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Yemen

Introduction

Introduction

Yemen , officially known as the Republic of Yemen, is an Arab country in Western Asia, occupying South Arabia, the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. Yemen is the second-largest country in the peninsula, occupying 527,970 km2 (203,850 sq mi). The coastline stretches for about 2,000 km (1,200 mi). 

It is bordered by Saudi Arabiato the north, the Red Sea to the west, the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea to the south, and Oman to the east and northeast. Although Yemen's constitutionally stated capital is the city of Sana'a, the city has been under rebel control since February 2015. Because of this, Yemen's capital has been temporarily relocated to the port city of Aden, on the southern coast. Yemen's territory includes more than 200 islands; the largest of these is Socotra.

Yemen was the home of the Sabaeans(biblical Sheba), a trading state that flourished for over a thousand years and probably also included parts of modern-day Ethiopia and Eritrea. In 275 AD, the region came under the rule of the later Jewish-influenced Himyarite Kingdom. Christianity arrived in the fourth century, whereas Judaism and local paganism were already established. Islam spread quickly in the seventh century and Yemenite troops were crucial in the expansion of the early Islamic conquests. Administration of Yemen has long been notoriously difficult. 

Several dynasties emerged from the ninth to 16th centuries, the Rasulid dynasty being the strongest and most prosperous. The country was divided between the Ottoman and British empires in the early twentieth century. The Zaydi Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemenwas established after World War I in North Yemen before the creation of the Yemen Arab Republic in 1962. South Yemenremained a British protectorate known as the Aden Protectorate until 1967. The two Yemeni states united to form the modern republic of Yemen in 1990.

Yemen is a developing country, and the poorest country in the Middle East. Under the rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen was described as a kleptocracy. According to the 2009 international corruption Perception Index by Transparency International, Yemen ranked 164 out of 182 countries surveyed. In the absence of strong state institutions, elite politics in Yemen constituted a de facto form of collaborative governance, where competing tribal, regional, religious, and political interests agreed to hold themselves in check through tacit acceptance of the balance it produced. The informal political settlement was held together by a power-sharing deal between three men: president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who controlled the state; Major General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, who controlled the largest share of the Republic of Yemen Armed Forces; and Abdullah ibn Husayn al-Ahmar, figurehead of the Islamist Islah party and Saudi Arabia's chosen broker of transnational patronage payments to various political players, including tribal sheikhs.The Saudi payments have been intended to facilitate the tribes' autonomy from the Yemeni government and to give the Saudi government a mechanism with which to weigh in on Yemen's political decision-making.

Yemen has been in a state of political crisis since 2011, starting with street protestsagainst poverty, unemployment, corruption, and president Saleh's plan to amend Yemen's constitution and eliminate the presidential term limit, in effect making him president for life. President Saleh stepped down and the powers of the presidency were transferred to Vice President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who was formally elected president on 21 February 2012 in a one-man election. The transitional process was disrupted by conflicts between the Houthis and al-Islah, as well as the al-Qaeda insurgency.

In September 2014 the Houthis took over Sana'a, later declaring themselves in control of the government in a coup d'état. Since then, a Saudi-led intervention has taken place, however, it could not stop the civil war.


Understand

Yemen is a difficult country to get around, but the rewards for the persistent visitor are an unforgettable experience, 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.

Yemen is also one of the least developed and poorest countries in the Middle East.


Landscape

Narrow coastal plain backed by flat-topped hills and rugged mountains; dissected upland desert plains in the centre slope into the desert interior of the Arabian Peninsula. The interior of Yemen is a highland dissected by valleys. Yemen can be divided into five regions:

Coastal Plain: The Tihamah coastal plain is a low-lying flat plain that has areas with very fertile soil from the streams from the mountains emptying into it. Some of the hottest places on Earth are in Tihamah. Most of its towns are coastal because the salty sea air can lessen the effect of the heat.

