Imports (billion) (1999): $2.3
Since unification in May 1990, there has been little economic information
about the new national economy. At unification, the PDRY had a centrally
controlled Marxist economy, while the YAR was market-oriented. The newly unified
government has been trying to integrate these two disparate systems during the
Since unification, Yemen has relied heavily on foreign aid to sustain its
weakened economy. This tact was substantially weakened by the political support
Yemen provided to Iraq during the Gulf crisis. Saudi Arabia, Yemens largest
contributor of foreign aid, cut off all aid payments and compelled an estimated
850,000 Yemeni workers to return to Yemen. The resultant economic dislocation
caused an estimated US$2 billion loss to the national economy.
Yemens natural resources are petroleum, fish, rock salt, marble, small
deposits of coal, gold, lead, nickel, and copper. Oil has only recently been
discovered; consequently, its potential has not yet been fully realized. Reserve
figures are thought to be underestimated by a substantial amount, but until
Yemen resolves external and internal political problems and encourages foreign
investment, the true figures will not be known. Even before unification, the
former YAR was exporting oil, increasing exports by some US$750 million. Once
the reserves of the former PDRY at least twice those of the YAR are tapped,
Yemen should start reaping substantial rewards.
Gas has also been discovered enough for export as well as domestic use.
Again, reserve estimates are believed to be underestimated. Yemen is adjusting
to the use of gas as an energy source by building gas-powered electricity
generation stations and gas-bottling plants.
As with most Middle Eastern states, the issue of fresh water is paramount in
Yemen. The government is investing money in an attempt to ensure a regular fresh
water supply. Presumably looking to the mountains and hills, the government may
attempt to tap natural ground water from the mountains as one source. Most of
this water would go towards agricultural needs.
SECTION IV: CLIMATE AND GEOGRAPHY
Yemen forms the southwestern corner of the Arabian Peninsula, with the Red
Sea to the west and the Gulf of Aden to the south, having an area roughly twice
the size of Wyoming. Generally, temperatures are hot, ranging from a low of
71oF (22°C) to a high of 99oF (37°C). On the coast and
desert plains, conditions are generally hot and humid for most of the year, with
very little rain. This is especially true of the southern coast.
The Al Jahal mountains in northwest Yemen receive substantially more rain
often over 60 centimeters (23 inches) a year, falling mostly between March and
September and have lower temperatures, making the climate mild in winter and
warm and moist during summer. Because of its location with respect to the
equator (15° N), Yemen is a desert, warm and dry with mostly clear skies. The
overall desert climate, however, can be separated into three major climate
sub-regions based upon topography. Dominated by sand, gravel, and lava-covered
open spaces, the first topographical climate sub-region is the narrow plain that
lies along the coast. The width of the plain varies, but averages 20-25 nautical
miles (NM). The second major climate sub-region is the Yemen highlands, covering
the majority of the country away from the coast. The highlands consist of rugged
mountains that dominate the west, along with a large inland region stretching
eastward through high plateaus, mountains, and foothills. Finally, the far
northeastern portion of the country is the third climate sub-region. Here an
extraordinarily hot, harsh desert plain slopes into the desert interior of the
Weather on the low coastal plain is relatively constant year-round: hot,
humid, mostly clear skies, and very little rainfall. The immediate coastline to
2 NM inland stays cooler than the rest of the coastal plain because of the
moderating influence of sea surface temperatures. Morning fog occasionally forms
on the immediate coast. Away from the coast, the highlands are markedly cooler
than the coastal plain. The highlands also have more variable cloud cover and
precipitation throughout the year. This is because of the lifting of moisture
from the sea, pushed up against the mountains by seasonal air patterns, or by
daily sea breeze patterns. (A sea breeze is a daily occurrence where the
difference in heating between land and water causes a persistent onshore wind at
6-10 knots, normally from mid-morning to early afternoon.) The upland desert
plain in the northeast is almost uniformly hot, harsh, and desiccated.
Seasonal variations in Yemen weather follow a monsoon climate pattern. A
monsoon climate is defined by a definite shift in the direction of the
prevailing wind from one season to the next. Seasons are named for the direction
from which the monsoon wind blows, shifting by 120 degrees or more between
seasons. The Yemen winter is the time of the northeast monsoon (known locally as
Gilal) occurring December through March. The Yemen summer is the time of the
southwest monsoon (Hagai), occurring June through September. Two short
transition periods separate the monsoon seasons. The spring transition (Gu)
occurs April through May, and the fall transition (Der) occurs October through
A large-scale weather feature known as the near equatorial trough (NET), or
monsoon trough, also affects Yemen weather. The NET stretches west to east
across Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, and migrates north and south on a
somewhat predictable timetable throughout the year, northward in the spring and
southward in the fall. In Yemen, the NET usually migrates overhead only during
the southwest monsoon (summer). For this reason, summer is the only time Yemen
receives any measurable rainfall, and this is primarily in the highlands.
