Yemen is authentic Arabia, an antidote to Arabian Gulf bling, and the Peninsula’s most fascinating destination.
Recognised by UNESCO, Sana’a’s multi storey tower houses and ancient Souk Al Milh lend an overwhelming sense of otherness. Being woken pre-dawn by competing muezzins, from just some of the city’s 40-ish mosques, only adds to the effect.
Outside the capital, explore fortified cliff-top villages overseeing cultivated plains or hike the foothills of the Haraz Mountains. To the east, walk the shady streets of Shibam, Freya Stark’s ‘Manhattan of the Desert’, where nine-storey mud towers stand testament to Yemeni building skills. On the coast, visit the bustling fishing ports of Al Mukalla or Al Huydaydah. Most remote is Yemen’s ‘Arabian Galapagos’, the Socotra archipelago. Cast adrift at the mouth of the Gulf of Aden, Socotra is two hours by air from Sana’a. Here 37% of plant species, 90% of reptiles and an estimated 90% of invertebrates are found no where else on earth.
Once characterised as Arabia Felix (Fortunate Arabia) by the Romans, these days an uncertain security profile deters all but the hardiest travellers.