Yemen. In days past, the sons of Noah knew it as the land of milk and honey, Gilgamesh came here to search for the secret of eternal life, wise men gathered frankincense and myrrh from its mountains and, most famously, a woman known simply as Sheba called it home.
Yet since the book of mythology was closed, Yemen has remained largely locked away in a forgotten corner, oblivious to the world that was oblivious to it.
Sitting at the crossroads of two continents, this country has a little of everything. Its capital, San'a, is not only incredibly romantic and intriguing, but holds the distinction of being the world's oldest city. Meanwhile, the extraordinary island of Suqutra (off the coast of Eastern Yemen) is reputed to hold the secret of eternal life somewhere amongst its unique flora and fauna. The fortified mountain village of Shaharah is tough to get to (probably why it remained unconquered for centuries) but worth making the effort for; if you prefer your travel safer and easier - but equally rewarding - try the lush region of Southern Yemen. Then there's the Wadi Hadramawt oasis where you can't help but get caught up in the mythical magic of it all, and Zabid - Unesco World Heritage site and the hottest city on earth. Need we go on?
To travel in this most traditional of Islamic countries, surrounded by a people whom the Prophet once described as ‘the most gentle-hearted of men’, is an experience you will not quickly forget.
Best places to stay in Yemen
Oman, UAE & Arabian Peninsula - Yemen (Chapter)
Although travelling in Yemen has never come easily, nor in complete safety, it is a deeply romantic and utterly unique place to explore. Assess the security situation before taking the plunge; if it's safe, the rewards of travelling here are...
Destination at a glance: Yemen
Yemen may be the Arabian Peninsula's poor cousin, but therein lies its charm. With none of the oil wealth of its neighbours, the country is like a time capsule to old Arabia...
Yemen destination guides
Travel literature review: A Winter in Arabia
A Winter in Arabia by Freya Stark Rating: 4 out of 5 Reviewed by Dianne Schallmeiner Dianne Schallmeiner is an editor at Lonely Planet. She lived on the Arabian Peninsula for three years and has been coordinating editor on the last two editions of Lonely Planet’s Oman, UAE & the Arabian Peninsula...