1. Northeast Monsoon Season (December through March)
All seasons in the narrow coastal plain have a preponderance of fair
skies and little precipitation. However, there are more clouds in the coastal
areas during the winter/northeast monsoon season than at any other time of year.
Overnight, low cloud ceilings sometimes form below 3,000 feet (915 meters) from
late evening to mid-morning. Very little rain falls. Though this is the coolest
time of the year, daily winter highs in coastal areas are still warm, in the
mid-80's Fahrenheit, with daily lows ranging from the upper 60's to the low 70's
Higher elevation winter weather is relatively mild. Over the foothills
where inland mountains face the coast, clouds are likely to form between 0900
and 1800 local standard time (LST). Sea breezes also produce occasional rain
showers and thunderstorms along the mountains. In the inland highlands, clear
skies are common with undisturbed weather. Isolated showers and thunderstorms
can occur when Mediterranean cold fronts reach the area. By December a cold
front crosses the area every 5-10 days, bringing light precipitation and
increased mid- and upper-level clouds. Significant precipitation is relatively
rare in winter, but the highest elevations receive the most. Precipitation in
the form of snow falls above 10,000 feet (3,050 meters), but accumulations of 6
inches are rare. Depending on elevation, daily winter high temperatures in the
highlands are generally in the 60's and 70's Fahrenheit, with daily lows ranging
from the 40's to the 60's Fahrenheit. Sanaa has dropped to 22° Fahrenheit in
2. Spring Transition Season (April through May)
During the spring transition, coastal areas remain hot, humid, and dry.
Mid-afternoon fair weather cumulus clouds are not uncommon. Very little rain
falls. Springtime high temperatures along the coast are in the upper 80s to low
90s Fahrenheit, with lows generally in the upper 70s to lower 80s Fahrenheit.
Higher elevation weather during spring transition shows an increasing
likelihood for clouds and showers on the western slopes and a decreasing
frequency of clouds and showers on the eastern slopes from April to May. Spring
highland high temperatures are generally in the 70s and 80s Fahrenheit, with
lows ranging from the 40s to the 70s Fahrenheit, depending on elevation.
3. Southwest Monsoon Season (June through September)
During the summer/southwest monsoon, coastal areas are very hot, humid,
and dry. Strong daytime sea breezes produce fair weather cumulus clouds on the
immediate coastline. Two areas of the coast require more detailed discussion.
There is an increased likelihood of thunderstorms with light rain after midnight
north of the city of Aden toward the mountains. On the immediate coast east of
Riyan toward Ras Fartak, spotty early morning drizzle is possible because of
strong upwelling of cool ocean water in this section. Summer high temperatures
along the coast are in the 90's Fahrenheit, with lows generally near 80°
In the highlands, a well-defined diurnal cloud and precipitation pattern
forms west to east across the Yemen and Asir Mountains. The arrival and
orientation of the NET in summer causes hot, dry, and cloud-free skies to
dominate eastern slopes, while substantial rainfall and cooler daytime
temperatures dominate western slopes. This feature of the western slopes is
caused by the influence of sea breeze circulation. On the western slopes,
afternoon sea breezes cause frequent and significant cloudiness, rain showers,
and embedded thunderstorms. Rainfall often occurs between 1400 and 1800 LST.
Clouds generally dissipate after midnight and skies are generally clear in the
early morning. Summer highland high temperatures vary widely with elevation and
location. June is generally the warmest summer month, with daily highs
diminishing through September.
4. Fall Transition Season (October through November)
During the fall transition, coastal areas remain hot, humid, and dry.
Cloud cover is minimal, with mid-afternoon sea breeze cumulus typically the
extent of cloudiness. Fall high temperatures along the coast are in the upper
80s Fahrenheit, with lows generally in the mid 70s Fahrenheit.
As the NET recedes southward, the fall transition season in the highlands
is the driest period of the year. Most places average less than an inch of
precipitation for the entire two month fall season. Cloudiness is also minimal.
Fall highland high temperatures are generally in the 70s Fahrenheit, with lows
ranging from the 40s to the 60s Fahrenheit, depending on elevation.
