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Travel & Holiday Tips in Yemen


The Republic of Yemen is the least known and, in many ways, the most spectacular region of all Arabia. As much of the Central Highlands rise over 3000m (10,000ft), travellers should be prepared for the high altitudes. The attraction of the Republic of Yemen for the visitor is largely its striking scenery, spectacular Islamic and pre-Islamic architecture and the deep sense of the past. Tours are available within and around the major cities; enquire at local travel agents for details.


This area has been intensely cultivated for centuries and is the site of many of the major towns. Sana’a, the modern capital and long an important citadel along the trade route between Aden and Mecca, dates back to the first century and, according to popular legend, to early biblical days. The citadel, Qasr al-Silah, was rebuilt after the arrival of Islam in the seventh century and is still intact. The old centre is surrounded by the remains of the city walls, which can be seen in the south along Zuberi Street before Bab al-Yemen, in the east along Mount Nugum starting from the walls of the citadel, and in the north on the road from Bab Sha’oob to Taherir Square. The 1000-year-old Bab al-Yemen Market is divided into 40 different crafts and trades. The spice market is one of the best to visit, standing out from the rest by the rich aroma of incense and famed Arabian spices. Other markets include the Souk al-Nahaas, once the copper market, now selling embroidered head-dresses, belts and jambias (curved daggers). The Great Mosque of Sana’a is the oldest and largest of the mosques in Sana’a and one of the oldest in the Muslim world, constructed in the lifetime of the Prophet and enlarged in AD 705. The layout is typical of early Islamic architecture, with an open, square courtyard, surrounded by roofed galleries. The ruins of Ghamdan's Palace is east of the Great Mosque on an elevated mound. The National Museum is located in Taherir Square in Dar al-Shukr (or the �?Palace of Gratefulness’); it contains engravings of pre-Islamic times, bronze statues, a beautiful mashrabia (cooling place for water) and several examples of folk art. It offers a good view of Taherir Square and the Muttawakelite Estate from the roof.

Some 8km (5 miles) north of Sana’a is Rawdha, a garden city famous for its sweet grapes, the mosque built by Ahmed ibn al-Qasim and the Rawdha Palace, now used as a hotel. Amran, north of Rawdha, lies on the edge of the fertile basin of al-Bawn. The city is surrounded by the old clay city walls of pre-Islamic, Sabean origin. Hajjah is a day’s journey to the west of Sana’a. The countryside is made up of high mountains and large valleys, including the Wadi Sherez, 1000m (3280ft), and Kohlan, 2400m (7875ft). Hajjah itself is a citadel, situated on the central hill of Hajjah, famous for underground prison cells used by the Imams. Hadda Mountain, south of Sana’a, is dotted with villages and orchards growing apricots, peaches, walnuts and almonds. The village of Hadda has two old Turkish mills. Wadi Dhar, 10km (6 miles) from Sana’a, is an idyllic valley filled with grapes, pomegranates and citrus fruits, surrounded by a barren plateau. Shibam, 36km (22 miles) from Sana’a, is a pre-Islamic settlement, protected by the great fortification of Koukaban.

Western & Southwestern Yemen


The city of Ta’izz lies in the south at an altitude of 1400m (4590ft). The old city has been all but swallowed up by the fast-growing modern city around it but beautiful old houses and mosques remain within the line of the 13th-century city wall, which is still intact along the southern side. To the north, only the gates of Bab Musa and al-Bab al-Kabir remain. The southern wall offers a splendid view of Ta’izz. Al-Qahera, within the city walls, is the fortress and the oldest part of the city. Al-Ashrafiya and al-Mudhaffar are two of the most beautiful mosques in Yemen. The museum in the Palace of Imam Ahmed contains the personal effects of the last Imam, and has preserved the spirit of Yemen from before the beginning of the Republic. The Salah Palace, to the east just outside the city, is another museum of the royal family. The Souk Ta’izz sells a variety of goods, including silverware and carpets. Mount Saber is 18km (11 miles) from Ta’izz and offers a breathtaking view of the city and the Ta’izz basin. A heavy-duty vehicle is needed to drive to the top. The mountain rises to an altitude of 3000m (9840ft) and the weather can be very cold.

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