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Yemen
© Dmitry Chulov / 123rf
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Things to see in Yemen
By Amy Adejokun Amy Adejokun Section editor

Landscapes

Yemen is a destination that is still little known by the general public. And yet, this country located between Saudi Arabia and Oman has many assets worth highlighting. The region of Sanaa, where the colours and the scenes of the day-to-day life provide an unforgettable experience, is a real gem. Lush vegetation, which seems completely out of place, oases and arid desert-like earth blanket the country with spots of colours whose beauty rival that of the modesty of the families who live here. Further south, the town of Shibam is a compete contrast to its surrounding regions, where you won't find a living soul. The hundreds of buildings, all part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, look as though they have sprung right up out of the ground, like a mirage shimmering under the blazing sun.

Arts and culture

Welcome to the country of a Thousand and One Nights! Yemen is a country full of contrasts, where the past stands alongside the present at every moment. Yemen has lost none of its air of mystery and adventure.

A Muslim country, Yemen attaches great importance to its customs and traditions. Various tribes, organised in a hierarchy, share the country, each with their own customs and traditions. For example, the proud quabili (Yemen tribesmen), armed to the teeth and cheeks bloated with qât (a traditional narcotic drug), will make some visitors feel rather uneasy.

Yemen is known for its culture, notably its musical art and its poetry. The latter is often followed by the first and is chanted. Another typical art is Yemeni architecture: an ancient Arab style with ribs and archways. The mosques, hammams and souks display perfect examples of this.

Finally, Yemen is the country of the legendary story of the Queen and the Kingdom of Sheba. The Yemenis made the Queen a veritable muse for poets; she was capable of injecting revolutionary fervour into those preoccupied by politics, which resulted in the restoration of the Kingdom of Sheba.

Monuments

Still a country that many travellers know very little about, for those who take a closer look, Yemen can be just as enchanting as the idea of the distant East. The country of a thousand and one nights, Yemen is steeped in a history dating back a thousand years, is crossed by legendary roads, and possesses unique architecture. The land of the Queen of Sheba and an ancestral people, it has held onto the charm of its splendid past, visible on every street you walk down.

The architecture in each of its regions is adapted to each specific climate. Therefore, clay is the material of choice on the eastern plateaus of Amran and Saada; stone is used most in the mountains, like in Jibla; straw is used in the 'African' district of Tihama; rammed earth is the speciality in Hadhramaut; and brick is used most often in Zabid and Sana'a.

In addition to a number of temples and mosques, travellers will find the many decorative elements, like the finely worked openings and gates, hugely enchanting. There are several sites and monuments in Yemen that are listed as UNESCO World Heritage: the Socotra archipelago, the cultural sites of the ancient city of Shibam and its surrounding wall, the Old Town in Sana'a, and the historic town of Zabid.