The Republic of Yemen, commonly known as Yemen is a country located in Western Asia, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula.

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The Republic of Yemen (Arabic: الجمهورية اليمنية‎ al-Jumhūriyyah al-Yamaniyyah), commonly known as Yemen i/ˈjɛmən/ (Arabic: اليَمَن‎ al-Yaman), is a country located in Western Asia, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea to the south, and Oman to the east. Yemen is considered one of the poorest countries in the Arab world.

Its capital and largest city is Sana'a. Yemen's territory includes over 200 islands, the largest of which is Socotra, about 354 km (220 mi) to the south of mainland Yemen. It is the only state in the Arabian Peninsula to have a purely republican form of government.[4] Yemen was the first country in the Arabian peninsula to grant women the right to vote.[5] Yemeni unification took place on 22 May 1990, when North Yemen was united with South Yemen, forming the Republic of Yemen.

The majority of Yemen's population is divided into tribal groups, especially in the northern areas of the country where 85% of local residents belong to various tribes.[6] There are also small groups of peoples of Turkish/Ottoman and possibly Veddoid origin in urban areas.[7] The Majority of the population are Sunni Muslims following the Shafi'i school with a large minority adhering to the Zaidiyyah Islamic jurisprudence.[8]


One etymology derives Yemen from yamin, meaning "on the right side", as the south is on the right when facing the sunrise. Another derives Yemen from yumn, meaning "felicity", as the region is fertile. The Romans called it Arabia Felix (Happy Arabia) as opposed to Arabia Deserta (Deserted Arabia), which was their term for northern Arabia. Yemen was mentioned in Old South Arabian script as Yamnat and it literally means "the south-land" [9]


Yemeni Sculpture from 75 BC

Yemen has long existed at the crossroads of cultures. It linked some of the oldest centres of civilization in the Near East by virtue of its location in South Arabia.

Between the 12th century BC and the 6th century AD, it was home of the Minaean, Sabaean, Hadhramaut, Qataban, Ausan, and Himyarite kingdoms, which controlled the lucrative spice trade, and later came under Byzantine and Persian rule.[10]

In the 5th century AD, the Himyarite king Abu-Karib Assad converted to Judaism after expanding his kingdom to include most of the Arabian peninsula and parts of East Africa. Following intervention by the Byzantines and the Ethiopians, Christianity was briefly re-established in the kingdom under the leadership of Abraha. In the 7th century, Islamic caliphs began to exert control over the area. After this caliphate broke up, Yemen came under the control of many dynasties who ruled part, or often all, of South Arabia Mecca and most of Oman and even some parts of Gujarat in India during the rule of Queen Arwa al-Sulayhi.

Imams – descendants of prophet Muhammad also known as sayyids – ruled Yemen intermittently for 980 years, establishing a theocratic political structure that flourished and covered at its pinnacle all the area south of Mecca to Dhoffar in Oman and all the way to Aden and the African coast of the Red sea, Gulf of Aden and parts of the Indian ocean adjacent to the Arabian Peninsula and strongly influencing and sometimes controlling sharifs of Hejaz. It survived until modern times.

"Bronze man" found in Al Bayda' (ancient Nashqum), dated 6th–5th century BCE.

Egyptian Shia caliphs occupied much of Yemen throughout the 11th century but were resisted by the Imams. By the 16th century and again in the 19th century, Yemen was part of the Ottoman Empire (first as the Eyalet of Yemen, later as the Vilayet of Yemen), and in some periods Imams exerted control over all Yemen.[10]

Aden was occupied by the Portuguese between 1513 and 1538, and again from 1547 to 1548. In between those Portuguese occupations, Aden was ruled by the Ottoman Empire; it ruled Aden again from 1548 to 1645. After Ottoman rule, it was ruled by the Sultanate of Lahej, under suzerainty of the Zaidi Imams of Yemen. In 1838, Sultan Muhsin bin Fadl of the nearby state of Lahej ceded 194 km2 (75 sq mi) including Aden to the British. On 19 January 1839, the British East India Company landed Royal Marines at Aden to occupy the territory and stop attacks by pirates against British shipping to India.

The modern history of South Arabia and Yemen began in 1918 when Yemen gained independence from the Ottoman Empire. Between 1918 and 1962, Yemen was a monarchy ruled by the Hamidaddin family. There was a brief revolution in 1947–48, in which Imam Yahya Muhammad Hamid ed-Din was killed. A rival sayyid family, the Alwazirs, seized power for several weeks. Backed by the al-Saud family of Saudi Arabia, the Hamidaddins restored their rule until 1962–1970 during the North Yemen Civil War. In 1962, North Yemen saw a republic rivaling the Imams with Egyptian Occupiers assistance. The government-in-exile of the Mutawakelite kingdom issued a last Yemeni Rial coin in London in 1965 incribed المملكة المتوكلية اليمنية, "AlMamlakah AlMutawakiliyyah AlYamaniyyah , meaning The Mutawakelite Kingdom of Yemen [11]. , commemorating Winston Churchill by the title Man Of Peace in Arabic and English[12], but Britain still had a protective area around the South Arabia port of Aden, which it had created in the 19th century. Britain withdrew in 1967 and the area became South Yemen. In 1970, the southern government adopted a Communist governmental system. The two countries were formally united as the Republic of Yemen on 22 May 1990.