5. Special Weather Considerations
a. Visibility: Visibility along the coastal plain in Yemen is
mainly affected when strong daytime sea breezes raise sand and dust. Year-round,
however, visibilities are above 3 miles more than 95 percent of the time. During
the dryness of the southwest/summer monsoon, a thin haze is common, with
visibilities of 4-7 miles. Also during the summer, early morning fog and stratus
are obstructions to vision east of Riyan. Extensive thin fog may persist along
the water and immediate coastline until 1600-1700 LST. In the highlands,
visibility is generally excellent. Isolated locations may see morning ground
fog, and strong winds can cause reduced visibility because of dust. During
summer, local heat-induced dust storms are possible.
b. Synoptic Weather Patterns: Effects of frontal weather
(e.g., a cold front) are minimal in Yemen. Wintertime cold fronts push southward
into the highlands of Yemen, but are generally weak and short lived. Tropical
cyclones (known as hurricanes or tropical storms in the northern Atlantic Ocean)
pose little danger to Yemen.
c. Flying Weather: Flying weather is generally good in Yemen.
Ceilings less than 1,500 feet (450 meters) are restricted to summer, and occur
less than 20 percent of the time in the highlands and on the coast. Visibility
less than 3 miles (8,000 meters) is infrequent, and occurs mainly in the summer
because of blowing dust.
d. Reconnaissance Weather: The weather in Yemen is generally
good for reconnaissance because of generally clear skies. Conditions may briefly
worsen in blowing dust/sand and during rainshower/thunderstorm activity.
1. Boundaries: Yemen contains 527,970 square kilometers (205,908
square miles) and is slightly larger than twice the size of Wyoming. To the
north, Yemen is bordered by Saudi Arabia (a border of 1,458 kilometers [904
miles]), to the east by Oman (288 kilometers [179 miles]), to the west by the
Red Sea, and to the south by the Gulf of Aden. Yemen claims 12 nautical miles
for territorial waters, a contiguous zone of 18 nautical miles, and a
200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone. Yemen disputes the undefined section
of boundary with Saudi Arabia. The treaty with Oman to settle the Yemeni-Omani
boundary was ratified in December 1992.
2. Topography: The terrain is diverse, with flat, dry, coastal
plains and soaring mountains in the interior. The Tihama, a hot, sandy,
semi-desert strip about 64 kilometers (40 miles) wide, separates the Red Sea
coast from the generally less arid mountainous area of the interior. The
mountains, heavily terraced for agriculture, reach heights of 3,658 meters
(12,000 feet) above sea level. A normally sufficient rainfall and agreeable
mountain climate make the area one of the most important agricultural areas of
the Arabian Peninsula.
SECTION V: TRANSPORTATION AND COMMUNICATIONS
1. Roads: Yemen has over 4,000 kilometers (2,480 miles) of
surfaced road; a good road network exists in the former Yemen Arab Republic
(YAR) that links most towns and villages. Other roads have a natural surface,
but are of reasonable quality. There are roads that link with those of the
former People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY), but these decline in
quality. The former PDRY's road network is extensive only in the southeast.
2. Railroads: Yemen does not have a railway network.
3. Ports: Yemen's primary port is Aden. It played a significant
role for ships passing through the Suez Canal until its closure in 1967; since
its re-opening in 1975, it has not regained its former glory. However, it is
currently undergoing an extensive development project in an effort to increase
its capability. Aden has a 244-meter (800-foot) cargo wharf that can take ships
91 meters (300 feet) long with a 5.5 meter (18 foot) draft, as well as 24
first-class berths and an oil harbor that can handle four 57,900-ton tankers of
up to 12-meter (40-foot) draft. Floating cranes, mobile cranes, and numerous
forklifts are available.
The port can handle tankers as well as roll-on/roll-off (RO/RO) and
container cargos. The port has facilities for ship repairs. Khormaksar Airport
is located 8 kilometers (5 miles) from the seaport. Al Hodeidah is located 215
kilometers (133 miles) north of the Bab al Mendeb along the Red Sea coast. It
has an anchorage point of 10 meters (33 feet) deep. The approach to the
anchorage is through a 16.5-kilometer (10-mile) long channel that is 10 meters
(33 feet) deep. The port can handle container, tanker, bulk cargo, and RO/RO
vessels. Hodeidha airport is 7 kilometers (4 miles) from the seaport.
Other Yemeni ports include Al Mukalla, Al Mocha, Nashtoun, and Al Salif.
