When you think of the Middle Eastern country of Yemen, not many facts may come to mind about this faraway state. However, it’s the second largest country in the Arabian Peninsula that is an Arab state, and has a very rich ancient history.
Unfortunately, the international community considers Yemen a failed state because of its unrest-characterised internal affairs and unsettled status. This is quite the contrast with the fact that it was once known as Arabia Felix, or the “Happy Land of Arabs” because it was more fertile than anywhere else in the Arabian Peninsula.
Yet, let’s have a look at some interesting facts about the country of Yemen.
1. Yemen was referenced in the Bible
With its long history, Yemen has been mentioned in the Bible, when Noah referred to it as “the land of milk and honey.” It’s also been mentioned as the Queen of Sheba’s homeland.
Finally, the Three Wise Men who come to visit the baby Jesus present him with gifts from the Yemeni mountains: gold, frankincense and myrrh.
2. It’s the only republic in the Arab peninsula
An interesting fact about Yemen is that all of its neighbours are kingdoms or emirates, so Yemen is the only republic in the area. This is a point of pride for the people from Yemen.
3. Peugeot has influenced Yemeni language
In Yemen, the large majority of taxis have for a long time been Peugeot cars. Therefore, in day-to-day language, this has transformed into “bijou” and it is the generic name given to taxis in the country. By the way, the best mode of transportation around Yemen is in a taxi, usually shared with others in a group.
4. Yemen is extremely conservative
Even though it’s a republic, Yemen’s obedience to the Muslim religion is very strict and this makes it a conservative country. Homosexuality is an offence punishable by death, women cannot be photographed, and many other strict rules should be followed in Yemen.
5. This is where the world’s oldest skyscraper city is
Interestingly, it’s not Manhattan that’s the oldest skyscraper city in the world. The city of Shibam is famous for ancient high-rise buildings made of mudbrick and there are around 500 of them in the city of 7,000 people, a fun fact about Yemen. Some go up to 11 stories high and are quite the sight, especially if you consider that they’ve been around since the 16th century. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, designated as such in 1982.
6. Yemen’s capital is one of the world’s oldest cities
Another city fact from Yemen is related to its capital, Sana’a. This is one of the oldest cities in the world, referenced in the Bible, when one of Noah’s sons Shem would have actually built the city. Around 4 million people live in Sana’a, which is also one of the world’s highest capital cities, at an altitude of 7,500 ft.
7. One of the world’s most interesting buildings is in Yemen
The palace of Dar al-Hajar was only built in the 1930s, unlike some of the other impressive buildings we can find in Yemen. However, it’s one of the most interesting buildings in the world with its two stories built into a rock and three above it, and it’s a museum which can be visited by tourists today. It’s also referred to as the “Rock Palace.”
8. Its silversmiths were world famous
Yemen has a heritage of wonderful silversmith works by Jewish craftsmen. Between the 18th and 20th century, the Jewish silversmiths of Yemen dominated the production of jewellery with intricate detailing and granulation, an interesting Yemen fact. They are still known and admired all over the world.
9. Mocha comes from Yemen
One of the world’s best known types of coffee, this was named after the city of Mocha, which is on the Red Sea coast in Yemen. It was actually a big hub for coffee trade before the 18th century, and the Mocha beans sold there were known all over the world. There were large coffee plantations all over Yemen which then ended up sending their beans here to be traded internationally.
10. Yemen is home to maybe the world’s largest humanitarian crisis
According to the United Nations, the ongoing conflicts in Yemen have led to over 22 million people being classified as needing humanitarian aid and protection. The country’s unrest is taking a huge toll on civilians first and foremost, as they face attacks and bombings, and many people have had to leave their homes searching for safety.
The conflict in Yemen has been ongoing for years and rebels are actually in charge of the capital city of Sana’a.
11. In ancient times, Yemen was a massive trading state
Unlike today, the Yemen of ancient times flourished from great trade exchanges, a fun fact about Yemen. It was a bigger state that also covered the territories of modern-day Ethiopia and Eritrea and knew many different influences, from Jewish culture from 275 when the Himyarite Kingdom was established, to Christianity which arrived in Yemen in the fourth century. Unfortunately, the rulers fragmented over time in several dynasties and the country was split between the Ottoman and the British Empires later on, which hasn’t helped the current unrest. The new Yemen is only as old as 1990, when the two Yemeni states which emerged from imperial control merged to form the Republic of Yemen. Unfortunately, that first president, Ali Abdullah Saleh resigned in 2012 and political crisis has reigned in Yemen ever since.
Yemen was once a prosperous state which celebrated an array of cultures and religions, enjoying the riches of its trade with the world. As testimony of those times, we can now find amazing World Heritage Sites throughout the country, but sadly, these are out of reach for visitors while conflict rages in this country. Yemen is having to deal with the Al-Qaeda forces, Houthi rebels, and general insecurity as even President Saleh was shot dead in 2017. Moreover, famine is affecting the population.
I hope that this article on Yemen facts was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Country Facts Page!