From 27 April to 7 July 1994, a civil war between the former North and former South Yemen ended with the conquest of the southern capital, Aden. The dissatisfaction of the people in the South with the government of Sana’a led finally to an uprising in the South in 2007. Very soon the "al-Ḥirāk as-Silmī al-Janūbī", the Southern Peaceful Movement (South Yemen Movement) was established in the same year to unify all southern activists. The demands on equality of treatment which was ignored by Sana’a developed very soon to the retrieval of the southern state.

The 2011 Yemeni revolution followed the initial stages of the Tunisian revolution and occurred simultaneously with the 2011–2012 Egyptian revolution and other mass protests in the Arab world in early 2011. The uprising was initially against unemployment, economic conditions and corruption, as well as against the government's proposals to modify the constitution of Yemen. The protestors' demands then escalated to calls for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to resign. After an election, power was transferred to the vice president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Al-Hadi, for a two-year term starting in February 2012. Al-Hadi will oversee the drafting of a new constitution, followed by parliamentary and presidential elections in 2014.


Ancient Yemen 100 AD

Map of Yemen

Yemen is located in Western Asia, in the southern half of the Arabian Peninsula, bordering the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, and the Red Sea. It lies south of Saudi Arabia and west of Oman, between latitudes 12° and 19° N and longitudes 42° and 55° E.

A number of Red Sea islands, including the Hanish Islands, Kamaran, and Perim, as well as Socotra in the Arabian Sea, belong to Yemen. Many of the islands are volcanic; for example Jabal al-Tair had a volcanic eruption in 2007 and before that in 1883.

At 527,970 km2 (203,850 sq mi), Yemen is the world's 50th-largest country. It is comparable in size to Thailand and larger than the U.S. state of California. Yemen is situated at 15°N 48°E / 15°N 48°E / 15; 48.

Tihama on the Red Sea near Khaukha

Until the signing of the Yemen-Saudi Arabia peace treaty in July 2000 [13] Yemen's northern border was undefined; the Arabian Desert prevented any human habitation there.

The country can be divided geographically into four main regions: the coastal plains in the west, the western highlands, the eastern highlands, and the Rub al Khali in the east.

The Tihamah ("hot lands" or "hot earth") form a very arid and flat coastal plain along Yemen's entire Red Sea coastline. Despite the aridity, the presence of many lagoons makes this region very marshy and a suitable breeding ground for malaria mosquitoes. There are extensive crescent-shaped sand dunes. The evaporation in the Tihamah is so great that streams from the highlands never reach the sea, but they do contribute to extensive groundwater reserves. Today, these are heavily exploited for agricultural use. Near the village of Madar about 48 km (30 mi) north of Sana'a, dinosaur footprints were found, indicating that the area was once a muddy flat.

The Tihamah ends abruptly at the escarpment of the western highlands. This area, now heavily terraced to meet the demand for food, receives the highest rainfall in Arabia, rapidly increasing from 100 mm (3.9 in) per year to about 760 mm (29.9 in) in Ta'izz and over 1,000 mm (39.4 in) in Ibb.

Northern Yemen landscape

The town of Jibla

Agriculture here is very diverse, with such crops as sorghum dominating. Cotton and many fruit trees are also grown, with mangoes being the most valuable. Temperatures are hot in the day but fall dramatically at night. There are perennial streams in the highlands but these never reach the sea because of high evaporation in the Tihamah.

The central highlands are an extensive high plateau over 2,000 metres (6,562 ft) in elevation. This area is drier than the western highlands because of rain-shadow influences but still receives sufficient rain in wet years for extensive cropping. Diurnal temperature ranges are among the highest in the world: ranges from 30 °C (86 °F) in the day to 0 °C (32 °F) at night are normal.[citation needed] Water storage allows for irrigation and the growing of wheat and barley. Sana'a is located in this region. The highest point in Yemen is Jabal an Nabi Shu'ayb, at 3,666 metres (12,028 ft).

Yemen's portion of the Rub al Khali desert in the east is much lower, generally below 1,000 metres (3,281 ft), and receives almost no rain. It is populated only by Bedouin herders of camels. The growing scarcity of water is a source of increasing international concern. See Water supply and sanitation in Yemen.


Large areas of Yemen are controlled by armed rebel groups rather than the national government.

As a result of the Yemeni revolution, the constitution of Yemen is expected to be rewritten, and then new elections held in 2014. The national government administers the capital and largest cities, but some other regions are outside of its grasp, governed by armed militant groups which expanded their control during the chaos of the 2011–12 uprising. The two major groups are Ansar al-Sharia (a branch or affiliate of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula), which has declared several "Islamic emirates" in the southern provinces of Abyan and Shabwah, and the Houthis, a Shiite rebel group centered in Sa'dah province.

