Local traditions and culture in Yemen

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Most Viewed Local Customs in Yemen

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    Anti-polio campaign

    by hydronetta Written Feb 26, 2007

    In a country like Yemen it's not obvious that all children are vaccinated properly. Therefore the gornment runs campaign about the necessity of certain vaccinations lie polio. Posters like this were found all over the country.

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    Tips for women travelling alone

    by JohnniOmani Written Jan 19, 2007

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    Yemen is extremely conservative and you will rarely see a woman showing her whole face even in Sana'a. Most of the women wear the full gear similar to the rest of the Gulf (Saudi style) so you should be aware that women should not wear shorts or t shirts and respect the culture. To avoid any unwanted attention there are numerous things women can do to adjust to the local culture. First, wear a wedding ring, it will inform people that you are not available. If you are travelling with a boyfriend tell people that you are married. Always tell people you are travelling in a group because if they find out you are alone they may give you some hassle. Avoid direct eye contact with local men and sunglasses are brilliant. Keep to yourself in huge groups to avoid being touched. Dont sit in the front of the taxi unless the woman is the driver and on public transport, sit next to women if possible. If you require assistance, ask women first. Ask to be seated in the family areas when eating in restaurants and if you need to get rid of any men following you or harrassing you then go to the nearest hotel lobby.

    women in Sana'a so imagine outside the cities

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    Quat

    by MichaelFalk1969 Written Jan 11, 2007

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    Quat is a plant whose leaves have a mildly intoxicating effect when chewed. The Yemenis are very fond of quat as you can easily see: Anybody looking like a chipmunk is chewing quat, stuffing his mouth with large quantities of leaves.

    Quat is both a blessing and a curse for the Yemen: On the one hand, it is a steady source of income for local farmers; the immigration from the land into the cities is less than in other third world - countries; therefore, no slums. On the other hand, quat eats up the scarce water and land resources that could be used for agriculture, and the productivity drops to zero in the quat-chewing-hours.

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    Female Travellers

    by MichaelFalk1969 Written Jan 11, 2007

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    The Yemenis are rather conservative in their view of women - you won`t see many unveiled Yemeni women on the city streets. As a western female traveler, you will therefore automatically stand out. People will probably stare at you because you are an unusual sight, but harrassment, flirting etc. are highly unlikely.

    It is not necessary to imitate the local women`s traditional dress and put on a veil (as some tourists do), but I recommend "decent" clothing, meaning long, wide trousers, long-sleeved shirts covering the arms. It`s their country and their custom, so show a little respect.

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    Some points for discussion

    by dutchwindmill Written Jan 3, 2007

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    1) I don't believe a majority of Yemenis is overly shocked or concerned at the way some visitors dress. They wouldn't allow their female relatives to dress like that, obviously, but there is a general acceptance of the fact that people fom other cultures have different customs. That's not to say I'd encourage women (or men) to wear just anything they feel like (or for example to drink alcohol in the streets) - just to say one shouldn't get too uptight about it.
    2) Yemenis are actually thrilled when foreigners try on their national dress, whether men or women. They don't feel ridiculed, I have noticed. A lady friend visiting the Old City of Sana'a was greeted with enthusiasm, even though somehow immediately noticed that she wasn't Yemeni despite being completely covered, niqaab and all.
    3) Then again, I don't agree that as a foreign woman wearing the veil (niqaab) is a sign of respect. A few decades ago wearing the niqaab was not uncommon, but wearing only a head scarf was not uncommon either. Today hardly any Yemeni woman feels free not to wear it, in large part due to wahabist influence from the Kingdom to the North. In the South, especially in Aden, it was quite common for women not to cover up, but since the unification (we're talking recent history here and not "time-honored traditions"!) this liberty has been pretty much stamped out. Sure, many Yemeni women will say they feel more comfortable wearing a (nylon) veil (at temperature of upto 45 degrees celsius in the shade or in the sea at Aden beaches), but for negative reasons: they (and their relatives) get sneers if they don't; some may believe it is what the Prophet wanted. But if given totally free choice, they would burn 'em - watch how many Yemeni women take it off as soon as they board an outward-bound plane. (This is the Internet, but in real life I only have discussions like this with Yemenis that I know well.)

