Key Country Facts
Dar al-Hajar in Sana’a, Socotra Island, Qalansiyah Beach
Top exports are petroleum gas, crude petroleum, refined petroleum, non-filet fresh fish, and cars.
Located in the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen has a beautiful coastline that stretches about 1200 miles up toward Oman and toward Saudia Arabia & the Red Sea. I traveled overland from Salalah, Oman to Hauf, Yemen, a non-descript village of a few thousand people, offering tourists little to see other than a beautiful coastline. The highlight for tourists is a promontory where the locals go to view the sunset and chew gat. Other than a few convenience stores and a fish stand, there’s little going on here. Remnants of the typhoon that whalloped the coast in 2018 still loom over the city.
I visited Yemen on a very special day in this devoutly Muslim country; on the beginning of Ramadan.
Here’s some more information about Ramadan:
Before calendars were invented, time was regulated by the phases of the moon, where the sighting of a new moon brought a new month.
And while that lunar calendar is 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar (you know the Jan-Dec calendar), Ramadan is essentially the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and Muslims believe this was the month that the Koran was revealed to Prophet Mohammed.
So, for 1.8 billion Muslims across the world, Ramadan is a month of complete fasting. No food, no water, no nothing – not even swallowing pills is allowed from sun up to sun down. Oh, and no intimacy is permitted either. All of this denial is to bring worshipers closer to God.
During Ramadan, families typically get up and have a big meal together at 4:30am or and then do their first of five prayers, some go to work, many don’t, and then at sunset people break their fast.
This is one of the five pillars of Islam.
- The declaration of faith,
- Providing charity
- Pilgrimage to Mecca or Medina
- And, fasting during Ramadan
This was special homecoming for me visiting Oman. The last time I was here was 19 years ago … and I vividly remember my time here. Why? I was with my dad, the best traveling partner ever, and I got a call from my wife who broke the news that she was pregnant, with our son Kenan. A couple days later I chose not to go to the Maldives instead returning to the States to celebrate with her!
The capital is Sana’a and the country’s population is about 26 million. The official language is Arabic and the dominant religion is Islam, split between Sunni and Shia Muslims. The time zone is 7 hours ahead of EST.
For those who do travel to Yemen, a must-see place is Dar al-Hajar in Sana’a, a stone palace built on top of a naturally forming rock spire. A guided tour can take visitors up the steps and inside the palace to see spectacular views of the city. Sana’a itself is filled with ancient buildings telling rich histories about the lives that unfolded here. Before violent conflicts destroyed some of the architecture of this town, the area appeared to be out of a fairytale for having such well-preserved buildings built so long ago. Houses resemble gingerbread houses for their beige colors and frosted white trimmings around the doors, roofs, and windows.
What used to be an absolutely incredible, once-in-a-lifetime place to visit, was the beautiful and bizarre Socotra Island. The war has transformed this island once filled with old cottage homes and inviting blue waters, with caves and scenic valleys to a wasteland. I hope Socotra recovers after the war and that the beautiful wildlife and refreshing waters on Qalansiyah Beach are restored.