Yemen is a presidential republic with a bicameral legislature. Under the 1991 constitution, an elected President, an elected 301-seat Assembly of Representatives, and an appointed 111-member Shura Council share power. The President is the head of state, and the Prime Minister is the head of government.

The 1991 constitution provides that the president be elected by popular vote from at least two candidates endorsed by at least fifteen members of the Parliament. The prime minister, in turn, is appointed by the president and must be approved by two thirds of the Parliament. The presidential term of office is seven years, and the parliamentary term of elected office is six years. Suffrage is universal for people age 18 and older, but only Muslims may hold elected office.[14]

President Ali Abdullah Saleh became the first elected President in reunified Yemen in 1999 (though he had been President of unified Yemen since 1990 and President of North Yemen since 1978). He was re-elected to office in September 2006. Saleh's victory was marked by an election that international observers judged to be "partly free", though the election was accompanied by violence, violations of press freedoms, and allegations of fraud.[15] Parliamentary elections were held in April 2003, and the General People's Congress (GPC) maintained an absolute majority.

The constitution calls for an independent judiciary. The former northern and southern legal codes have been unified. The legal system includes separate commercial courts and a Supreme Court based in Sana'a. Sharia is the main source of laws, with many court cases being debated according to the religious basis of law and many judges being religious scholars as well as legal authorities.

Administrative divisions

As of February 2004, Yemen is divided into twenty governorates (muhafazat) and one municipality called "Amanat Al-Asemah" (the latter containing the capital, Sana'a)[16]

Division Capital City Population
2004 Census [17]
2006 est.[18]
'Aden Aden 589,419 634,710 1
'Amran 'Amran 877,786 909,992 2
Abyan Zinjibar 433,819 454,535 3
Ad-Dali' Ad Dali' 470,564 504,533 4
Al Bayda' Al Bayda' 577,369 605,303 5
Al Hudaydah Al-Hudaydah 2,157,552 2,300,179 6
Al Jawf Al-Jawf 443,797 465,737 7
Al-Mahrah Al-Ghaydah 88,594 96,768 8
Al-Mahwit Al-Mahweet 494,557 523,236 9
Amanat Al-Asemah Sana'a 1,747,834 1,947,139 10
Dhamar Dhamar 1,330,108 1,412,142 11
Hadhramaut Al-Mukalla 1,028,556 1,092,967 12
Hajjah Hajjah 1,479,568 1,570,872 13
Ibb Ibb 2,131,861 2,238,537 14
Lahij Lahij 722,694 761,160 15
Ma'rib Ma'rib 238,522 251,668 16
Raymah Kosmah 394,448 418,659 17
Sa'dah Sa`dah 695,033 746,957 18
Sana'a Sana'a 919,215 957,798 19
Shabwah Ataq 470,440 494,638 20
Taiz Taiz 1,121,000 2,513,003 21

The Governorates are subdivided into 333 districts (muderiah), which are subdivided into 2,210 sub-districts, and then into 38,284 villages (as of 2001).

Foreign relations

A village on Hajjaz Mountains in Yemen

The geography and ruling Imams of North Yemen kept the country isolated from foreign influence before 1962. The country's relations with Saudi Arabia were defined by the Taif Agreement of 1934, which delineated the northernmost part of the border between the two kingdoms and set the framework for commercial and other intercourse. The Taif Agreement has been renewed periodically in 20-year increments, and its validity was reaffirmed in 1995. Relations with the British colonial authorities in Aden and the south were usually tense.

The Soviet and Chinese Aid Missions established in 1958 and 1959 were the first important non-Muslim presence in North Yemen. Following the September 1962 revolution, the Yemen Arab Republic became closely allied with and heavily dependent upon Egypt. Saudi Arabia aided the royalists in their attempt to defeat the Republicans and did not recognize the Yemen Arab Republic until 1970. At the same time, Saudi Arabia maintained direct contact with Yemeni tribes, which sometimes strained its official relations with the Yemeni Government. Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis found employment in Saudi Arabia during the late 1970s and 1980s.

The old town of Aden, Yemen, situated in the crater of an extinct volcano.

In February 1989, North Yemen joined Iraq, Jordan, and Egypt in forming the Arab Cooperation Council (ACC), an organization created partly in response to the founding of the Gulf Cooperation Council and intended to foster closer economic cooperation and integration among its members. After unification, the Republic of Yemen was accepted as a member of the ACC in place of its YAR predecessor. In the wake of the Persian Gulf crisis, the ACC has remained inactive. Yemen is not a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

British authorities left southern Yemen in November 1967 in the wake of an intense rebellion. The People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, the successor to British rule, had diplomatic relations with many states, but its major links were with the Soviet Union and other communist countries. Relations between it and the conservative Arab states of the Arabian Peninsula were strained. There were military clashes with Saudi Arabia in 1969 and 1973, and the PDRY provided active support for the Dhofar rebellion against the Sultanate of Oman. The PDRY was the only Arab state to vote against admitting new Arab states from the Persian Gulf area to the United Nations and the Arab League. The PDRY provided sanctuary and material support to various insurgent groups around the Middle East.[citation needed]

Yemen is a member of the United Nations, the Arab League, and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and also participates in the nonaligned movement. The Republic of Yemen accepted responsibility for all treaties and debts of its predecessors, the YAR and the PDRY. Yemen has acceded to the nuclear nonproliferation treaty.