    Deeply religious - my guide and my police escort
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    What NOT to wear

    by JohnniOmani Updated Dec 28, 2006

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    Most travellers take the necessary steps to make sure they have a great trip but one of my pet peeves is the dress code situation. There is nothing I hate more than being in a conservative country and seeing people be very disrespectful with regards to the dress code. I understand that many people dont agree with the dress code situation in the Middle East but that doesnt mean you should be walking around like you are about to go to a beach. You should either research before you arrive or take hints from the locals. You will def lose respect among the locals and attract unwanted attention. If you have a major problem with the dress code then stay at home please. Yemen is very very conservative country. Please respect the culture and cover up.

    Does she know where she is?

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    Visiting Mosques

    by JohnniOmani Written Sep 13, 2006

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    Most countries in the Middle East allow foreigners to visit mosques with the exceptions of Saudi Arabia (good luck trying to enter as a tourist anyway) Kuwait and Yemen. Most local Yemenis will let you know anyway if there is not sign but knowing that you are not allowed will save you the hassle of being growled at in the future.

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    Dressing like locals

    by JohnniOmani Updated Sep 13, 2006

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    Most places in the ME have a unique dress code and more often than not the locals dont mind someone trying to adapt but some foreigners buy some local clothes to fit in with their surroundings. Yemen is different in that most locals are offended by people trying to dress like them because being a poor country they feel as though foreign travellers are making fun of them. Good to know so that you dont make a bad first impression.

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    Qat: the precious

    by hydronetta Updated Feb 18, 2006

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    Qat or officially Catha edulis seemed to me as the national plant of Yemen. Large areas mainly in the highlands are used to cultivate only qat (see aditional photo).
    Qat has amphetamine action and serves a stimulant. It is a long tradition in Yemen, though the plant was initially imported some hundred years ago from Ethiopia. It is an important social activity as men can spend up to 6 hours in the afternoon chewing it, lying or walking in the streets having their cheek swollen with qat. Qat is chewed for hours in order to release its potent stimulant. Nevertheless it is a great problem for:
    -health: long term side effects due also to the insecticides which many don’t even bother to wash out
    -economic: a regular consumer needs 5$ per day for good quality qat, (150$ per month!!)
    -and social: it’s addiction!!
    It is really big business as the majority of men population chew it. That’s why qat plantations are guarded from watchtowers by armed owners.
    How does it taste? I failed from the very first moment to find any pleasure in chewing it: fresh leafs leaving a bitter taste...
    Very interesting to see are the overcrowded qat markets found in almost every city or village on the roadsides (see additional photo)

    qat plant qat plantantions qat market

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    The Veil

    by YankeeGal Written Jan 11, 2006

    Ladies- the veil is not to be feared or shunned. Beneath the veil is a way of life few western women ever experiance- though I've found most of them have an opinion about it... I would recommend wearing the head gear to any female setting foot in the country. It's not so bad, really. It is a show of respect to your hosts if nothing else.

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    QAT!!

    by Mcclovis Written Sep 3, 2005

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    I resisted chewing qat as much as I could but after a month curiosity took the better of me and I relented. Whatever the Yemenis say, qat is a drug. And it is found everywhere.

    To chew or not to chew is up to you. I chewed only once. I was with a group of Yemeni friends sitting comfortably in a mafrag; listening to songs and religious readings; smoking sheesha; sipping water; inhaling incense and perfume and chatting or just relaxing.

    I only chewed two handfuls of best quality qat (red tinged young leaves). The taste at first was horribly bitter but later I found myself popping qat in my mouth without thinking. The men around me all had bulging cheeks and a rather glazed look. I tried very hard not to swallow any but was not totally successful. I lost count of the time and I forgot that I had not eaten that evening. The effect on me was slow in coming but rather impressive. It did make me feel good but I will never try it again.