Western Highlands: The coastal plain ends abruptly at the western mountains, where monsoon rains coming from Africa gain strength across the Red Sea and the clouds coming in get tangled by the jagged peaks of the Western mountains and precipitate all of whatever the clouds hold. Some areas in the western highlands, notably Ibb and Ta'izz, get rainfall similar to rainforests, supporting fertile land great for coffee, qat, wheat and sorghum.

Mountains here are known to have lengthy ascents; most mountains pop out of land 600 m (2,000 ft) above sea level to 2,135-3,050 m (7,000-10,000 ft) peaks. Notable peaks include Jabal Sumarah, Jabal Ba'dan, Jabal Sabir, and Jabal Ad Dukayik, all about 3,000 m (10,000 ft) high.

Central Highlands: This is more of a plateau with rolling hills atop it, for the mountains are less jagged and get less precipitation because most of it is released onto the Western Highlands. Some of the highest mountains of the Arabian Peninsula can be found here, including the legendary Jabal an Nabi Shu'ayb near the capital Sana'a, at about 3,660 m (12,000 ft) above sea level.

Some areas in the central highlands have extremely fertile soil, like in Dhamar, and temperature in the central highlands are extreme also. Diurnal temperatures are the highest in the world, with daytime highs of around 80°F while during the night they can dip to below freezing. Most of the central highlands, other than the mountains, is above 2,000-2,440 m (7,000-8,000 ft) high.

Central Plateau: As a gradual descent from the central highlands begins, it eventually levels off at a 915-1,525 m (3,000-5,000 ft) plateau that is bisected by valleys and wadis, or streams. This terrain is not as rough as the central or western highlands, but vegetation is only possible in the valleys or near wadis, for they provide a lot of irrigation water from precipitation that only occurs in the remote areas.

Flash floods are very common. This extends from Shabwah though Hadhramaut and Al Mahra, continuing into Dhofar in Oman, which also revered by many Yemenis as part of Greater Yemen, not to mention also Najran, Jizan, and Asir in Saudi Arabia.

Desert: Rub Al-Khali, aka the Empty Quarter, the most treacherous desert in the world, and also the largest expanse of sand in the world, is in northestern Yemen, southeastern Saudi Arabia, and northwestern Oman. It receives no rain at all for periods of years, and little to no vegetation exists. Temperature can reach 61°C (142°F)


Demographics

Yemen's population is 24 million by 2014 estimates, with 46% of the population being under 15 years old and 2.7% above 65 years. In 1950, it was 4.3 million.  By 2050, the population is estimated to increase to about 60 million. Yemen has a high total fertility rate, at 4.45 children per woman. It is the 30th highest in the world.  Sana'a's population has increased rapidly, from roughly 55,000 in 1978  to nearly 2 million in the early 21st century.

Ethnic groups

Yemeni ethnic groups are predominantly Arab, followed by Afro-Arabs, South Asians and Europeans. When the former states of North and South Yemen were established, most resident minority groups departed. Yemen is a largely tribal society. In the northern, mountainous parts of the country, there are 400 Zaidi tribes. There are also hereditary caste groups in urban areas such as Al-Akhdam. There are also Yemenis of Persian origin. According to Muqaddasi, Persians formed the majority of Aden's population in the 10th century.

Yemenite Jews once formed a sizable minority in Yemen with a distinct culture from other Jewish communities in the world. Most emigrated to Israel in the mid-20th century, following the Jewish exodus from Arab lands and Operation Magic Carpet. An estimated 100,000 people of Indian origin are concentrated in the southern part of the country, around Aden, Mukalla, Shihr, Lahaj, Mokha and Hodeidah.

Most of the prominent Indonesians, Malaysians, and Singaporeans of Arab descent are Hadhrami people with origins in southern Yemen in the Hadramawt coastal region. Today there are almost 10,000 Hadramis in Singapore. The Hadramis migrated to Southeast Asia, East Africa and the Indian subcontinent.

The 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.