The Persian Gulf crisis dramatically affected Yemen's foreign relations. A long-time ally of Saddam Hussein, Yemen's President, Ali Abdullah Saleh was quick to back Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990.[19] As a member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for 1990 and 1991, Yemen continued to abstain on a number of UNSC resolutions concerning Iraq and Kuwait[20] and voted against the "use of force resolution." Western and Gulf Arab states reacted by curtailing or canceling aid programs and diplomatic contacts. At least 850,000 Yemenis were expelled from Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf Arab states. Saudi Arabia has begun construction of a separation barrier between its territory and Yemen to prevent the unauthorized movement of people and goods into and out of the kingdom.

Saleh at the Pentagon, 8 June 2004

Subsequent to the liberation of Kuwait, Yemen continued to maintain high-level contacts with Iraq. This hampered its efforts to rejoin the Arab mainstream and to mend fences with its immediate neighbors. In 1993, Yemen launched an unsuccessful diplomatic offensive to restore relations with its Gulf Arab neighbors. Some of its aggrieved neighbors actively aided the south during the 1994 civil war. Since the end of that conflict, tangible progress has been made on the diplomatic front in restoring normal relations with Yemen's neighbors. The Omani-Yemeni border has been officially demarcated. In the summer of 2000, Yemen and Saudi Arabia signed an International Border Treaty settling a 50 year old dispute over the location of the border between the two countries. Yemen settled its dispute with Eritrea over the Hanish Islands in 1998.

After the departure from the Gulf Arab states, as many as 15,000 Yemenis migrated to the U.S. Many Yemenis can be found in the south of Dearborn, Michigan. In the early 1990s, Yemenis went in search of manufacturing jobs. They continue to work in the U.S. and routinely send money back to their families.

Kidnapping of foreign tourists by tribes has been an ongoing problem throughout the modern period.[21] In many instances, the kidnappers attempted to use hostage taking to gain leverage in negotiations with the government. One victim of kidnapping was former German Secretary of State Jürgen Chrobog, a man who himself had conducted negotiations with kidnappers while in office.[22] In June 2009, a group of nine foreign tourists were kidnapped near the city of Saada. Seven were killed and two children survived.[21]

Yemen has historically enjoyed good relations with Somalia, its neighbour to the south and fellow Arab League member. Ethnic Somalis for the most part blend in well with Yemeni society, as they share centuries of close religious, commercial and social ties. Following the outbreak of the civil war in Somalia, Yemen unconditionally opened its borders to Somali asylum seekers. The World Refugee Survey 2008, published by the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, estimates that 110,600 Somali refugees lived in Yemen in 2007,[23] which is a fraction of the estimated 700,000 Somali nationals already living and working in Yemen.[24] There are also many Somalis who have received Yemeni citizenship due to marriage with Yemenis as well as through service to the nation over the years. In addition, Yemen and Somalia have a long history of trade and inter-action, with many of Somalia's Sultans, such as Yusuf Ali Kenadid and Gerad Ali Dable, often being exiled to and recruiting troops from Yemen's Hadhramaut region. Somalia has also over the centuries seen successive waves of immigration from Yemen, with Hadhrami settlers being instrumental in helping to consolidate the Muslim community in the coastal Benadir region in particular.[25] During the colonial period, disgruntled Yemenis from the Hadhrami wars additionally sought and received asylum in various Somali towns.[26]

President Ali Abdullah Saleh with George W. Bush, 2 May 2007

Yemen also maintains good relations with Djibouti, its other predominantly Somali neighbor to the west across the Red Sea. With a rapidly expanding economy, a stable government, huge investments from fellow Persian Gulf Arab states, and a strategic maritime location in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, Djibouti stands as an important ally. While Djibouti is largely inhabited by Somalis, it is separate from the Somali Republic and holds its own seats in the United Nations and the League of Arab States. On 22 February 2008, the BBC reported that a company owned by Tarek bin Laden was planning to build a bridge across the Bab el Mandeb, linking Yemen with Djibouti.[27][28]

Since 2004, a civil war has been fought in Northern Yemen between Yemeni forces and Shiite Houthi rebels. In 2009, the war spilled over into the neighboring border region of Saudi Arabia. This conflict is increasingly becoming a danger to regional stability, according to news reports by CNN[29] and the BBC.[30][31] The United Nations[32] and UNDP Yemen report a growing problem of civilians fleeing from the region. Yemen is said to have more than 60 million guns.[33] The South Yemen insurgency has further destabilized the country.

Some news reports have suggested that, on orders from United States President Barack Obama, US warplanes fired cruise missiles at what officials in Washington claimed were Al Qaeda training camps in the provinces of Sana’a and Abyan on 17 December 2009.[34] Other reports suggest that the airstrikes were carried out by Yemeni Mig-29 aircraft, probably helped by US intelligence,[35] or that cruise missiles were launched from warships offshore.[36] Officials in Yemen said that the attacks claimed the lives of more than 60 civilians, 28 of them children. Another airstrike was carried out on 24 December.[37]

Embassy of Yemen in Washington, D.C.

