Yemen Local Customs

  • Hearthy attitude will open doors for you.
    Hearthy attitude will open doors for...
    by BohdanaR
  • Kids like to shake hands with tourists
    Kids like to shake hands with tourists
    by BohdanaR
  • Wheelbarrow of Mud, Hadramaut
    Wheelbarrow of Mud, Hadramaut
    by janiebaxter

Yemen Local Customs

  • Photography of Muslim Women

    Photography of Muslim women is generally considered offensive, and anyone caught taking pictures may face the wrath of their male relations, or may have to answer to the police. Therefore, anyone wanting to take pictures of women in their abayas should do so discretely and from a distance.Most female citizens of Yemen are Muslim, and therefore...

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  • QAT GOT YOUR TONGUE ?

    QAT (pronounced Kat) is the very soul of Yemen. It is not just leaves which are chewed on; it is the way of life, friendship culture and conversation. At first glance it looks like long green leaves stuffed in huge amounts into the mouth and bulging to one side. It was not until I was asked by the receptionist at my hotel to go to the market with...

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  • Agricultural Terraces

    The mountain region of Yemen consists of steep, rugged mountains with little level land useful for agricultural purposes. To solve the problem, Yemeni farmers have been constructing agricultural terraces for centuries. Similar agricultural terraces have been built by peoples as far away as Peru and Southeast Asia, including the Philippines and...

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  • The Jambia

    The jambia is a traditional curved dagger worn at the waist by Yemeni men. (The jambia pictured here can best be seen by enlarging the picture). Archeological evidence suggests that jambias originated in about 500 B.C. The jambia is worn with the tip of the blade pointed toward the side, which is jamb in Arabic, hence the origin of the name....

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  • Chewing the Qat

    Yemen, especially in the north, is as much in the grip of this leaf as Western culture is in thrall to alcohol. Consuming it is a daily ritual if you can afford it: and its cultivation and distribution account for a large proportion of the country's economy. The qat plantations are readily recognisable: not only the distictive, slightly reddish,...

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  • Guns: just say 'NO'

    I only saw a handful of men carrying AK47s. Instead at every police checkpoint you see this remarkable sign: a representation of a Kalashnikov in the barred circle meaning 'No whatevers'. (My reasons for only including this photo of the sign on a bottle of water are obvious. I didn't get a single snap of any of the friendly but tedious police...

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  • TOURRAH! TOURRAH!

    The first time I heard this being shouted at me I thought it was the Arabic word for Tourist. Not too hard to figure out who the visitor was around here. About the 3rd time this happened a small boy started shouting towards me and then he made the hand gesture of a camera taking a photograph. Mystery solved, somewhat. I took out my camera, a pose...

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  • my birth place says ...

    be rude!!be pushy shove shout wateverother wise u wil be ignored men donot aproach women for anything women pls dont smile too much at the guys u wil be followed like forevertry to find some resident indians shud be alot of help

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  • General Graffiti

    Many towns and villages, as well as the countryside have graffiti on the walls. As well as the political symbols there is writing in many colours. I have no idea what is written, it is all in Arabic. In some of the older highland towns like Ibb, for example, this graffiti spoils some very old buildings and should be cleaned off I think.

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  • Myrrh

    Yemen is famous for its ancient Frankincense route but Myrrh was also widely used in ancient times and was grown in the same areas as Frankincense. The Queen of Sheba was said to have visited King Solomon taking gifts of Frankincense and Myrrh.Myrrh was even more expensive than Frankincense - 36 times the value of gold!It is harvested from the...

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  • Frankincense

    In pre-christian times Frankincense was 12 times more expensive than gold and was used in all the ancient ceremonies and rituals – burials, marriages, and births as well as in the home for freshening the air, and aiding sleep. In Roman times the cost of one pound in weight of Frankincense was more than 2 weeks salary and added to that was the cost...

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  • Alcohol

    Alcohol is very difficult to obtain as a tourist in Yemen, however you can legally bring it into the country with you. But you must drink it in private and never in a public place. Some of the hotels claimed to have beer, but it was non-alcoholic.The only place I found that serves alcohol is the Movenpick hotel in Sana’a which has a bar stocked...

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  • The Jambiya (Dagger)

    The Jambiya is a curved dagger worn by all men in Yemen. Historically The Jambiya’a has been a tradition in Yemen for over 1400 years and symbolises honour, fashion, tradition, family and wealth. When a boy reaches the age of around 14 his father will either pass his Jambiya on to his son if he is the eldest or buy him one. But the Jambiya is the...

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  • The Kalashnikov - an Essential Accessory

    Most men in Yemen own a kalashnikov rifle, as well as a Jambiya, and it is quite normal to see men strolling around with their kalashnikov slung over their shoulder like a fashion accessory. The man in the picture was walking through the main square in Sana'a.At first it is a little worrying, as we are so unused to this in England and if we saw...

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  • Taking photographs of women

    Women in Yemen do not like tourists taking photographs of them. The men are generally OK at being photographed, but they are very protective of the women and if they see you photographing women they think that you are invading their privacy andyou will get a good telling off, a finger waved at you or even abuse shouted at you. This varies from area...

