Useful Notes / Yemen
Yemen (Arabic: اليَمَن‎ al-Yaman), also known as the Republic of Yemen (Arabic: الجمهورية اليمنية‎ al-Jumhūriyyah al-Yamaniyyah) is a country located on the southern tip of Arabia, bordered to the south by the Gulf of Aden, the north by Saudi Arabia and the east by Oman.

Yemen has a long history, being known by the Romans as "Arabia Felix" (Lucky Arabia), because it is the one spot in the mostly-desert Arabian Peninsula where rain and fertile lands are encountered. The first humans probably migrated out of Eastern Africa to Asia through the Bab-el-Mandeb strait, which was assumed to be lower enough back in the day to allow easy crossings. Civilizations flourished there, one of which was the Saba, as in the kingdom where the Queen of Sheba presided over. The region was one of the first to be conquered by the Arab empires, which controlled it for most of its history until its subjugation to the Ottoman Empire.

The north of the country became independent in 1918. The Aden area, a long-term British colony due to its strategic position on the edge near the Red Sea, became independent after an insurgency in known as the Aden Emergency by the British, where the British withdrew earlier than planned in 1967. Two years later, the country became Communist.

The North was fairly neutral in the Cold War, while South Yemen became a Soviet client state, but relations were friendly. In 1990, after long discussions, the two countries unified. A brief civil war broke out in 1994, which the government won.

Today, it can only be called a failing state, with much of the government run by tribes, two civil wars going on (with Shia Houthi rebels and Islamist separatists) where the Americans are involved in a manner that may or may not involve Tomahawk cruise missiles, a high illiteracy rate and dwindling oil and water supplies. And, as if that weren't enough, the country saw massive protests in early 2011, which have resulted in President Saleh's vows to resign. On November 23, Saleh officially signed an agreement drawn up by the Gulf Cooperation Council to begin a power transfer, bringing an end to his 33-year reign. However, this did not end the stability; between the Houthis, the South Yemen separatists (many of whom are Communist-aligned) and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen has, as of 2015, devolved into an impossible-to-describe cluster of madness, which the intervention of a Saudi Arabia-led coalition of other Arab countries (plus Senegal for some reason) has only just made more complicated.

Fun facts:
  • It's a mountainous country. While there is desert to the east, the population is concentrated on the mountains to the west, where major cities lay. The capital, Sana'a, at 2,250 m (7,382 ft), is the second highest capital in Asia and the seventh highest in the world.
  • It has forests. Also, see those baboons in the last picture? Those guys are definitely not what you'd expect to see in an everyday Middle East (they're the only indigenous primate in the region, in fact).
  • According to Arab traditions, Yemen is the quintessential Arab country; it was the origin of a strain of Arab tribes who conquered the whole of the Arabian Peninsula during the first centuries AD, after which the tribes of the peninsula became distinguished between the nomadic northern "Arabized Arab" Adnanites, who lived in the central Najd desert, and the sedentary southern "Pure Arab" Qahtanites, who lived in present-day Yemen. Modern genealogists, though, have dismissed this theory as a political maneuvering benefiting the warring tribes. There is also the fact that "Arab" was previously an ethnonym exclusively applied to the Bedouins, which means that even if the above theory is true, it has to be the other way around.
    • Popular culture has mostly picked up on this theory though, not helped by the fact that the Yemenis have the darkest, almost reaching sub-Saharan dark, skin color of all Arabs who still retain Caucasian features (as opposed to the Somalis and Sudanese, who have even darker skin, but have sub-Saharan features). Because Arab = Brown.
  • It has the most remote continental landmass (that is, it's not of volcanic origin) in the world: Socotra Island, located just off the coast of neighboring Somalia. Accordingly, it has many flora and fauna not found anywhere else in the world, such as the alien-looking dragon blood tree. The island was previously Christian until the 16th century; however, the Christianity practiced was not your typical Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox branches; they followed the teachings of Nestorius, who was condemned by mainstream Christians in the third ecumenical council in 431 AD, which meant that the islanders were long isolated from other Christians even before Islam took over.
  • Arabs are not the only indigenous inhabitants of Yemen; there is the minority South Arabian ethnic groups, who speak languages closer to the Ethiopian Semitic languages than they do to Arabic. In fact, they are originally a majority in Yemen before the arrival of the Arabs, and the Ethiopian Semitic speakers are quite possibly Semites who moved from Africa to the Middle East, only to cross back to Africa through Yemen and the Red Sea.
  • A nomadic Arab subgroup known as the Hadhrami people living in the Hadhramaut region of southeastern Yemen has a history rivaling that of the whole Arab culture itself. Known as skilled seafarers and traders, they are the emissaries of the Arabs in the Indian Ocean trade. The Hadhramis form the largest of the Yemeni diaspora; the so-called Arabs of India and Southeast Asia, for example, are mostly descendants of the Hadhramis who ceased to be nomads and intermarried with the sedentary natives. In those regions, the Hadhramis are famous for producing many politicians, rich guys, and businessmen; in the western world, however, the Hadhramis are best known for unfortunately producing one of the most evil people in history, a man known as Osama bin Laden.
  • Yemen's Muslim believers are evenly split between the Sunnis and the Shiites, a major anomaly in the predominantly Sunni-Arabian Peninsula and something that the Sunni kings and ulemas of the Arabian kingdoms are annoyed at. The Shiites here are mainly of the Zaidi branch, the oldest branch of Shia Islam who believes that Zayd ibn Ali, the grandson of Imam Husayn, and his descendants, were the rightful Imams. The Zaidis do not believe in the infallibility of the Imams, a point that caused their schism with the other Shia branches. Of the Shiites, they are the closest in theology to Sunni Islam. Oh, the Houthi movement is Zaidi, too, by the way.
  • Yemen has one of the oldest Jewish historical inhabitations outside of Israel. After the Sassanian conquest, the Persians helped the Jews convert a local chieftain, Dhu Nuwas, who became royal. The kingdom fought constantly against their neighbor across the strait, Ethiopia, which was a Christian kingdom. Even after the Islamic expansion, the Jews continued to flourish in the country and adopted a culture quite far removed from the mainstream, which others have described as being a mishmash of Mizrahic and Sephardic (for more information, see here). Most of them had emigrated outside of the country during the Jewish mass exodus after the establishment of Israel.

In fiction

The Yemeni flag
The flag's red, white and black stripes, all taken from the Pan-Arab colors, symbolize the blood of the fallen, hopes for a bright future, and Yemen's troubled past, respectively. The stripes were a common element of the flags of North Yemen and South Yemen, both of which featured a green star at the center and a sky-blue chevron with a red star on the hoist side, respectively.