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 Sudan separatists, 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.


Yemen is roughly rectangular-shaped with a southwest-to-northeast orientation. The country is fertile and wet in the west and hot and dry in the east. What most people don't know about the country is that it's very mountainous, probably the third-most of the Arab states after Morocco and Lebanon. The western part is dominated by mountains with a short strip of coastal plain near the Red Sea, part of the Tihamah region that also spans the Red Sea coast of Saudi Arabia. The former have high rainfall, befitting the region's ancient name of "Lucky Arabia", while the latter is one of the hottest places on Earth. The mountains are followed by highlands standing on plateaus to the immediate east, which are more dry but still receive substantial rainfall, except for the eastern part, called the "Hadhramaut", which is even more arid with several wadis (valleys that are filled with water on specific times). The highlands are completed by the desert in the east, part of the Rub' al Khali that also encompasses most of southern Saudi Arabia and western Oman, which receives absolutely no rainfall and are for the most part uninhabited. As you can expect, most of the major cities are located in the western part of the country, moreso in the fertile highlands, which include the capital Sana'a and third-largest city, Taiz.

Other than the mainland, Yemen also has several outlying islands, including the historically signicant but uninhabited Perim (used by the first humans to cross the Bab-el-Mandeb strait), but the most famous is no doubt Socotra, a far-away archipelago of four islands lying to the southeast in the Indian Ocean (it's closer to Somalia, in fact). It's the most isolated piece of continental land mass (as in, it's not made of volcanoes) and is described as "the most alien-looking place on Earth", which should give you hints about its appearance. For one thing, the notoriously alien-looking and umbrella-shaped dragon blood tree is native to this island. It's also an "alien" linguistically and politically, being inhabited by people speaking a South Arabian language that's related to Arabic just as much as it's related to Hebrew, Aramaic, or Akkadian, and being largely untouched by the troubles of the mainland, including the recent Houthi takeover.

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.