Yemen is the only country in the Arabian Peninsula that is signatory to two international accords dating back to 1951 and 1967 governing the protection of refugees. 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), Ethiopia (2,000), and Syria. Additionally, more than 334,000 Yemenis have been internally displaced by conflict.

The Yemeni diaspora is largely concentrated in neighbouring Saudi Arabia, where between 800,000 and 1 million Yemenis reside, and the United Kingdom, home to between 70,000 and 80,000 Yemenis.


Religion

Religion in Yemen consists primarily of two principal Islamic religious groups: 60%–65% of the Muslim population is Sunni and 35%–40% is Shia, according to the International Religious Freedom Report. Sunnis are primarily Shafi'i but also include significant groups of Malikis and Hanbalis. Shias are primarily Zaidiand also have significant minorities of Twelver and Ismaili Shias.

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, or Hinduism or having no religious affiliation

Estimates of the number of Christians in Yemen range from 25,000 to 41,000. A 2015 study estimates 400 believers in Christ from a Muslim background in the country.

There are approximately 50 Jews left in Yemen. Some 200 Yemenite Jews were brought to Israel by the Jewish Agency in recent years.


Economy

Yemen as of 2013 had a GDP (ppp) of US$61.63 billion, with an income per capita of $2,500. Services are the largest economic sector (61.4% of GDP), followed by the industrial sector (30.9%), and agriculture (7.7%). Of these, petroleum production represents around 25% of GDP and 63% of the government's revenue.

Agriculture previously represented 18–27% of the GDP, but its apportionment began changing due to emigration of rural labor, and structural changes within the sector. Principal agricultural commodities produced in the nation include grain, vegetables, fruits, pulses, qat, coffee, cotton, dairy products, fish, livestock (sheep, goats, cattle, camels), and poultry.

Most Yemenis are employed in agriculture. Sorghum is the most common crop. Cotton and many fruit trees are also grown, with mangoesbeing the most valuable. A big problem in Yemen is the cultivation of Khat, a mild narcotic plant that releases a stimulant when chewed, and accounts for up to 40 percent of the water drawn from the Sana'a Basin each year, and that figure is rising. Some agricultural practices are drying the Sana'a Basin and displaced vital crops, which has resulted in increasing food prices. Rising food prices, in turn, pushed an additional six percent of the country into poverty in 2008 alone.]Efforts are being made by the Government and Dawoodi Bohra community at North Yemen to replace qat with coffee plantations.

Yemen's industrial sector is centered on crude oil production and petroleum refining, food processing, handicrafts, small-scale production of cotton textiles and leather goods, aluminum products, commercial ship repair, cement, and natural gas production. As of 2013, Yemen had an industrial production growth rate of 4.8%. It also has large proven reserves of natural gas. Yemen's first liquified natural gas plant began production in October 2009.

The labor force was 7 million workers in 2013. Services, industry, construction and commerce together constitute less than 25% of the labor force. The unemployment rate as of 2003 was 35%.

As of 2013, exports from Yemen totaled $6.694 billion. The main export commodities are crude oil, coffee, dried and salted fish, liquefied natural gas. These products were mainly sent to China (41%), Thailand (19.2%), India (11.4%), and South Korea (4.4%). Imports as of 2013 total $10.97 billion. The main imported commodities are machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, livestock, and chemicals. These products were mainly imported from the EU (48.8%), UAE (9.8%), Switzerland (8.8%), China (7.4%), and India (5.8%).

As of 2013, the Yemeni government's budget consisted of $7.769 billion in revenues and $12.31 billion in expenditures. Taxes and other revenues constituted roughly 17.7% of the GDP, with a budget deficit of 10.3%. The public debt was 47.1% of GDP. Yemen had reserves of foreign exchange and gold of around $5.538 billion in 2013. Its inflation rate over the same period based on consumer prices was 11.8%. Yemen's external debt totaled $7.806 billion.

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 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. 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 during the period 1995–1999 and the correction of macro-financial imbalances. The real growth rate in the non-oil sector rose by 5.6% from 1995 to 1997.

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Yemen - Travel guide

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