Yemen: The Happy Country
The Romans called Yemen ‘Happy Arabia’, and any visitor to this beautiful country will be in no doubt as to why. Yemen holds natural treasures, beautiful coastlines and mountains. Its rich history is shown in the several UNESCO World Heritage Sites around the country. Put this happy country on your bucket list!
The best island: Socotra Island
The Socotra Archipelago consists of four islands and two rocky islets. Spanning 250 km along the Gulf of Aden in the Indian Ocean, Socotra is a wildlife haven. Socotra has 825 plant species, of which 37% do not appear anywhere else in the world.
Likewise, 90% of its reptile species and 95% of its land snail species are native only to this island. 192 bird species live on the island, including some threatened species. The marine life of Socotra is diverse, with reef-building corals, crab, lobster and shrimp, and 730 species of coastal fish.
The best old city: Sana’a
The city of Sana’a has been inhabited for 2,500 years, peaking in the 7th and 8th centuries with the onset of Islam. The city was a major centre for the growth of Islam, which can be seen in its 103 mosques.
The old city is an open air museum of 14 hammams and over 6,000 houses, all built before the 11th century. It is situated in a mountain valley, adding to the beauty of the city. Built at an altitude of 2,200 m, the scenery is breath-taking.
The best ancient temple: Bar’an Temple, Marib City
This ancient temple is Sabaean, home of the legendary Queen of Sheba. The temple was dedicated to the Moon God, Almaqah. It is known locally as ‘al-Amaid’ or the throne of Bilpuis.
Originally built in the 5th century BC, its five pillars are the tallest in South Arabia. The temple is square shaped, with an open yard with a sacred well in the centre, and an altar for sacrifice. More altars and alabaster benches are arranged around the inner walls.
The best mountain: Jabel Saber
The tallest and one of the most famous mountains in Yemen, Saber stands around 3200m above sea level. The fertile slopes of Saber hide waterfalls, springs, and fruit trees. At its peak is the fortress of Al-Aross.
Ascend the mountain for panoramic views over Tai’z city. The city has been described as one of the largest and most beautiful cities in the country. The highlight is a Muslim madrasa with university status.
The best mountain village: Al Hajarah Fort, Haraz
Al Hajarah village is in the Haraz mountains, built upon a precipice, creating a spectacular view. It is one of the most impressive and easily accessible mountain villages. This fortified village was created in the 12th century, to withstand sieges. The system of granaries and cisterns meant it could survive a long time with no outside help.
The houses are built into the cliff faces, out of huge blocks of natural stone, making it look as though they have grown out of the surrounding rock. One house is the former residence of Imam Yahya Muhammad, who signed the Italo-Yemeni Treaty in 1926.