Both Nashtoun and Al Salif are newly constructed, and the Yemeni government has
high hopes that they will play important roles in the fishing and mineral salt
industries, respectively. Two other ports, Ras Issa and Bir Ali, are becoming
increasingly important to Yemen's economy, since they are primarily involved in
the export of crude oil. Al Hodeidah, Al Mocha, Al Salif, and Ras Issa are
located on the Red Sea, while the others are located on the Arabian Sea.
4. Air: Following unification, Yemen's two national airlines
Yemenia and Alyemda were merged, despite a disagreement between the Saudi
government and the Yemeni government over Saudi Arabia's partial ownership of
Yemenia (the airline of the former YAR). The governments of Saudi Arabia and
Yemen jointly own Yemenia. Fleet details are as follows:
1. Radio Stations: There are five radio broadcast stations: four
AM and one FM. All radio broadcasts are in Arabic. Personal shortwave receiver
is the only way to ensure Voice of America reception.
2. Television Stations: There are 10 TV broadcast stations. All
programs are broadcast in Arabic, with the exception of a 7:30 p.m. news show,
which is broadcast in English.
3. Telephones: The central telephone office is located in Sanaa
opposite the Chinese Embassy. International calls can be made for 150 riyals to
nearly all countries.
4. Newspapers and Magazines: There are more newspapers published
in Yemen than in any other Arab state. The English language Yemen Times, The
Middle East Times, and Arab News are available and widely praised as
an example of the freedom of the press. Time and Newsweek are also
SECTION VI: CULTURE
A. Population Patterns and Divisions
The official population of Yemen is estimated at 17 million people. The bulk
of it is concentrated in the north. Most of Yemen's inhabitants live in rural
areas; only 24 percent of the people live in urban centers. In contrast with the
nomadic traditions of other Arabian Peninsula inhabitants, Yemenis have long
been settled in small agricultural communities.
B. Ethnic/Cultural Divisions
Yemenis are characterized as Semitic, with African ties common, especially in
the Tihama coastal strip. Many Yemenis have close family ties in Ethiopia,
Somalia, and Djibouti. Yemenis are proud of their ancient culture and history,
and regard their distinctive civilization as a unifying force among the many
tribes that make up the population. In spite of this, numerous issues divide the
population and prevent Yemen from emerging from underdevelopment.
1. Regional: Regional differences have caused the greatest rift
among Yemen's population. Deep feelings of mistrust and resentment still exist
between northern and southern Yemenis following the 1994 civil war.
Additionally, the Hawdramaut region in eastern Yemen has long been isolated from
the major power centers of Aden and Sanaa and, consequently, has developed its
own conservative and deeply religious culture. The Tihama region, along Yemen's
northwestern coast, is culturally different from the rest of northern Yemen. The
Tiahma has more ethnic and cultural ties to Africa than to South Arabia,
resulting in a dramatic contrast between the inhabitants of the Tihama and
2. Tribal: Tribal differences also add to the schism within the
population. Northern Yemen is dominated by tribes and tribalism, which many
urban Yemenis (particularly in the south) regard as backwards and primitive. The
tribes have often been in conflict with one another, but more recently have
begun to band together for mutual support against the central government. The
tribes see the government as threatening tribal autonomy as well as traditional
life and values.
Tribes have been a basic element of the social structure of Yemen for
thousands of years, and remain important even today. Tribal affiliation is
especially important for those in the north, which comprises nearly two-thirds
of the population. However, great regional differences exist even within the
tribal community. The different origins of the southern and the northern groups
were of great political importance in the first centuries of the Islamic age,
and have not been forgotten to the present day. In many parts of Yemen, it is
not uncommon to see men from the tribes heavily armed. The tribes rather than
the central government likely own armored cars seen in certain areas. All these
weapons are used in feuds, skirmishes, and tribal conflicts outside the control
of the government in Sanaa.
At its simplest level, the tribe is a political unit based on a
particular region. It has fixed borders, a known number of members at any one
time, and a certain amount of political autonomy with which it interacts with
other tribes and with the central government. Almost all the tribes in Yemen now
lead settled lives. Most subsist on agriculture, planting their fields either
with grain, such as sorghum, millet, wheat or maize, for their own use or with
cash crops, such as coffee, bananas, or grapes, for the market. Some members
earn their living as craftsmen.
One reason why tribal structures have survived so long in Yemen is their
flexibility. Over the last 1,400 years, since the rise of Islam, nations have
arisen and disappeared again. Yemeni tribes were incorporated in these nations,
but remained responsible for the administration of their tribal areas. In those
periods when central authority crumbled and fell apart, tribes ensured the
survival of social order by their traditions and laws.
