1. Getting in and out
C urrently, the only land border open for foreigners into Yemen is with Oman. Most people will reach this border from the Omani city of Salalah. Visas and permissions will be organised prior to crossing this border and it can take a long time if you leave late in the day.
The other borders with Saudi Arabia are firmly closed for the foreseeable future.
It is possible to fly to Yemen from Cairo directly into Seiyun in the Hadramout region of eastern Yemen. This is with Yemenia and can be booked directly through us. It is still not possible for foreigners to fly directly into the capital Sana’a.
2. See and Do
While it is still not possible to visit Sana’a and the western region, the east of Yemen has some true gems to showcase. The geological beauty of Wadi Do’an and the coloured buildings are a must see.
The highlight of this region is the town of Shibam which showcases mudbrick sky scrapers giving rise to its name as the ‘Mahattan of the desert’.
The main rules when travelling in Yemen are to dress conservatively, don’t photograph sensitive areas, and always listen to your local guide. If your guide says that it’s time to move somewhere on short notice, you cannot argue as they know the areas well and are probably doing so to avoid harm.
Yemen is also a conservative Islamic country, which means that men interacting with women and vice versa, is frowned upon, unless you are related to or know them well already. Men and women should also never touch each other even with simple gestures such as handshakes.
4. Dress code
Yemen is a conservative Islamic country, which means for men you should be wearing long pants/trousers and women, you should have your head covered. For women an abaya is also recommended as cover for your body – whilst it’s not required to wear an abaya as such, it’s a very easy, convenient and relatively comfortable way to adhere to the clothing requirements.
Light cool clothing is recommended as the climate is always warm along the coast.
There is also the opportunity when traveling in Yemen to dress in local clothes. These are often more comfortable for travellers as they are both suitable for the climate and they are conservative in nature.
Men in Yemen often wear a thawb-like white dress, similar to what you find in other parts of the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia or other Gulf States. Yemenis will often wear this with a large belt (which sometimes will have a decorative knife on it). Yemenis will often wear a headdress which is either a scarf wrapped around or an alquaweq which is a more formal style of cloth hat usually worn by wealthier Yemenis. Yemenis will also wear a suit jacket over the traditional dress, especially in more formal settings.
5. Topics of discussion
While in Yemen, feel free to discuss all kinds of topics with both your Saiga and local Yemeni guide. Feel free to ask about the current situation and to talk about the conflict in general, but just be aware that some people you talk to may not want to talk about it.
When discussing international politics, this is best not done in public as many people may have differing opinions and they may get upset if you disagree. The current conflict although it is relaxing as of recent is still an active conflict and so it is best to stay out of it.
Yemen is 99% Muslim, the majority of which are Shia, with a total of 65% of the population, most of which are found in the populated areas in the north and around the capital. 34% of the population are also Sunni Muslim, most of which are found in the southeast of the country.
Yemen is considered one of the top countries in the world where Christians face extreme persecution. The last estimates of the country’s Christian population were between 25,000 and 41,000, as of 2015.
There are also estimated to be around 50 Jewish people remaining in the country. According to a UN report there is currently only one official Jewish person living in the country. If there are others, they are Muslim on paper, but continue to practice Judaism in secret.
The people of Yemen are almost all Arabs, with some small minority groups. In fact, Yemen is considered the birthplace of Arabs and the Arabic language. The Qahtanite Arabs who are considered to be one of the original Arabic tribes has its origins in Yemen, which has led to them being deemed the ‘original’ Arabs.
Most migrant workers and minority groups have departed from Yemen, such as Yemenite Jews and migrant workers from South and Southeast Asia, who were mostly found in the port city of Aden.
Yemen still remains a very tribal society and each person will still have an affiliation with their family’s tribe, similar to Saudi Arabia.
Photography in Yemen is no issue, and the country has a lot on offer in terms of both natural and man-made beauty that you will want to snap a photo of. However, some things are considered sensitive and should not be photographed.
Anything to do with the military or any checkpoints are strictly off limits to photos and can cause big issues for you and the group if you get caught. This rule is pretty stock standard to most countries though, and shouldn’t be a surprise for anyone travelling to Yemen. However, that doesn’t mean it goes without saying – it definitely still needs to be said!
Photographing women is also considered off limits especially, for men, not surprisingly. If females want to take photos with other females that is not an issue. Just as always, interact with the people, ask their permission, and don’t push it if they’re not comfortable – just like we want in return.