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Official language: Arabic.
Area: 203,850 sq. mi. (527,968 sq. sq. km). Coastline --about 1,020 mi. (1,642 km).
Elevation: Highest --12,336 ft. (3,760 m). Lowest --sea level.
Population: Estimated 2000 population --17,051,000; density, 84 persons per sq. mi. (32 per sq. km); distribution, 75 percent rural, 25 percent urban. 1994 census --14,587,807.
Chief products: Agriculture --coffee, fruits, grains, khat, vegetables. Manufacturing --building materials, handicrafts. Mining --petroleum.
Flag: Red, white, and black horizontal stripes.
Money: Basic unit --rial.
Yemen is a country in the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula. The Gulf of Aden borders Yemen on the south and the Red Sea on the west. Most of the people of Yemen are Arab Muslims.
Sana is Yemen's capital and largest city. Aden is an important port and oil center. Most of Yemen is hot and dry, though there are a few fertile areas where the land can be farmed. The high interior of northwestern Yemen is the most beautiful and best-cultivated part of Arabia.
Most of the workers in Yemen are farmers or craftworkers, but employment in modern businesses is growing. The country is famous for its Mocha coffee. Yemeni craftworkers have been famous for their textiles, leatherwork, and ironwork since ancient times.
In 1990, two nations--Yemen (Aden), also called South Yemen or Southern Yemen; and Yemen (Sana), also known as North Yemen or Northern Yemen--merged to form Yemen. Yemen's full name in Arabic, the country's official language, is Al-Jumhuriyah al Yamaniyah (the Republic of Yemen).
National government. A president heads the government. In 1994, the president was elected by the House of Representatives for a five-year term. Beginning in 1999, the president is to be elected directly by the people. The president appoints a vice president, cabinet members, and a prime minister. The prime minister heads the cabinet. The people elect the 301-member House of Representatives, which makes Yemen's laws.
Local government. Yemen has 20 provinces, which are headed by governors appointed by the president. The provinces have smaller divisions called districts. In 1994, Yemen's president appointed a committee to revise the provincial boundaries. Under the new system, the governors and other local officials were to be elected by the people.
Most of Yemen's people are Arabs. The rest are Pakistanis, Eritreans, Somalis, or Indians. Most of the people are Muslims of the Zaydi or Shafii sects. The Zaydis live in northwestern Yemen. They have long been associated with the government and the military. The Shafii sect has a powerful merchant class. The division between the politically powerful Zaydis and the wealthy Shafiis has caused bitterness between them. Clan relationships are also very important to most Yemenis. Feuds between rival clans divide many areas of the country.
Way of life. Most people of Yemen make a living as farmers or herders. Farmers grow crops in the highland valleys and scattered oases. Herders raise sheep in the drier regions. Many people make a living by doing craftwork. These workers produce handicrafts in small, one-room shops. They make such articles as inlaid jambiyas (daggers), wooden chests, brassware, and jewelry.
On the coasts and on Socotra Island, many people live by fishing. The men spear fish near the shore from dugout canoes called sambugs, or net them in deeper water from single-sail dhows.
Many of Yemen's young men leave the country to seek work. Most of them are employed in Saudi Arabia or other countries of the Arabian Peninsula.
Some city people reside in modern houses or apartment buildings, and many others live in one-story brick houses. Some farm families live in towns, such as Sayun, that have mud-brick houses three or four stories high. Others live in small villages close to the land they farm. Near the Red Sea coast, many people live in straw huts.
Food and clothing. Rice, bread, vegetables, lamb, and fish are the chief foods in Yemen. The national dish is a spicy stew called salta.
Almost all the men of Yemen and many of the women chew the leaves of a plant called the khat (also spelled kat or gat). These leaves contain a stimulant, and they produce a mild intoxication or euphoria (feeling of well-being). Groups of men and groups of women get together most afternoons for a session of khat chewing.
Some Yemenis, especially those in the cities, wear Western-style clothing. Many others wear more traditional Arab clothing. The men's garments include cotton breeches or a striped futa (kilt). Many men wear skullcaps, turbans, or tall, round hats called tarbooshes. Many women wear long robes, black shawls, and veils.
Education. Less than half the people of Yemen 15 years of age or older can read and write. For the country's literacy rate, see LITERACY (table: Literacy rates). Public schools exist in cities and larger towns. In rural areas, most education takes place in Muslim religious schools. Yemen's first university, the University of Sana, was founded in 1970. Another university is in Aden.