    I do not know how people drive and chew qat. Qat interferes with one's power of judgement. For example I had to force myself to look right and left before crossing the street because I felt the other cars would stop because I was there!

    Qat is also reputed to have aphrodisiac properties but it is more likely that it depends more on what you are thinking. Qat simply makes you feel you can be and do whatever you want.

    Since I chewed a very small quantity, the effect wore off in a few hours. The company you are with and the place are all important factors to enjoy qat to the fullest.

    Qat leaves

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    HOW TO DO?/COMPORTEMENT/COME FARE?

    by grazy56 Updated Aug 20, 2005

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    If you are invited in a house just be ready to eat in the same plate with RIGHT hand, just have a look to the other people before to start and do like them
    o Take out your shoes anytime you enter in a house, or a mosque
    o Do not insist if you can't go inside a mosque or another monument
    o Forget your motion of the time and so follow their rhythm which can be really slow
    o the men can't have opportunities to see women but the women can have many opportunities to enter in houses as even inside only women.
    o NEVER drink alcohol outside as it's a sign of no respect

    Si vous êtes invités à partager un repas s'adapter à manger sans couverts mais en utilisant la main DROITE, conseil: observez les autres convives…
    o Se déchausser avant de pénétrer dans une maison particulière ou une mosquée
    o Ne pas insister si l'acces à une mosquée, momument… vous est interdit
    o Oublier votre propre notion du temps pour vous adapter a la leur, par exemple si vous êtes invités à une qat party vous devrez vous plier à la lenteur da rituel…
    o L'homme seul ne peut accéder au monde des femmes mais les femmes seront mieux acéptées et pourront rentrer dans les maisons qu'il y ait à l'intérieur que des femmes ou que soit présent le mari avec enfants.
    o JAMAIS boire de l'alcool en public car soocié à une grave provocation

    se siete invitati a dividere il pasto adattatevi a mangiare senza gli utensili occidentali: usare la mano DESTRA e osservate i commensali…
    o toglietevi le scarpe per entrare in una casa, o in una moschea
    o non insistere se l'accesso a una moschea, un monumento o altro sito vi è proibito
    o dimenticate la vostra nozione del tempo per adattarvi alla loro, ad esempio se siete invitati a una qat party dovrete accettare la lentezze del rituale…
    o l'uomo solo non può accedere al mondo delle donne ma le donne saranno acettate facilmemte e potranno entrare nelle case che ci sia solo donne, o che sia presente il marito e prole.
    o MAI bere alcool in un luogo pubblico, è assimilato a una grave provocazione

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    TRADIZIONI

    by grazy56 Updated Aug 20, 2005

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    LE DONNE: è la frustrazione e il punto interrogativo del visitatore occidentale. Se rimane invisibile per il turista maschio per noi donne la possibilità di avvicinarle rimane possibile. Non esitate a fermarvi quando vedete un gruppo di donne lavorare nei campi, a fare la spesa… sono tanto quanto interessate di voi a scoprire tutto quello che è diverso. Se avrete la fortuna di essere invitato da Ali a casa sua, sicuramente le amiche di sua moglie verranno a trovarvi e solo davanti a voi donne si toglieranno il velo: sorprese assicurate

    DJAMBLIA E KALACHNIKOV: la djamblia è l'accessorio principale del vestito tradizionale maschile al quale è pure dedicato una danza affascinante da vedere. Simbolo d'iniziazione segna il passaggio dall'infanzia al mondo adulto e ha ancora una funzione precisa nella società, ad esempio può essere tolta al suo proprietario se ha commesso un reato, in segno di buona fede il contendente la deposita al pretore. La djamblia segna la posizione nella comunità e conferisce prestigio a chi la porta; viene abbellita seconda le possibilità del proprietario e l'ascenzione nella scala sociale. Ora la djamblia deve lasciare un po di spazio nel cuore dei yemeniti al kalachniskov e non è raro vedere gente armata sino ai denti: si parla di oltre 60 milioni di armi in circolazione per 18 milioni di abitanti

    IL QAT: legato come l'architettura all'immagine dello Yemen! Stimolante vicino alle anfetamine, il 50 al 90% degli uomini e il 30 al 50% delle donne oltre i 18 anni ne fanno uso come pure 15% dei bambini sotto i 12. Il fenomeno è tale che il governo avrà serie difficoltà per lottare contro questa droga, si era parlato di proibirne la vendita ma era senza immaginare la levata di scudi degli abitanti anche perché la sua limitazione potrebbe provocare una povertà nelle persone che vivono direttamente o indirettamente della piccola foglia verde.

