ABOUT Historically, Yemen has come into significance at times only to fade into general obscurity. In the 10th century BC, the Queen of Sheba ruled her civilization in what is now Yemen. Latter in biblical times, Frankincense and Myrrh, the most valuable commodity of that time, originated in Yemen. Also then most goods from India and China passed through Yemen on their way to the Mediterranean. Then three hundred years ago, Yemen had the world's monopoly on coffee which was produced from the prized Arabica coffee bean. Much of the coffee was shipped from the old port town of Al-Makha -- where we now get the name "Mocca". Later this bean was carried to South America and Indonesia. Since then little has been heard about Yemen in the western world. Religiously, Yemen is a Moslem nation. Five times a day the call to prayer is blasted from speakers mounted on minarets throughout every city and town. In strict Moslem tradition to preserve modesty, the women are dressed head to toe in black with only a tiny slit for their eyes. Very stylish shoes are the only thing that hint of non-traditionalism. The shoes are as modern as any seen on the streets of European capitals. Inside the house when around family and friends, the outer robes come off to reveal very modern outfits. Yemen is a difficult country to get around, but the rewards for the perseverent tourist are an unforgettable experience, populated with very friendly and open hosts. Despite being adjacent to Saudi Arabia and on the same peninsula as the United Arab Emirates, Yemen is definitely a place apart. Visa regulations change quite regularly, and an embassy should be contacted to make certain that the relevant documentation is obtained (it is recommended also to ask one of the licensed tour opeartors in Sana'a). As of January 2010, visas on arrival are no longer available, and citizens of most countries (with the possible exception of Gulf Co-operation Council members) need advance visas. Most visas are valid for 30 days from the date of issue (3 months for European Union, but sometimes it depends on the mood of the official dealing with you). Another way of getting visa is via one of the licensed tour operators, as they are allowed to prepare pre-visa paper in the Ministry of Foreign affairs for their clients. Such pre-visa paper is valid for 30 days from the day of issue and upon this a real visa is issued at the Sana'a airport. As of Jan 21, 2010 Yemeni authority suspended all visa on arrival at all Yemeni ports. this action was taken to minimize the threat of terrorism in Yemen. Sana'a: Babel Yemen (old city), Wadi Dhar (Dar al-Hadschar Palace - also known as the rock house). Note that Sana'a is over 2,200m (7,200 feet) in elevation. The old city is a mystical and amazing place and also a UNESCO World Heritage site. The streets are alive and bustling around gingerbead-like houses several storeys high, one of the oldest cities in the world. Socotra: Off the south coast of Yemen - an idylic island untouched by modern man and home to many rare species and plants. The seas are turquoise blue and the sands white and unspoiled. One of the most valuable islands on the planet, often described as the most alien-looking place on Earth. Its beaches resemble those of the Caribbean and its mountains and Yemeni mountains covered in 300 species only found in Socotra. A must-see.
CLIMATE Extreme humidity combines with high temperatures—as high as 54° C in the shade—to produce a stiflingly hot climate. Winds blowing northwest in summer and southwest in winter bring little rain but cause severe sandstorms. During January and February, however, the temperature averages about 20° C. The climate of the highlands is generally considered the best in Arabia. Summers are temperate and winters are cool, with some frost. Temperatures vary from 22° C in June, the hottest month, to 14° C in January. Rainfall in the highlands ranges from 16 in at Sana to 32 in in the monsoon area of the extreme southwest. The average year-round temperature at Sana is 18° C.
BEWARE There is a high threat from terrorism with attacks occurring throughout the country. Also there is a high threat of kidnap across Yemen from terrorists, armed tribes and criminals. Violent crime against foreigners is rare. Tribal disputes over land are common, including in major cities, and may involve the use of weapons. Take care at all times. Incidents may not be solely criminal in nature, but may be linked to terrorism or other insecurity. Weapons are readily available.