Bugwriter Iku enjoying Sana’a, north Yemen
Vacations in Yemen?
Since a confused civil war broke out in early 2015 Yemen is not a safe vacation destination. BBC news report
For up-to-date terrorist/war zone information check the Foreign Office (FO) world travel safety site (Yes, Americans too! )
This is how we saw Yemen when we visited about 15 years ago:
This is an amazing, nearly medieval arab society, complete with well-armed men, veiled women, arid landscapes and extraordinary fortified mud houses. Play the game and the people – like most desert folk – are friendly and hospitable, but don’t tread on their toes.
– Single women can have a tough time; wearing full cover clothing – including headscarf – may help.
– You can’t usually photograph women, unless they discreetly suggest it in exchange for a few riyals.
– There are very limited food and booze options; beer is served in teapots in the best hotel!
– It’s a very dusty environment, so special care is needed for both cameras and lungs.
– Islamic Fundamentalist anti-tourist sentiment is on the rise, with violence.
Best weather: March-May, September, October
Worst: November-January (cold & dusty)
During Ramadan many if not most Muslims will neither eat nor drink during the daytime and consequently many cafes, restaurants and even shops will open only after sunset; public eating, drinking and smoking by tourists may upset the locals. In one Muslim country the only alcohol served to us during our visit was from a teapot into tea cups in a first class hotel.
Furthermore service personnel may be missing, careless or irritable during the daytime.
The last day of Ramadan, known as Idd al Fitr, can be a wild time with much celebrating, depending on location.
Dates depend on the full moon rising in your location so they may differ by one day depending on where you plan to be.
In 2017 Ramadan will start on the 27 May and will continue for 30 days until the 25 of June.
In 2018 Ramadan will start on the 16 May and will continue for 30 days until the 14 of June.
In 2019 Ramadan will start on the 6 May and will continue for 30 days until the 4 of June.
Length of stay
Minimum worthwhile stay, not incl. flights: 5 days for a look at Sana’a and a taxi/4WD trip around nearish villages.
Recommended: 7-10 days for a more thorough look including a trip down south to Wadi Hadramaut.
*** Sana’aalone is worth a trip, a magical trip back in time with staggering sights galore, 400 year old tall mud fortified houses with lovely whitewashed features. Aladdin could be filmed here without changing anything.
*** Medieval fortified villages like Wadi Dhar (incl. Palace), Thulla, Shibam, Huth, At-Tawila. Take a taxi.
Longer trips by 4×4 are rough but rewarding, such as Sa’da and especially Suq al Inan, though recently these areas have seen a spate of tourist kidnappings.
*** Wadi Hadramaut‘Manhattan in the Desert’ (also known as Shibam) in South Yemen is stunning, a photographic dream, if you can afford the time to drive or the plane fare.
Aden in South Yemen is a tatty, hideous, ex-Stalin apartment block mess, don’t bother withit, though there are some good beach apartments.
Ma’rib (Sheba) is barely worth the trip too, a long way to see a couple of pillars sticking out of the sand.
Trekking: There are lots of walk possibilities but none out of town will be properly marked. Also bear in mind that it will be very hot and dusty so you’ll have to carry plenty of water.
Some popular routes are Beni Husheich and Wadi Mahdi.
Drugs: Chewing coca-like qat with the locals will give you an interesting buzz and will encourage rapid, incomprehensible communication.
The local currency is the riyal and it’s best to bring cash to exchange. Dollars or European currencies are equally good.
ATMs are rare and malfunction anyway, so credit cards and cheques can be difficult to use in Yemen.
Tipping is unnecessary, though do carefully negotiate taxi charges beforehand, especially if it’s a long trip. e. g out of Sana’a.