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    TRADITIONS

    by grazy56 Updated Aug 20, 2005

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    LES FEMMES: c'est le grand point d'interogation et de "frustation" pour le visiteur occidental. "Invisible" pour le masculin mais pas pour nous les femmes, ausi n'hésitez pas à vous arretez lorsque vous renconterez un groupe de femmes allant travailler aux champs ou allez faire des courses… elles sont autant interéssées que vous à découvrir l'inconnu et les us et coutumes de l'étranger. Si vous avez la chance d'être invité chez Ali, les amies de sa femme viendront vous voir et seulement devant vous les femmes elles se dévoileront: surprises assurées…

    DJAMBLIA & KALACHNIKOV: la djamblia est l'accesoire principal de la tenue yéménite à laquelle est aussi dédiée une danse. Symbole initiatique, elle marque le passage à l'âge adulte et elle a encore une fonction pécise dans la société: par ex elle peut être confisquée si on commet un méfait, elle peut être déposée en cas de litige pour preuve de bonne foi. La djamblia détermine encore la position sociale et confère prestige a celui qui la porte: elle sera embéllie selon les possibilités de son propietaire et son ascension sociale. Maintenant la djamblia doit ceder un peu de place dans le coeur des yéménites: le kalachnikov et il n'est pas rare de voir des gens armés jusqu'au dent, on parle de plus de six millions d'armes en circulation pour 18 millions d'ahabitants

    LE QAT: aussi lié à l'image du Yemen que son architecture! Stimulant proche des amphétamines consonné par le 50% à 90% des hommes et par le 30% à 50% des femmes de plus de 18 ans, ainsi que par le 15% d'enfants de moins de 12 ans. L'ampleur da phémomène est telle que le gouvernement a et aura beaucoup de mal à lutter contre la "passion verte". Il était bien question d'en interdire la vente dans les marchés des villes, mais c'était compter sans le tollé des habitants suite à l'annonce gouvernementale. D'autant que limiter la vente risque d'engendrer une plus grande pauvreté chez les personnes qui vivent directement ou indirectement de la petite feuille verte

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    TRADITION

    by grazy56 Updated Aug 20, 2005

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    WOMEN: they are visible for the men but for us women you will have contact with them so don't be afraid to stop when you meet a group of women going on work on the fields or going downtown… they are as much interested as you to discuss with you and understand how you live. If you have the opportunity to be invited by your driver Ali, his wife's friends will come to visit you and will take of their veils and surely you will live wonderful moments with them

    DJAMBLIA AND KALACHNIKOV: the djamblia is the most important thing on the traditional Yemenite clothe, also a dance is consecrated to this dagger. The djamblia is the symbol of the passage to the adult life and it has still a special place on the Yemenite society: if you do a misdeed the police will take it time you pay for your fault. The djamblia sign the social position on the Yemenite society and give prestige to one who wear it: the djamblia will be decorated according the possibilities of the owner and his social ascension. Now the djamblia must leave some place on the heart of Yemenite people to the kahchnikov and so often you will meet people with arms going everywhere, Police thinks there are 6 millions of arms for 18 millions of habitants!

    QAT: when you means Yemen you means also qat! It's a mild drug who is used by 50 to 90% of the Yemenite men and by 30 to 50% of the women, also more than 15% of children used this drug. For the government it's really hard and difficult to fight this problem also because forbidden to grow qat means many people without work.

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Yemen Local Customs

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