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  • The Southern Arabian Language

    The Southern Arabian language dates from Sabaean times (Queen of Sheba) and had 29 letters, all in upper case. Lower case letters did not appear until the 9th century when books began to be copied and faster writing was required. The Southern Arabian language was translated by two German scholars in the 1840's and was shown to be quite closely...

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  • Some Facts about Yemen Today

    After being split into North Yemen and South Yemen in the 1960's The country was re-unified by the current president in 1990, but political borders were not established until 1992 with Oman and 1994 with Saudi Arabia.Here are a few facts about Yemen today:The population is around 22 million.Literacy is 58% with English widely spoken, mostly in...

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  • The Qat Culture

    Qat is an important part of Yemeni culture. As you walk around the suqs and towns you will notice many men with a large bulge in their cheek as they chew their qat and you can’t miss it being sold in the markets or growing on the terraces of the mountains. It is a stimulant similar to "speed" & opinion is divided as to whether it is harmful or not....

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  • Tea not Coffee

    The sweet tea, called shai, is available everywhere and is quite refreshing when you get used to it. Most places put sugar in when it is served but if you are fast enough you can ask them not to sugar it.Coffee is a different matter. I didn’t get a decent cup of coffee all the time I was there. And this is the country where the name Mocha...

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  • The Wheelbarrow

    The wheel barrow is an essentail part of Yemeni life.It takes a while before you notice this, but soon you start to realise just how many uses the wheelbarrow has in everyday life. It is used to sell produce from at the markets and the roadside, to transport fruit, qat, fish, children, tourist souvenirs, mud for making bricks and numerous other...

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  • Political Graffiti

    Political Graffiti adorns many mountains, house walls, and other buildings where there is a suitable flat surface.The Horse is the symbol of the current presidents party and the Half Sun is the Islamic fundamentalist party. The symbols are often seen together on a wall but usually in different colours. I was told the reason for this is that one...

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  • Mountaintop Villages

    Yemen is divided into five natural topograhic regions: mountains, highlands, desert, coast, and offshore islands. Much of the central region of Yemen is mountainous, ranging between 3,280 feet (1,000 meters) and 12,336 feet (3,760 meters) in elevation, and consisting of steep, rugged mountain ranges with fertile wadis between them.Much of the...

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  • Invitations

    Especially when you are hiking cross-country, people from small villages will invite you to their house to eat, drink tea or chew quat leaves (the local drug). Even if they don`t speak your language they will indicate the invitation by moving their fingers to their mouth. They do mean it - it is not just politeness. If you don`t want to accept the...

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  • Prayer time

    Most Yemeni's are devout Muslims which requires them to pray up t 5 times a day. While most guides or drivers may skip this for you since are paying them for their services but I tried to make it a point of asking them if they wanted to go to the mosque during my adventures. At the vary least it gives you 15-20 min to rest and recount the days...

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  • Street Markets

    Despite being a desert country, Yemen has some fertile areas, especially wadis, in which most of the country's food is grown. Common crops grown in the country include bananas, mangoes, oranges and other citrus fruits, papayas, pomegranates, dates, figs, coffee beans, all sorts of vegetables, and several varieties of cereal. Most Yemenis do not...

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  • Islam

    Islam was brought to Yemen in 630 A.D. by Ali ibn Abu Talib, and it was during this period that several notable mosques were built in the country, including the Great Mosque in Sana'a. Islam is the official religion of Yemen, although the constitution guarantees freedom of religion and allows practitioners of other religions to worship freely....

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  • Sura sura!

    More than anywhere I've visited, as a tourist carrying a camera you will attract hordes of children wanting you to take their picture ('Sura' is Arabic for photo). All they want is to look at the picture on the screen of the camera and provided that you don't start a riot because more and more children wanting their picture taken start appearing...

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  • THE FLAG

    The Yemeni flag is based upon tricolour flags of the former North and South divisions of the country before unification. The Red, white and black are all Pan-Arab colours symbolizing Arab unity. It was officially adopted on May 22, 1990.

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  • ALCOHOL IS LEGAL

    If you are a drinker, you will be happy with this fact. The Yemeni Customs Allowances are that non- Muslim visitors may import alcohol for their own use. The other astounding fact is – there is no limit to how much you can bring in as long as it is for personal use. You are advised, of course, not to drink in public areas. Sounds like a good...

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  • Misunderstandings

    First some misunderstandings:1) "There is no limit on the importation of alcohol." Yes there is. Of course there is. This is a very traditional muslim country. Even though it's not mentioned on the big notice board in the luggage hall at Sana'a International Airport, nor on the website of the Yemen Tourist Board you are NOT allowed to bring in...

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  • Anti-polio campaign

    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

    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...

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  • Quat

    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...

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  • Female Travellers

    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...

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  • Some points for discussion

    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...

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  • What NOT to wear

    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...

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  • Visiting Mosques

    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

    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...

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  • Qat: the precious

    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...

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  • The Veil

    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!!

    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;...

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  • HOW TO DO?/COMPORTEMENT/COME FARE?

    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 themo 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 monumento Forget your motion of the time and so follow their rhythm...

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  • TRADIZIONI

    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...

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  • TRADITIONS

    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...

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  • TRADITION

    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...

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Yemen Local Customs

Reviews and photos of Yemen local customs posted by real travelers and locals. The best tips for Yemen sightseeing.
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