On 3 January 2010, the U.S. and British embassies in Yemen closed for security reasons after the failed plot to bomb a plane in Detroit and after reports of eight individuals planning an attack on the embassy itself. One was arrested with a suicide vest, while three others were killed. Four remained at large as of 4 January 2010.[38]

Despite these tensions between the US and Yemen, as well as increasing worries about terrorism in Yemen, President Obama has stated that he has no plans to introduce US military forces into the country, a sentiment that was echoed by US General David Petraeus. However, the terrorism worries seemed justified as a foiled terrorist plot was apparently conceived in Yemen. Instead of military intervention, the US government intends to increase military aid to $140 million in 2010.[39] By 2012, however, under the Obama administration, there has been an increase in drone strikes against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen, as well as a "small contingent of U.S. special-operations troops" in addition to CIA and "unofficially acknowledged" U.S. military presence in response to increasing terror attacks by AQAP on Yemeni citizens.[40]

The geopolitical significance of Yemen (primarily its straits and oil fields) keeps this country in the sphere of U.S. strategic interests. Control over the Aden port – the "gate to Asia" – brings huge benefits to the USA and opens infinite possibilities for maneuvering in front of them. However, America is not the only nation to be interested in Yemen. China is trying hard to expand its influence in the Indian Ocean by associating with countries across the region including Yemen.


Yemen is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the Arab World, with a formal 35% employment rate, dwindling natural resources, a young population and increasing population growth. Yemen's economy is weak compared to most countries in the Middle-East, mainly because Yemen has very small oil reserves. Yemen's economy depends heavily on the oil it produces,[41] and its government receives the vast majority of its revenue from oil taxes. But Yemen's oil reserves are expected to be depleted by 2017, possibly bringing on economic collapse.[42] Yemen does have large proven reserves of natural gas.[43] Yemen's first liquified natural gas (LNG) plant began production in October 2009.

Rampant corruption is a prime obstacle to development in the country, limiting local reinvestments and driving away regional and international capital. Foreign investments remain largely concentrated around the nation's hydrocarbon industry.

Beginning in the mid-1950s, the Soviet Union and China provided large-scale assistance. For example, China and the United States are involved with the expansion of the Sana'a International Airport. In the south, pre-independence economic activity was overwhelmingly concentrated in the port city of Aden. The seaborne transit trade, which the port relied upon, collapsed with the closure of the Suez Canal and Britain's withdrawal from Aden in 1967.

Since unification in 1990,[20] the government has worked to integrate two relatively disparate economic systems. However, severe shocks, including the return in 1990 of approximately 850,000 Yemenis from the Persian Gulf states, a subsequent major reduction of aid flows, and internal political disputes culminating in the 1994 civil war hampered economic growth.

In the late 20th century Sana'a’s population grew rapidly, from roughly 55,000 in 1978 to more than 1 million in the early 21st century.[44] Sana'a may be the first capital city in the world to run out of water.[45]

Since the conclusion of the war, the government made an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to implement a structural adjustment program. Phase one of the program included major financial and monetary reforms, including floating the currency, reducing the budget deficit, and cutting subsidies. Phase two will address structural issues such as civil service reform.

In early 1995, the government of Yemen launched an economic, financial, and administrative reform program (EFARP) with the support of the World Bank and the IMF, as well as international donors. The First Five-Year Plan (FFYP) for the years 1996 to 2000 was introduced in 1996. The World Bank has focused on public sector management, including civil service reform, budget reform, and privatization. Additional priorities for the programs have become attracting diversified private investment, water management, and poverty-oriented social sector improvements. These programs had a positive impact on Yemen’s economy and led to the reduction of the budget deficit to less than 3% of gross domestic product (GDP) during the period 1995–1999 and the correction of macro-financial imbalances.[46]

Graphical depiction of Yemen's product exports in 28 color coded categories.

In 1997, IMF and the Yemeni government began medium-term economic reform programs under the Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF) and Extended Fund Facility (EFF). This program aimed to reduce dependence on the oil sector and to establish a market environment for real non-oil GDP growth and investment in the non-oil sector. Increasing the growth rate in the non-oil sector was one of the government's most important objectives. Programs also focused on reducing unemployment, strengthening the social safety net, and increasing financial stability. To achieve these reforms, the government and IMF implemented containment of government wages, improvements in revenue collection with the introduction of reforms in tax administration, and a sharp reduction in subsidies bills through increased prices on subsidized goods. As a result, the fiscal cash deficit was reduced from 16% of GDP in 1994 to 0.9% in 1997. This was supported by aid from oil-exporting countries, despite the wide-ranging fluctuations in world oil prices. The real growth rate in the non-oil sector rose by 5.6% from 1995 to 1997.[47]


