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Arab people, Gulf of Aden, South Yemen, forgotten land, Arabian Sea

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Yemen, country in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern corner of the Arabian Peninsula (Arabia). Tall mountains divide Yemen’s coastal stretches from a desolate desert interior. Yemen is sparsely populated—half of the country is uninhabitable—and its Arab people are largely rural. The site of several prosperous civilizations in ancient times, Yemen declined in importance and was a poor and forgotten land for more than a thousand years. The discovery of oil in the area in the late 20th century held out the prospect of economic development and an easier life for the people of Yemen.

The Republic of Yemen was created in 1990 out of the unification of the Yemen Arab Republic (YAR) and the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY). The YAR was commonly called North Yemen, and the PDRY was generally referred to as South Yemen, although South Yemen was actually less to the south than to the east and southeast of North Yemen. Sana‘a (Sanaa) is the Republic of Yemen’s capital and largest city.

Yemen is bounded on the west by the Red Sea and on the south by the Gulf of Aden (an arm of the Arabian Sea, which is part of the Indian Ocean), and is separated from Africa by the narrow strait of Bab el Mandeb. To the north and northeast lies Saudi Arabia and to the east is Oman; these two countries are Yemen’s only contiguous neighbors. Yemen covers about 527,970 sq km (about 203,850 sq mi).


For younger readers

Hestler, Anna. Yemen. Marshall Cavendish, 1999. For readers in grades 5 to 9.

Kort, Michael G. The Handbook of the Middle East. 21st Century, 2002. For readers in grades 7 and up.


Burrowes, Robert D. Historical Dictionary of Yemen. Scarecrow, 1995.

Hansen, Eric. Motoring with Mohammad: Journeys to Yemen and the Red Sea. Vintage, 1992. Journal of a traveler from the West.

Mackintosh-Smith, Tim. Yemen: The Unknown Arabia. Overlook, 1999. Award-winning account of the author's travels and experiences in Yemen.

Marechaux, Pascal. Impressions of Yemen. Abbeville, 1997. Photographs of local people and architecture.

Wald, Peter. Yemen. Pallas, 1996. Guidebook with detailed, fascinating historical studies of sites.


Burrowes, Robert D., B.A., M.A., Ph.D. Research Scholar, Middle East Center, Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington. Author of The Yemen Arab Republic: The Politics of Development, 1 962—1 986.

Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation.

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