is locat­ed at the entrance to the Gulf of Aden. It is famous for its hills, stone cliffs, pic­turesque cliffs. The coast is con­sid­er­ably indent­ed and cov­ered with sand. The desert cli­mate and bio­log­i­cal iso­la­tion con­tribute to the favor­able life of endem­ic flo­ra and fau­na.

200 species of plants new to sci­ence grow on the island. Among them are Ade­ni­um obese, Dorste­nia giant, Dra­cae­na cinnabar red. Abd al-Kuri is a seclud­ed place. In its cen­tral part there are sev­er­al fish­ing vil­lages where you can find accom­mo­da­tion and rent a boat.


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