High-rise architecture at Shibam, Wadi Hadramawt

The population of Yemen was about 24 million according to June 2011 estimates, with 46% of the population being under 15 years old and 2.7% above 65 years. In 1950, it was 4.3 million.[48][49] By 2050, the population is estimated to increase to about 60 million.[50]

Yemen has a high total fertility rate, at 4.45 children per woman, it is the 30th highest in the world.[51] Although this is lower than the rate in Somalia to the south, it is roughly twice as high as that of Saudi Arabia and nearly three times as high as those in the more modernized Persian Gulf states. Yemen's population is increasing by 700,000 every year.[citation needed]

Yemenis are mainly of Arab origin.[52] Arabic is the official language, although English is increasingly understood by citizens in major cities. In the Mahra area (the extreme east) and the island Soqotra, several ancient south-Arabic Semitic languages are spoken.[53][54] When the former states of north and south Yemen were established, most resident minority groups departed.[55] Yemen is still a largely tribal society.[56] In the northern mountainous parts of the country live some 400 Zaydi tribes.[57] There are also hereditary caste groups in urban areas such as Al-Akhdam tribe.[7]

Yemen officially abolished slavery in 1962.[58] Turks arrived in the region during the Ottoman colonization process; today, there is between 10,000–30,000 people of Turkish origin still living in the country.[59][60] In addition, Yemenite Jews once formed a sizable Jewish minority in Yemen with a distinct culture.[61] They also occupied key industries including silversmiths, and their influence on Yemeni culture is still discussed within the souks. However, most of them emigrated to Israel in the mid 20th century, following the Jewish exodus from Arab lands and Operation Magic Carpet.[62] In the early 20th century, they had numbered about 50,000; they currently number only a few hundred individuals and reside largely in Sana'a. The original Jewish village, popularly called Bait-baws, has since been left abandoned.

Arab traders have long operated in Southeast Asia, trading in spices, timber, and textiles. Most of the prominent Indonesians, Malaysians, and Singaporeans of Arab descent are Hadhrami people with origins in southern Yemen in the Hadramawt coastal region.[63] As many as 4 million Indonesians are of Hadrami descent.[citation needed] and today there are almost 10,000 Hadramis in Singapore.[64] The Hadramis emigrated not only to Southeast Asia but also to East Africa and the Indian subcontinent.[65] Maqil were a collection of Arab Bedouin tribes of Yemeni origin who migrated westwards via Egypt. Several groups of Yemeni Arabs turned south to Mauritania, and by the end of the 17th century, they dominated the entire country. They can also be found throughout Morocco and in Algeria as well as in other North African Countries.[66]

According to the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Yemen hosted a population of refugees and asylum seekers numbering approximately 124,600 in 2007. Refugees and asylum seekers living in Yemen were predominantly from Somalia (110,600), Iraq (11,000), and Ethiopia (2,000).[23] There are also about 70,000 Iraqis presently living in Yemen.[67] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that in 2008 more than 50,000 Somalis reached Yemen.[68] Yemen's civil war has forced at least 175,000 Yemenis to flee their homes.[69]

The Yemeni diaspora is largely concentrated in the United Kingdom, where between 70,000 and 80,000 Yemenis reside; just over 15,000 to 20,000 Yemenis reside in the United States, and 2,000 live in France.[70] Saudi Arabia expelled 800,000 Yemenis in 1990 and 1991 to punish Yemen for its opposition to the Gulf War against Iraq.[71]


Minaret in Jibla

Religion in Yemen consists primarily of two principal Islamic religious groups; 53% of the Muslim population is Sunni[72] and 45% is Shiite according to the UNHCR.[72][73] Sunnis are primarily Shafi'i but also include significant groups of Malikis and Hanbalis. Shi'is are primarily Zaidis and also have significant minorities of Twelver Shias[74] and Musta'ali Western Isma'ili Shias (see Shia Population of the Middle East). The Sunnis are predominantly in the south and southeast. The Zaidis are predominantly in the north and northwest whilst the Ismailis are in the main centers such as Sana'a and Ma'rib. There are mixed communities in the larger cities. About 1 percent of Yemenis are non-Muslim, adhering to Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, or Atheism.[75] In the Yemenite city of Aden, there is still a significant population of Hindus however some have left due to the current conflict in Yemen.


According to 2009 estimates, life expectancy in Yemen is 63.27 years.[52] Despite the significant progress Yemen has made to expand and improve its health care system over the past decade, the system remains severely underdeveloped. Total expenditures on health care in 2004 constituted 5% of gross domestic product. In that same year, the per capita expenditure for health care was very low compared with other Middle Eastern countries—US$34 per capita according to the World Health Organization. According to the World Bank, the number of doctors in Yemen rose by an average of more than 7% between 1995 and 2000, but as of 2004 there were still only three doctors per 10,000 people. In 2005 Yemen had only 6.1 hospital beds available per 10,000 persons. Health care services are particularly scarce in rural areas; only 25% of rural areas are covered by health services, compared with 80% of urban areas. Most childhood deaths are caused by illnesses for which vaccines exist or that are otherwise preventable.[76]

Human rights

Anti-government protest in Sana'a, 3 February 2011

Protesters in Sana'a, 4 April 2011

Yemen's human rights record is seriously marred by substantial inconsistencies between its obligations under International human rights instruments (ratified by Yemen) and legal practice under the tribal law/habits.

