According to legend, Noah’s Ark was built and launched in the area, and Cain and Abel hung out for a while. Inscriptions dating to the 6th century BC are the first concrete mentions of the town, but it’s clear that it has long served as an ancient trading centre. Since the 10th century Aden has also been one of Yemen’s largest towns, and by the 13th century its inhabitants numbered some 80, 000 people.
Initially serving as the capital of a series of local dynasties, Aden was later taken over by the Ottomans, followed by the British in 1839. After the opening of the Suez Canal in the middle of the 19th century, its strategic importance grew, and it soon numbered among the largest ports in the world and as one of the stars of the British Empire.
Aden served as the capital of the PDRY from 1967 until reunification, when it was declared a free-trade zone. Although badly damaged in the 1994 War of Unity, it made a brief recovery of sorts with the government pouring money into developing and modernising the port. Just as things began to look shipshape, disaster again struck when terrorist groups aligned to Al-Qaeda attacked the US warship the USS Cole and effectively scared away most international shipping.