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World Travel Guide > Guides > Middle East > Yemen

Yemen Shopping and nightlife

Shopping in Yemen

In the absence of mass tourism Yemenis have yet to develop a souvenir trade beyond the odd ‘I love Yemen’ T-shirt, as such Sana’a’s Souk al Milh is probably the country’s best place for recreational purchases. Items might include frankincense, polished amber, metalwork, jambiyyas (characteristic curved daggers) and traditional clothing. Heading east to Shibam and Wadi Do’an, Hadhramawt’s intense and powerful honey is a revelatory taste experience to those raised on supermarket fare – though import restrictions mean it’s one to be enjoyed locally. On the coast at Al Hudayhah, shark’s teeth are touted by some entrepreneurial fishermen. However, observing the sorry end that comes to so many of these ferocious beasts in the fish markets, you may feel less like celebrating their demise.

Don’t bother stuffing your suitcase with finest qat. The narcotic leaves lose their kick soon after being picked, and though not controlled in the UK, in many other countries qat possession attracts the stiff penalties.

Shopping hours

Sun-Thurs 0800-1300 and 1600-2100.

Nightlife in Yemen

Western nightlife doesn’t really have a Yemeni equivalent. The evenings see women securely ensconced at home leaving men to gather, eat and drink tea. At the weekend some tourist hotels in Sana’a’s ‘old city’ encourage sessions by traditional Yemeni musicians but as tourism has declined so have these performances.

Elsewhere, depending upon the circumstances, revelries can extend to all-night qat chewing sessions but this marathon of mastication usually surrounds a festivity such as a wedding or religious feast. Any notion of a bar culture is present in vestigial form only within the capital’s two or three international hotels.