Yemen's national human rights record was presented – for the first time – in the Human Rights Council in Geneva under the so-called Universal Periodic Review (UPR) between May and September 2009. Yemen accepted over one hundred recommendations by Council Members. While it promised to achieve progress on the establishment of a national Human Rights Commission and on legislation setting a minimum age for marriages (still highly controversial within the Yemeni tribal society), it squarely rejected the abolition of the death penalty.

The government and its security forces, often considered to suffer from rampant corruption, have been responsible for torture, inhumane treatment, and extrajudicial executions. There are arbitrary arrests of citizens, especially in the south, as well as arbitrary searches of homes. Prolonged pretrial detention is a serious problem, and judicial corruption, inefficiency, and executive interference undermine due process. Freedom of speech, the press, and religion are all restricted.[77]

Human Rights Watch reported on discrimination and violence against women as well as on the abolition of the minimum marriage age of fifteen for women. The onset of puberty (interpreted by some to be as low as the age of nine) was set as a requirement for marriage instead.[78] Publicity about the case of ten-year old Yemeni divorcee Nujood Ali brought the child marriage issue to the fore not only in Yemen but worldwide.[79][80][81]

Forms of hostile prejudice directed towards disabled people and religious minorities have also been reported. Censorship is actively practiced, and in 2005 legislation was passed requiring journalists to reveal their sources under certain circumstances. The government has raised the start-up costs for newspapers and websites significantly. In violation of the Yemeni constitution, the security forces often monitor telephone, postal, and Internet communications. Journalists who tend to be critical of the government are often harassed and threatened by the police.[20]

Since the start of the Sa'dah insurgency many people accused of supporting Al-Houthi have been arrested and held without charge or trial. According to the U.S. State Department International Religious Freedom Report 2007, "Some Zaydis reported harassment and discrimination by the Government because they were suspected of sympathizing with the al-Houthis. However, it appears the Government's actions against the group were probably politically, not religiously, motivated".[82]

The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants reported several violations of refugee and asylum seekers' rights in the organization's 2008 World Refugee Survey. Yemeni authorities reportedly deported numerous foreigners without giving them access to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, despite the UN’s repeated requests. Refugees further reported violence directed against them by Yemeni authorities while living in refugee camps. Yemeni officials reportedly raped and beat camp-based refugees with impunity in 2007.[23]

The Places Where America's Drones Are Striking. So far this year the American military has launched more than 330 drone strikes in Afghanistan alone -- an average greater than one per day. In Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia the numbers are smaller -- 80 altogether -- but the lesser frequency doesn't make the strikes any more comprehensible. From this side of the war, America's drone strikes feel very remote, their consequences quite abstract, their targets unmoored to actual physical locations.


The official language is Modern Standard Arabic. Yemeni Arabic is spoken in several regional dialects.

Yemen is one of the main homelands of the South Semitic family of languages, which includes the non-Arabic language of the ancient Hemiari. Its modern Yemeni descendants speak modern standard Arabic like many other Arab countries.

Foreign language in public schools is taught from grade seven onwards, though the quality of public school instruction is low. Private schools using a British or American system teach English and produce proficient speakers, but Arabic is the dominant language of communication. The number of English speakers in Yemen is small compared to other Arab countries such as Egypt, Lebanon, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia.

There is a significant number of Russian speakers, originating from Yemeni-Russian cross-marriages occurring mainly in the 1970s and 1980s. A small Vietnamese-speaking community is found in the capital city of Sana'a, originating from Yemeni immigrants expatriated from Vietnam after the Vietnam War in the 1970s.

A small yet rising number of ethnic Chinese in Sana'a brought the Chinese language to the country, a byproduct of historic Chinese immigration. Also there are South Asian Languages spoken by the small but present South Asian community, most notably Hindi, Urdu, Malayalam and Marathi languages.


The National Museum in Sana'a

Yemen is a culturally rich country with influence from many civilizations, such as the early civilization of Sheba.


The Yemeni film industry is in its early stages; only two Yemeni films have been released as of 2008. In 2005, A New Day in Old Sana'a deals with a young man struggling between whether to go ahead with a traditional marriage or go with the woman he loves.

Dance in Sa'dah, northwestern Yemen.

In August 2008, Yemen’s Interior Minister Mutahar al-Masri supported the launch of a new feature film to educate the public about the consequences of Islamist extremism. The Losing Bet was produced by Fadl al-Olfi. The plot follows two Yemeni jihadis, who return from years living abroad.


