"YEMEN" Top 5 Page for this destination Yemen by janiebaxter

Yemen Travel Guide: 1,106 reviews and 4,304 photos

Land of Contrasts

The history of Yemen, known as “Arabia Felix” in Roman times because of it's fertile soil amid the dry surrounding areas, can be traced back as early as 3000 BC and it has a fascinating mix of Ancient sites along with old and more recent Islamic ones. There is plenty to see and many unexpected surprises both architecturally and culturally!

Yemen is a fascinating country to visit - modern in some aspects with mobile phones wi-fi and some very good 4 and 5 star hotels, yet you feel as though you are stepping back into the middle ages when you visit the hill villages and the countryside.
The country is around the same size as France with an immense diversity of landscape, climate and history. Yemen has 3 UNESCO World Heritage sites - Sana'a Old Town, Shibam and Zabid. I would recommend spending at least 2 weeks in Yemen as there is so much to see, and even then you will feel as though you are rushing through it. During my 2 week trip I saw desert, beautiful Wadis, golden sandy beaches with clear turquoise sea and Dolphins; Orange, Banana and Papaya plantations, lively noisy cities and souks, bustling rural markets, stunning mountain scenery, incredible architecture and much much more. Most of the roads we travelled on were very good, and you can fly between the main cities quite easily too, although you would miss a lot of good scenery and villages.

See Links at the bottom of the page (in light blue) for pages on each place I visited
A NOTE ABOUT MY YEMEN TIPS. You will not see many Things to Do Tips on my Yemen pages. These are in the pages for the individual places I visited. Follow the Links below to see the tips

Highlights - Cities and Sites

Sana'a Old Town
A UNESCO world heritage site, Sana'a Old Town has 6000 houses of 6 to 9 storeys high which are between 200 to 500 years old, made from a mix of brick and limestone with intricate windows and fabulously decorative old wooden doors. Wandering around the narrow streets and looking at the architecture is a real pleasure and the souk is full of life and character with plenty to see and buy. In late afternoon you can watch all the activity in the main square then for a bit of peace and quiet you can climb up to the rooftops and look out over the Old Town to the oldest mosque in Yemen, built in 630 AD.

The Hadramaut
Across the desert on the edge of the Empty Quarter The Hadramaut is truly spectacular. We had to fly to Hadramaut, instead of driving across the empty quarter from Marib, and the view of the Hadramaut towns and villages tucked under the massive flat topped mountains from the plane was breathtaking. The architecture of the area is mud brick, like parts of Mali and Sudan, but the bricks here are smaller. Although Shibam was stunning, my favourite place was Al Hajjarain, Wadi Doan which is built on a high rocky outcrop and looks as though it may fall off at any minute.

Tarim is the town of palaces. Built in the late 19th and early 20th century by wealthy families these once stunning buildings are crumbling to ruins with only the beautiful Stained Glass Windows still remaining.

Marib is the old Sabaean capital and the supposed location of The Queen of Sheba. I wasn't supposed to visit Marib due to the Foreign Office in London advising Brits not to go. Officially I spent the day resting but actually got a driver to take me on a day trip from Sana'a which took 2.5 hours each way. The site is quite small but I was the only tourist there so it was easy to look around. The best part is the Old Dam which dates from the 8th century BC.

Close to Hodeidah and the Red Sea, the ancient walled town of Zabid has seen better days but is full of charm and character. In its heyday, around the 13th century, it had 86 mosques and 250 colleges, and a lot of the buildings are whitewashed. It is very quiet and tranquil and the people here are extremely laid back and friendly, making it a real pleasure to walk around this lovely town.

Highlights - The Countryside

The Rural Wadis
Driving from Hodeidah to Mahwit we travelled through Wadi Surdod, with it's tiny rural villages and smallholdings of terraced agriculture. Many people waved as we drove past and we stopped to watch a young man ploughing with an ox in the traditional way. The women here wear very bright and colourful clothes which is a refreshing change from the all black of the cities.

The Weekly Markets
These markets move around from village to village in the countryside, depending on the day of the week. So if you miss the weekly market in one place you have a good chance of catching it in the next village and they are well worth stopping to look at. We visited the Sunday market at Wadi Al Dhbab. People wearing very bright and colourful clothes come here to sell and buy goats, sheep, cows, camels, spices, baskets, pottery and textiles and it is a wonderful picture of rural life in Yemen.

The Highland Villages
The highland villages were built for defence, like fortresses perched high on the mountains for an easy view of attackers, with agricultural terraces surrounding them. They date back hundreds of years and look as though nothing has changed in that time.

I travelled to Yemen with UK tour company The Traveller who specialise in cultural and historical trips.
Our 2 week tour took us to
The Highlands
Al Hajjara.
The Hadramaut
Wadi Doan and Al Hajjarain
The Arabian Sea and South Coast
Al Mukalla and Bir Ali
The Southern Highlands
The Southern Tihama or Red Sea Coast
Hodeidah and Wadi Surdod
The Central Highlands
Hajja and Amran
Kawkabam, Shibam and Al Tawela

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:So much to see and lots of variety
  • Cons:A little hostility in some areas, but no real problems
  • In a nutshell:Unique and Fascinating Culture and Architecture
  • Last visit to Yemen: Nov 2007
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (33)

Comments (6)

  • muguruki's Profile Photo
    Jul 28, 2015 at 3:55 AM

    Yemen is one place I've always wanted to go to, realy sad what is happening there now.

  • GrantBoone's Profile Photo
    Jan 29, 2011 at 2:33 AM

    Thought I'd check it out as Yemen has been in the news this week! An interesting read Jane.

  • muguruki's Profile Photo
    Dec 11, 2009 at 5:35 AM

    One of these days I'll get to Yemen! I quite like qat myself I chew quite a bit when I'm in East Africa. I tried to buy some in Liverpool once but everyone was asleep in the qat houses and I didn't fancy hanging around Toxteth longer than I needed to.

  • Jim_Eliason's Profile Photo
    Jun 19, 2008 at 12:16 PM

    Great tips!

  • hunterV's Profile Photo
    Mar 2, 2008 at 8:20 AM

    Wonderful description, Jane! Thanx!

  • grets's Profile Photo
    Jan 30, 2008 at 4:34 PM

    Great country isn't it? I loved it. I am jealous you got to visit Marib - I would have loved to go there. We just didn't have the time.....


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