Yemen © Jialiang Gao
At its best, Yemen is a place of incredible scenery, striking Islamic architecture and bustling souks, along with peaceful mosques, lush valleys and epic mountains. The capital Sana'a embodies the two faces of Yemen: the modern city with upmarket tourist infrastructure, and the old city with its Great Mosque and distinctive, multistorey buildings crafted in clay. Sana'a is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, and visitors can take it in from hotel rooftops, enjoy the authenticity of its old souks or be spellbound by the magnificent 700-year-old Great Mosque.
Aden, the second largest city, is a port dating back to times of antiquity. It has a more cosmopolitan, liberal air than Sana'a and makes for an interesting visit. Other cities worth exploring are Shibam, known as the Manhattan of the Desert, and the garden city of Rawdha. But Yemen's most incredible attraction is the Socotra Archipelago, with over 700 species of wildlife and plants unique to the islands. Seen as a contemporary of the Galapagos Islands, it's a place of unique beauty and scientific fascination, with a distinct tribal culture that has thrived for thousands of years.
To the Romans, the country of Yemen was known as Arabia Felix, the 'fortunate land', on account of its fertile fields. Yemen used to be a land of milk and honey, a place of great significance. Sadly, the country is struggling with unrest, instability and widespread terrorism, but travellers eagerly await the day this famously interesting country will again be hospitable to visitors.
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