Yemen Country Profile

Known in ancient times as Arabia felix (happy Arabia) thanks to its riches, Yemen was unified in 1990, after having been divided for decades between the Arab Republic of Yemen (North Yemen) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Yemen (Yemen Yemen) South).

According to, Yemen is located in the south of the Arabian peninsula. It is limited to the north by Saudi Arabia, to the south by the Gulf of Aden, to the west by the Red Sea and to the east by Oman. It occupies an area of ​​531,869km2, which includes an undefined strip on the border with Saudi Arabia. Also part of the country are the islands of Perim and Kamaran (at the southern end of the Red Sea), Socotra (at the entrance to the Gulf of Aden) and Kuria Muria (near the coast of Oman).

Physical geography

The narrow coastal plain, known by the name of Tihama, is dominated by a mountain range whose culmination is the Djebel Suwaib, with 3.760m. To the east of the mountains lies a desert plateau, which occupies three fifths of the country’s surface. The mountains are of volcanic origin and constitute a center of seismic activity. In the eastern zone, corresponding to the former South Yemen, the territory is divided into three regions.

The first is a narrow fringe of coasts bathed in the Gulf of Aden, which stretches for about 1,400km. From that fringe, the plateau rises sharply, higher in the sub-western zone, which reaches maximum altitude in Djebel al-Hasha, with 3,227m. The plateau is crossed by two main rivers, Adramaut, of permanent course, and Masila, of temporary course. In the northwest direction, the plateau descends slowly until it merges with the desert, which constitutes the third region of the country.


Yemen’s climate varies according to altitude. The coastal fringe and the desert receive less than 100mm of rainfall per year; and the sub-western sector of the plateau, 400mm. In the westernmost region of the country, about 14% of the soil has extraordinary fertility. Contributing to this is a regime of abundant rainfall, which falls in two seasons a year, and which allows the practice of agriculture without the need for irrigation. Temperatures are high throughout the country, and often rise to over 38oC on the coast.


Yemenis, the vast majority of Arabs, are divided into three main groups, according to their way of life: sedentary farmers, urban population and nomadic shepherds. Arabic is the official language. Demographic density is relatively high compared to other countries in the region. The birth and death rates are very high. The main cities are Aden, Sana, Taiz, Hodeida, Muqalla, Saiun, al-Shihr and Tarim.


In the territory of the former North Yemen, agriculture and livestock are developed in areas of intermediate altitudes, whose slopes have been transformed into cultivable terraces. In the production of cereals, sorghum, wheat, corn and barley stand out. Vegetables, citrus fruits, apricots, peaches, grapes and potatoes are also grown, as well as commercial crops such as tobacco, coffee, cotton, sugar cane and sesame. Pastures cover about a third of the fertile land and make it possible to raise goats, sheep, cows, donkeys and dromedaries; these last two species are used, on a large scale, in the transport of people and cargo. Yemen has also developed a large fishing fleet, with national and foreign capital, which mainly fish for sardines, mackerel and siba.

The territory of Yemen does not contain any significant mineral deposits. The main mineral resources are oil, natural gas, gold, copper, lead, molybdenum and zinc. The industrial sector is clearly divided between traditional handicrafts, such as the textile industry, and modern industries, such as oil.

Exports are much lower than imports, which generates a large trade deficit, offset by remittances from emigrants working in other countries and by foreign loans, mainly from Saudi Arabia. Foreign trade flows through the ports of Hodeida, al-Muja and Salif. The cities of Sana, Hodeida and Taiz have international airports. The general economic situation had to be reviewed and redesigned after the unification of the two Yemeni republics in 1990.


The legendary kingdom of Main, in the 7th century BC, which exported incense to Egypt in the 14th century BC, is the first that is known in the lands of Yemen. Another ancient kingdom was that of Sheba, established in the southwest of the country, whose queen visited Solomon, according to the Old Testament. During the first millennium before the Christian era, southern Yemen was divided into two kingdoms: Qataban and Adramaut, which traded with incense and were famous for their irrigation systems. In the first century BC, the kingdom of Sheba fell into decay, and power passed to the Himiarites, who established the capital in Sana. After the destruction of Jerusalem, in the year 70 of the Christian era, Jewish settlers arrived in the country, and in the middle of the fourth century the first Christian groups were established. In 525, the Christian kingdom of Abyssinia overthrew the last Himiarite king. In 575 the country was invaded by the Sassanid Persians, and in the second half of the 7th century it joined Islam. In the 630s, the first Muslim caliph, Abu Bakr, made inroads into the territory of Yemen, which came to dominate entirely, thus unifying the entire Arabian peninsula. Despite the integration, the territory retained a high degree of autonomy, governed in fact by small tribal dynasties.

Political turmoil continued, and at the end of the 9th century the zaidite dynasty was established, a powerful family, whose members participated in the government of North Yemen until 1962. Between 1173 and 1229 Yemen was ruled by the Egyptian dynasty of the Ayubids, and until the end of the year 1450, for the resúlidas, period of artistic and scientific flowering. Architecture and agriculture have made great strides. In the early sixteenth century, Yemen was invaded by Egyptian Mamelukes, and in 1517 by Ottoman Turks, expelled in 1635 by the Zaidites. In the 18th century there was a new division of Yemeni territory, caused by fighting between enemy tribes. During the following century, the Egyptian desire to recover Aden ran into opposition from the United Kingdom, which occupied South Yemen in 1839 and transformed it into a protectorate and colony in 1937. Meanwhile,

An Anglo-Turkish agreement attempted to set the boundaries between North Yemen and the Aden protectorate in 1914, but the issue was only resolved in 1934. On September 26, 1962, a socialist revolution proclaimed the Arab Republic of Yemen (Yemen) From north). Despite opposition from Yemeni nationalists, the protectorate was incorporated into the Federation of South Arabia, created in 1963. The British promised to grant independence in 1968, but a year earlier power was occupied by the Marxist-oriented National Liberation Front. That same year, the People’s Republic of Yemen (South Yemen) was proclaimed, which in 1970 adopted the name of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen.

In 1979 the two Yemeni republics went to war. South Yemeni forces penetrated the Arab Republic of Yemen. After a month of fighting, both sides accepted mediation from the Arab League, and two years later began talks with a view to unification. Negotiations began in 1981, but the Arab Republic of Yemen accused its neighbor of financing the guerrilla forces of the National Democratic Front that operated in its territory. In the Democratic People’s Republic of Yemen, a factional struggle broke out in 1986 that caused more than two thousand deaths and the ousting of President Ali Nasir Mohamed Husani.

After many struggles, the union was achieved on May 22, 1990, when the leaders of both countries, Ali Abdala Sale, for North Yemen, and Haidar Abu Bakr al-Attos, for South Yemen, proclaimed the Republic of Yemen, in a historic ceremony, celebrated throughout the new country. The government was entrusted to Ali Abdala Sale, who held free elections in 1993 and had to face another civil war against southern separatists the following year.

Society and culture

The social security system is quite deficient. The rates of diseases such as tuberculosis, gastroenteritis, typhoid and malaria are high. The population is divided between the Sunni and Shiite branches of Islam. Education is free and covers the vast majority of school-age children, although there are high rates of illiteracy. Religious education has an advanced center in Tarim.

The National Museum of Archeology in Aden conserves remnants of the civilizations that followed in southern Arabia. In the National Ethnographic Museum there are collections of traditional Yemeni handicrafts.

Oral literature is rich in proverbs, tales, mystical expressions and poetry. The more limited written literature prefers historical and theological themes, biographies and poetry.

Yemen Country Profile