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Introducing Al-Khawkha

Touted with pride by Yemenis, Al-Khawkha was once an important coffee-exporting port, but today it’s Yemen’s answer to the Maldives. Well, that’s what the tourist board like to think anyway. In reality, it’s not a fully fledged beach destination but rather a simple place that offers a relaxing evening after exploring Zabid and the Friday market at Beit al-Faqih.

MokaMarineVillage (362770; mokatours@hotmail.com; s/d YR3000/4000) is the best of the beach ‘resorts’ by far. Lying on the seafront around 1.5km off the Al-Khawkha– Hays road, the ‘village’ consists of 10 bungalows, each with a bathroom and two double bedrooms (making them perfect for bickering couples), which are lovingly maintained and set in a pink-and-green garden. The reception area has old granny sofas to lounge about on and the restaurant has a delicious menu of fresh fish (dinner YR1000). In fact, it’d be a perfect place to have a real beach holiday, but for the fact it’s missing an essential element: a beach. Instead of soft white sand and clear blue seas you’ll find a vast tidal mudflat – excellent for birding but not so good for swimming. Book ahead.

A kilometre or so north, El Khoka Tourism Village (362779; fax 362780; s/d YR3000/3500, with breakfast & dinner YR1800/3600) is definitely the poor relation. It has the air of a ’50s Butlins Holiday Camp and the paper-thin walls provide no real privacy. One huge plus is that it almost, and only almost, has a beach where you can swim – though even this involves striding 100m over rocks and mudflats.

In both of these camps snorkelling equipment costs YR1500 per hour, for which you also get a boat ride out to an offshore reef and island. In the past it used to be possible to head out on diving trips to the Hanish Islands by boat, but sadly the government has recently put a halt to such fun and games due to an ongoing dispute with Eritrea over ownership.