Yemen: Why does a cloud of fear hang over this country?

Tourism thrived in Yemen till the 20th century, but the tourist footfall dipped drastically after the Yemeni crisis of 2011. Photo: iStock/ugurhan

Yemen is not the quintessential tourism destination as it is riddled with internal conflict and terrorist attacks. The fallout of the long-drawn civil war in this West Asian country is that basic facilities and services are quite limited. Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis are in dire straits as they are facing acute food security and malnutrition. So, quite obviously, the chances of Yemen figuring in the itineraries of travellers are very remote. The tourists will always be on the edge while travelling in Yemen.

But Yemen is a nation endowed with natural beauty and spots that open a window or two to its rich historical past. The country was a bustling tourist center for centuries due to its strategic location as it was in the middle of the trade routes connecting West Asia with Africa. Tourism thrived in Yemen till the 20th century, but the tourist footfall dipped drastically after the Yemeni crisis of 2011. Terrorism and related problems have cast a shadow of fear over the minds of tourists from across the world. Though there is no assurance n personal security and safety, the country is replete with breathtaking views and incredible experiences that can bowl over any traveller.

Confluence of scenic beauty and history
Yemen is a country that has huge potential in tourism. The country boasts four World Heritage Sites like the historical city of Zabid, the old city of Sana’a, the old walled city of Shibam and the Socotra archipelago. The other places of interest include the archaeological site of Marib, the historic cities of Saada and Thula, the Madrasa Amiriya of Rada, Jibla and its surroundings, Jabal Bura, Jabal Haraz, the coastal region of Balhaf/Burum and the coastal area of Sharma/Jethmun.

The World Heritage Site of Socotra Islands has a unique diversity with distinct flora and fauna that could not be found anywhere. The umbrella-like Dragon Blood Trees and the strange and intricate rock formations are attracting nature lovers in droves. The dam situated in the heart of the capital city of Sana’a reflects the ingenuity of the ancient and traditional engineering of Yemen. Groundwater has been the main source of water for Yemen from the 9th century.

Another attraction is the pristine Shoab Beach, which is popular for water sports, on the shores of the Red Sea. The exquisite Dar al-Hajar stone palace built on the top of a huge rock in the Wadi Dhar valley is a perfect example of the architectural excellence of Yemen. The Al-Mihdar masjid, which is known for its eye-catching minarets and complex Islamic architectural planning, is a prominent religious spot. The Al-Saleh masjid in Sana’a with amazing geometric patterns is a masterpiece of modern architecture. The beautiful and tall minarets and the expansive foregrounds will take visitors to the world of Arabic folklore. The rough and tough rock formations, deep canyons and meandering cascades make Wadi Dilhur Canyon the happening place for adventure seekers.

The Di Hamri Marine Conservation Area on Socotra Island is admired for the diverse biodiversity of the Arabian Sea. The region, which is flush with colourful corals, dolphins and sea turtles, among others, provides ample opportunities for eco-tourism and ocean-centric adventures. The Rada’a castle, which was built by the Tahirids dynasty in the 16th century, is an age-old Islamic citadel situated in the town of Rada’a. The impressive fort is an imprint of the historic military architecture of Yemen. The Scand Peak with its challenging hiking paths and wonderful views is a perfect destination for trekkers. The other points of interest in Yemen include Al-Qahira castle and the Ayhaft Canyon National Park.

Follow travel advice diligently
Various countries have issued travel advice and advisories to people visiting Yemen. The advisories include points relating to safety, local laws, terrorism, ongoing armed conflict, customs and practices. The UK asks its citizens to respect Islamic customs, dress properly and avoid consumption of liquor, especially in the holy month of Ramadan. The majority of countries advise their citizens not to travel to Yemen because of the volatile situation prevailing in the nation. They also sound a warning on the possibility of terrorist attacks on tourist centers and foreign tourists being kidnapped.

Yemeni visa
The citizens of Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Hong Kong and member countries of the Gulf Co-operation Council can travel to Yemen without a visa. Indians need a visa to visit Yemen. People with tourist and business visas don’t need an exit visa before embarking on a journey to Yemen. Travellers staying in Yemen for more than two weeks should register themselves at the nearest police station otherwise they would have to pay a penalty of 5,000 YR while leaving the country.  

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