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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.