In the strategic vision for the next 25 years since 2000, the government has committed to bring significant changes in the education system, thereby reducing illiteracy to less than 10% by 2025.[83] Although Yemen’s government provides for universal, compulsory, free education for children ages six through 15, the U.S. Department of State reports that compulsory attendance is not enforced. The government developed the National Basic Education Development Strategy in 2003 that aimed at providing education to 95% of Yemeni children between the ages of six and 14 years and also at decreasing the gap between males and females in urban and rural areas.[84]

New Sana'a University in Sana

A seven year project to improve gender equity and the quality and efficiency of secondary education, focusing on girls in rural areas, was approved by the World Bank in March 2008. Following this, Yemen has increased its education spending from 4.5% of GDP in 1995 to 9.6% in 2005.[20]


The Yemen national football team logo

Football is the most popular sport in Yemen. The Yemen national football team competes in the FIFA and the AFC leagues. The country also hosts many football clubs that compete in the national or international leagues.

Yemen's mountains provide many opportunities for outdoor sports, such as biking, rock climbing, hill climbing, skiing, hiking, mountain jumping, and more challenging mountain climbing. Mountain climbing and hiking tours to the Sarawat Mountains and the Jabal an Nabi Shu'ayb, including the 5,000 m peaks in the region, are seasonally organized by local and international alpine agencies.

The coast of Yemen and Socotra island also provide many opportunities for water sports, such as surfing, bodyboarding, sailing, swimming, and scuba diving. Socotra island is home to one of the best surfing destinations in the world.

Camel jumping is popular among the Zaraniq tribe on the west coast of Yemen on the desert plain by the Red Sea. Camels are rounded up and placed side to side. Athletes jump from a running start to achieve height and length in the air. The jumpers train year round for competitions. Tribesmen tuck their robes around their waists to reduce impediment while running and leaping.[85]

Yemen's biggest sports event was hosting the 2010 Gulf Cup of Nations in Aden and Abyan in the southern part of the country on 22 November 2010. Yemen was thought to be the strongest competitor, but was defeated in the first three matches of the tournament.[86]

The Yemeni national team has never won a championship, though it includes many renowned Arab players.

World Heritage sites

A footbridge in Shaharah District, Yemen.

Among Yemen’s natural and cultural attractions are four World Heritage sites.

The Old Walled City of Shibam in Wadi Hadhramaut, inscribed by UNESCO in 1982, two years after Yemen joined the World Heritage Committee, is nicknamed "Manhattan of the Desert" because of its "skyscrapers." Surrounded by a fortified wall made of mud and straw, the 16th-century city is one of the oldest examples of urban planning based on the principle of vertical construction.

The ancient Old City of Sana’a, at an altitude of more than 7,000 feet (2,100 m), has been inhabited for over two and a half millennia and was inscribed in 1986. Sana’a became a major Islamic centre in the 7th century, and the 103 mosques, 14 hammams (traditional bath houses), and more than 6,000 houses that survive all date from before the 11th century.

Close to the Red Sea Coast, the Historic Town of Zabid, inscribed in 1993, was Yemen’s capital from the 13th to the 15th century, and is an archaeological and historical site. It played an important role for many centuries because of its university, which was a center of learning for the whole Arab and Islamic world. Algebra is said to have been invented there in the early 9th century by the little-known scholar Al-Jazari.

The latest addition to Yemen’s list of World Heritage Sites is the Socotra Archipelago. Mentioned by Marco Polo in the 13th century, this remote and isolated archipelago consists of four islands and two rocky islets delineating the southern limit of the Gulf of Aden. The site has a rich biodiversity. Nowhere else in the world do 37% of Socotra’s 825 plants, 90% of its reptiles and 95% of its snails occur. It is home to 192 bird species, 253 species of coral, 730 species of coastal fish, and 300 species of crab and lobster, as well as a range of Aloes and the Dragon’s Blood Tree (Dracaena cinnabari). The cultural heritage of Socotra includes the unique Soqotri language.

More information

Airports57 (2012)
Borders WithOman
Borders WithSaudi Arabia
Coastline1,906 km
Coordinates15 00 N, 48 00 E
Ethnic Grouppredominantly Arab; but also Afro-Arab
Ethnic GroupSouth Asians
Ethnic GroupEuropeans
Female Life Expectancy66.27 years (2012 est.)
Female Median Age18.4 years (2012 est.)
Fertility Rate4.45 children born/woman (2012 est.)
GDP$57.97 billion (2011 est.)
GDP$64.75 billion (2010 est.)
GDP$60.12 billion (2009 est.)
GDP Growth-10.5% (2011 est.)
GDP Growth7.7% (2010 est.)
GDP Growth3.9% (2009 est.)
Government typerepublic
Highest PointJabal an Nabi Shu'ayb 3,760 m
Land Area527,968 sq km
Land boundary1,746 km
LanguageArabic (official)
LocationMiddle East, bordering the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, and Red Sea, between Oman and Saudi Arabia
Lowest PointArabian Sea 0 m
Male Life Expectancy62.05 years
Male Median Age18.3 years
Population Growth2.575% (2012 est.)
Roadways71,300 km
Terrainnarrow coastal plain backed by flat-topped hills and rugged mountains; dissected upland desert plains in center slope into the desert interior of the Arabian Peninsula
Total Area527,968 sq km
Total Life Expectancy64.11 years
Total Median Age18.3 years
Water Area0 sq km


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Neighboring countries

Important people