Yemen has flat land along the west and south coasts and high land inland. Beyond the inland hills and cliffs stretches the Rub al Khali (or Empty Quarter), a sandy desert that extends into Saudi Arabia.
The coastal plain along the Red Sea is called the Tihamah. It extends inland from the Red Sea for 20 to 50 miles (32 to 80 kilometers). The Tihamah is hot and humid, and few people live there. Temperatures range from 68 °F to 130 °F (20 °C to 54 °C).
A few rocky hills border the Tihamah on the east. Then, cliffs rise steeply. Rains have cut into the cliffs, forming deep valleys called wadis.
East of the cliffs is an area called the High Yemen. Broad valleys and plateaus lie 6,000 feet (1,800 meters) above sea level. They are surrounded by steep mountains that rise as high as 12,336 feet (3,760 meters). The high altitude makes the region much cooler than the Tihamah. East of the mountains, the land slopes toward the desert of Saudi Arabia.
The coastal plain along the Gulf of Aden is mostly sand but has a few fertile areas. It varies from about 5 to 10 miles (8 to 16 kilometers) in width.
A dry, hilly plateau borders the Gulf of Aden coastal plain. The plateau is cut by wadis that have some rich farmland. For example, the land between Sayun and Tarim in the Hadhramaut region in eastern Yemen is a farming area. The desert lies north of the plateau.
Rainfall averages 5 inches (13 centimeters) in Aden on the south coast. The High Yemen gets 10 to 15 inches (25 to 38 centimeters) of rain a year. It is not uncommon for desert areas to receive no rain for five years or more.
Much of the economy of Yemen depends on extensive foreign aid and on the wages sent home by the many Yemenis who work in other parts of the Arabian Peninsula. Farming and the petroleum industry also contribute to Yemen's income.
The hills and highlands of northwestern Yemen are the most productive farming area. Farmers raise such food grains as wheat, barley, and durra (a sorghum). They also raise a variety of fruits, including apricots, bananas, citrus fruits, grapes, papayas, and pomegranates. They grow beans, lentils, onions, and tomatoes in gardens. People on the Tihamah raise durra and some dates and cotton. Agriculture in southern Yemen is limited to the few areas with underground water for irrigation. Farmers grow three or four crops a year of barley, millet, sesame, sorghum, and wheat. Since the early 1980's, the Yemenis have worked to turn desert areas into farmland by means of dams, irrigation, and other water and agricultural development projects.
Khat is the leading cash crop of Yemen. It comes from the leaves of a woody shrub that grows in the highlands. Coffee is another important cash crop. Coffee plants grow on terraces cut into the hills. Ancient aqueducts (water channels) carry water to the terraces.
Aden's oil refinery and port provide Yemen with much of its income. The oil refinery processes oil shipped from other countries, mostly those on the Persian Gulf. Ships of many nations use the port for refueling, repairs, and transferring cargoes.
Until the early 1980's, Yemen had almost no other industry. But large petroleum deposits were found in the northwestern part of the country, and petroleum mining is growing in importance. Construction is also a growing industry. Construction projects include new factories, hotels, office buildings, schools, and roads.
Many goods in the country are still made by hand. The people weave and dye cloth, and make rope, glassware, harnesses, saddles, and pottery. They sell their goods in the village bazaars (marketplaces).
Trucks and automobiles provide most of the land transportation in Yemen. But many people still use camels, donkeys, and horses.
According to Arab tradition, Semitic people invaded what is now northwestern Yemen about 2000 B.C. They brought farming and building skills to the herders who lived there. About 1400 B.C., an important trade route began forming. Caravans carrying pearls and spices passed through Yemen. Cities, castles, temples, and dams were built during this time. The Queen of Sheba ruled Yemen during the 900's B.C.
Yemen's prosperity ended in the A.D. 300's. Local chieftains fought among themselves, and Abyssinia (Ethiopia) invaded Yemen. The next 1,300 years were marked by fighting between Yemeni tribes and religious groups, and against invading Egyptians and Turks. In the 600's, the Prophet Muhammad's son-in-law, Ali, introduced Islam to the people. In A.D. 897, an imam (ruler) became the political and religious leader of Yemen.