3. Religious: Religious differences also divide the population.
Northern Yemen is predominantly Zaydi Muslim, a smaller sect of Shia Islam also
called Fivers for their acceptance of only the first five Imams after
Husseins death. Southern Yemen is predominantly Shafai Sunni Muslim. While
religious differences are not openly acknowledged as divisive, the conservative
nature of the Zaydis in the north has caused resentment among many southern
Yemenis, who feel the Zaydis have no right to force their brand of morality on
the south. In the north, the inhabitants of the Tihama region are mainly Sunni
or non-Zaydi Shia, and many women in the region go about unveiled.
C. Yemeni Society
1. Education: A low level of education continues to plague
development of the state; however, the number of students has greatly expanded
in recent years. Primary education begins at age 6 and lasts for 6 years.
Secondary education, beginning at age 12, lasts for another 6 years. As a
proportion of the school-age population, the total enrollment at primary and
secondary schools was 56 percent (85 percent males, 25 percent females). There
is a university in Sanaa and over 20 technical and vocational institutes spread
throughout the country.
2. Recreation: While the current internal security situation may
prohibit U.S. military personnel from engaging in tourist activities, Yemen does
have a rich heritage and offers vast opportunities for travel and exploration.
In the silver markets of Sanaa, antique and old-looking metalwares are sold. The
souq is open daily but is best visited in the morning, when activity peaks, or
between 1800 and 1900. The most imposing sight in Sanaa is the old city,
especially the eastern part. Many of the houses are more than 400 years old and
all are built in the same unique style of 1,000 years ago. The walled city is
one of the largest completely preserved ancient cities in the Arab world. On the
southeastern tip of the walled city, the old citadel stands on a hill. It is
used by the military and may not be entered.
3. Customs and Courtesies
a. Rules of Etiquette:
- It is important to sit properly. Slouching, draping legs over the arm of a
chair, or otherwise sitting carelessly when talking with someone communicates a
lack of respect for that person.
- Legs are never crossed on top of a desk or table when talking with someone.
- When standing in conversation with someone, leaning against a wall or
keeping the hands in pockets is taken as a lack of respect.
- Sitting in a manner that allows the soles of ones shoe to face another
person is a very serious insult.
- One should always sit with both feet on the floor.
- Failure to shake hands when meeting someone or saying good-bye is considered
rude. When a Western man is introduced to an Arab woman, it is the womans
choice whether to shake hands or not; she should be allowed to make the first
- One who lights up a cigarette in a group must be prepared to offer
cigarettes to everyone.
- Men stand when a woman enters the room; everyone stands when new guests
arrive at a social gathering and when an elderly or high-ranking person arrives
- Men allow women to precede them through doorways, and men offer their seats
to women if none are available.
- If guests admire something small and portable, an Arab may insist that it be
taken as a gift. Guests need to be careful about expressing admiration for
small, expensive possessions.
- Gifts are given and accepted with both hands and are not opened in the
presence of the donor.
- When eating with Arabs, especially when taking food from communal dishes,
the left hand is not used. (The left hand is considered unclean.)
- At a restaurant, Arabs will almost always insist on paying, especially if
there are not many people in the party or if it is a business-related occasion.
Giving in graciously after a ritual gesture to pay and then returning the favor
later is an appropriate response.
- People, especially women, should not be photographed without their
- Most Arabs do not like to touch or be in the presence of household animals,
especially dogs. Pets should be kept out of sight when Arab guests are present.
b. Dress Standards: The Koran calls for both women and men to
dress modestly. Foreigners traveling in Muslin (especially Arab Muslim)
countries must be aware of the cultural and religious dress standards expected
of both locals and visiting foreigners. While Yemen is not as restrictive as
Saudi Arabia with regard to acceptable dress standards, it is best to err on the
side of caution. For men, long-sleeve, collared shirts with slacks are the norm.
For women, long dresses that cover the entire leg are advisable. Long-sleeve,
high-neck blouses are also recommended. A woman may carry a scarf or shawl to
quickly cover her head and shoulders, should she find herself in the presence of
more conservative local Arabs. Casual dress at social events, many of which call
for formal dress (suit and tie for men, dress and high heels for women), may be
taken as a lack of respect for the host.
c. Eating/Drinking: Yemeni restaurants are not places of
social interaction. Lunch is the main meal of the day. In lieu of utensils,
fingers of the right hand and a piece of bread are used. Bottled water and soft
drinks are widely available. Never drink water from the standard plastic jugs in
restaurants. Alcohol is banned, but there is a large trade in smuggled liquor.
U.S. personnel are advised to avoid consumption of alcohol due to potential