34 interesting facts about Yemen

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The most interesting facts about Yemen, from the origins of mocha coffee to a rare tree that grew from the blood of a dragon injured while fighting an elephant.

A dragon’s blood tree on Socotra
Interesting facts about Yemen include the island of Socotra (Shutterstock)

Fast facts

Official name: Republic of Yemen
Capital city: Sana’a
Population: 29,884,405 
Area: 527,968 sq km
Major languages: Arabic
Time zone: UTC+3 (Arabia Standard Time)
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

Interesting facts about Yemen

1. Yemen has ancient roots located at the crossroads of Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
– Source: BBC News

2. For more than 2,000 years from around 1200 BC, Yemen was home to a series of powerful and wealthy city-states and empires. Their prosperity was largely due to the production of frankincense and myrrh, two of the most valued products of the ancient world.
– Source: Britannica

3. According to legend, Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, was founded by Shem, one of the three sons of Noah from the flood story in the Old Testament book of the Bible.
– Source: Britannica

4. The UNESCO-listed Old City of Sana’a has been inhabited for more than 2,500 years and was a major centre for Islam during the 7th and 8th centuries. The site comprises 103 mosques, 14 hammams and over 6,000 houses, all built before the 11th century.
– Source: UNESCO

Old City of Sana’a
The Old City of Sana’a (Shutterstock)

5. Yemen was once divided into north and south with the north ruled by the Ottoman Empire and the south ruled by the British.
– Source: BBC News

6. In 1918, the Ottoman Empire dissolved and North Yemen gained independence.
– Source: BBC News

7. In 1967, Britain withdrew from South Yemen it becomes the People’s Republic of Yemen. In 1969, a communist coup renamed the south the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen.
– Source: BBC News

8. The People’s Republic of South Yemen was the Arab world’s first and only Marxist state.
– Source: History Channel

9. Decades of instability and conflict followed with the two Yemens regularly clashing as well as an eight-year civil war in North Yemen from 1962-70.
– Source: BBC News

A war-torn scene from Yemen
Several interesting facts about Yemen stem from its turbulent history (Shutterstock)

10. In 1990, the two Yemens became united as the Republic of Yemen with Ali Abdallah Saleh as president.
– Source: New York Times

11. Even since unification in 1990, Yemen has been plagued by uprisings, civil war, protests, terrorism and separatist movements.
– Source: Reuters, CNN

12. Yemen lays claim to the Queen of Sheba, the legendary ancient ruler of the kingdom of Saba which is supposedly located in present-day Yemen.
– Source: British Museum, Wall Street Journal

13. Yemenis are famous for chewing a mild amphetamine-like drug called khat, a regional practice that dates back thousands of years. It is estimated that up to 90% of adult men chew khat several times a day and possibly 50% of adult women.
– Source: World Health Organisation

14. The UNESCO-listed 16th-century Old Walled City of Shibam is known as ‘the Manhattan of the desert’ due to its impressive tower-like structures and rectangular grid plan of streets and squares.
– Source: UNESCO

Shibam tower-like structures
The Manhattan of the desert (Shutterstock)

15. The national symbol of Yemen is the golden eagle.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

16. One of the more fun facts about Yemen is that its where mocha coffee gets its name. The port city of Mocha was once a vast coffee marketplace and is considered the birthplace of the coffee trade.
– Source: Smithsonian

17. In ancient times, Yemen was known in Latin as Arabia Felix which means “Happy, or Flourishing, Arabia” due to its fertile land.
– Source: Britannica

18. Yemen was the first country in the Arabian Peninsula to grant women the right to vote.
– Source: United Nations Development Programme

19. Yemen’s flag is horizontally striped red, white and black. Black supposedly represents the dark days of the past, white represents a bright future and red the blood of the struggle to achieve independence and unity.
– Source: Britannica

The flag of Yemen
The flag of Yemen (Shutterstock)

20. Much of Yemen is covered by the Arabian Desert which at 2,300,000 sq km (900,000 sq mi) is the largest desert in Asia and the second largest on Earth. Only the Sahara in Africa is bigger.
– Source: Britannica

21. The Rubʿ al-Khali – or “Empty Quarter”– is the largest uninterrupted sand desert in the world and lies partly within Yemen.
– Source: Britannica

22. Yemen is the Middle East’s poorest country and the Arab World’s second-poorest when measured by GDP per capita based on purchasing power parity (PPP).
– Source: World Bank

23. Yemen is the only state in the Arabian Peninsula to have a purely republican form of government (no monarchy as head of state).
– Source: United Nations Development Programme

24. The Dar al-Hajar in Yemen is a former royal palace that was carved out of a single column of rock. The palace, built in the 1920s, is now a museum and tourist attraction.
– Source: Daily Mail

The Dar al-Hajar in Yemen
The Dar al-Hajar in Yemen (Shutterstock)

25. Yemen’s is also made up of over 200 islands, the largest of which is Socotra.
– Source: United Nations Development Programme

26. The island is part of the UNESCO-listed Socotra Archipelago. The site has a rich biodiversity with 37% of its 825 plant species, 90% of its reptile species and 95% of its land snail species not occurring anywhere else in the world.
– Source: UNESCO

27. The island is home to an unusual species of tree called the dragon’s blood tree. Local legends suggest the trees either grew from the blood of two brothers fighting to the death or from the blood of a dragon that was injured fighting an elephant.
– Source: National Geographic

28. The Socotra Archipelago also supports 192 bird species, 253 species of reef-building corals, 730 species of coastal fish and 300 species of crab, lobster and shrimp.
– Source: UNESCO

A dragon’s blood tree on Socotra
A dragon’s blood tree on Socotra (Shutterstock)

29. According to Lonely Planet, Socotra is the only safe place to visit in Yemen as UAE and Saudi Arabian troops have been stationed there. However, in June 2020 the Southern Transitional Council seized control of the island.
– Source: Lonely Planet, The Guardian

30. Yemen is the world’s second hungriest country and suffers from alarming levels of hunger according to the 2020 report from the Global Hunger Index.
– Source: Global Hunger Index

31. According to the UK Foreign Office, Yemen is one of 17 countries deemed to be entirely unsafe for tourists to visit.
– Source: The Telegraph

32. Yemen is among the 10 most dangerous countries in the world according to the 2020 International SOS Travel Risk Map. It has been assessed as carrying an ‘extreme travel security risk’.
– Source: The Independent

Map of the world's most dangerous countries
Yemen is one of the world’s most dangerous countries (International SOS)

33. In a similar vein, Yemen is also the world’s fifth-least peaceful country according to the 2020 Global Peace Index (GPI) report produced by the Institute for Economics & Peace.
– Source: Global Peace Index

34. Yemen is the worst country for gender equality when measured by the relative gaps between women and men in health, education, economy and politics.
– Source: Global Gender Gap Report 2020


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