The Ottoman Empire, centered in Asia Minor (now Turkey), took over Yemen in 1517, and it had varying degrees of control for more than 400 years. The Treaty of Lausanne ended Turkish rule in 1924. By that time, the Turks were holding only northwestern Yemen. The rest of the country had been taken over by the British. The land freed from the Turks was called Yemen, though it was only part of what is now the country of Yemen. It later became Yemen (Sana), and the land under British control became Yemen (Aden).
Formation of Yemen (Aden). Great Britain seized Aden in 1839, after people from the town robbed a wrecked British ship. Aden became an important refueling stop for British ships going to India by way of the Suez Canal and Red Sea. Aden was ruled from British India until 1937, when it became a British crown colony.
To protect Aden from take-over by the Ottomans, Britain extended its control to the tribal states in the region around Aden. Britain signed treaties with the tribal leaders, promising protection and aid in return for loyalty. The region came to be known as the Aden Protectorate.
In 1959, six tribal states in the protectorate formed the Federation of the Arab Emirates of the South. Britain signed a treaty with the federation, promising to grant independence. The date for independence was later set for 1967. Meanwhile, the British controlled the federation's foreign policy and provided military protection and economic aid. In 1962, the name of the federation was changed to the Federation of South Arabia. By 1965, Aden and all but four of the tribal states in the protectorate had joined the federation.
In the early 1960's, Britain tried to form a representative government that would rule the federation after independence. But radical Arab nationalist leaders in Aden and tribal leaders in the protectorate both wanted to rule. The radicals began a terror campaign against the British and the tribal leaders. Two radical groups, the National Liberation Front (NLF) and the Front for the Liberation of Occupied South Yemen (FLOSY), also fought each other.
In late 1967, the federation government collapsed. Britain announced that it would withdraw its troops and give power to any group that could set up a government. The NLF emerged as the most powerful group in the federation. On Nov. 30, 1967, the last British troops were withdrawn, and the NLF formed a government. The NLF proclaimed the federation an independent country--the People's Republic of South Yemen. In 1970, the name was changed to the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen. The country was often referred to as Yemen (Aden), South Yemen, or Southern Yemen.
After independence, the NLF became the National Front, which merged with several smaller political groups in 1975 and formed the United Political Organization National Front (UPONF). In 1978, the groups that made up UPONF reorganized as the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP). The leaders of Yemen (Aden) favored some political principles of Karl Marx, one of the founders of Communism. Yemen (Aden) developed strong ties with the Soviet Union, Cuba, and other Communist countries. These countries provided much aid to Yemen (Aden).
In 1986, civil war broke out in Yemen (Aden) between the government and a group holding more extreme Marxist views than those held by the government. The extreme group won and took control of the government.
Formation of Yemen (Sana). On Sept. 26, 1962, military officers supported by Egypt overthrew the ruling imam in what is now northwestern Yemen--then called Yemen--and set up a republic. The officers named the country the Yemen Arab Republic. It became informally known as Yemen (Sana), North Yemen, or Northern Yemen. The imam's forces--called royalists--fought from their bases in the mountains to try to regain control of the government. They were supported by Saudi Arabia. But the republicans, supported by Egypt, ruled most of Yemen (Sana). The fighting ended in 1970. The republicans set up a new government that included republicans and royalists. In 1974, army leaders took control of the government of Yemen (Sana). They were conservatives who opposed Communism.
Unification. In September 1972, strained relations between Yemen (Aden) and Yemen (Sana) led to fighting along the border they shared. But an Arab League mission was able to bring about a cease-fire. In October, representatives of the two countries signed a peace agreement and an agreement on eventual unification. Committees were set up to discuss details of the unification. But continued fighting through the 1970's interrupted the talks. Yemen (Aden) also was involved in fighting with Oman, its eastern neighbor. These clashes went badly for Yemen (Aden), and in the 1980's it adopted a more peaceful foreign policy.
Unification talks between Yemen (Aden) and Yemen (Sana) continued through the 1980's, and the two countries increasingly cooperated in economic and administrative matters. In 1990, they officially merged and became the country of Yemen. But disagreements between supporters of the united country's president, who was from North Yemen; and its vice president, from South Yemen, led to a civil war between northerners and southerners in May 1994. The fighting caused thousands of deaths and much destruction. Troops loyal to the president won the war in July, and the country remained united.