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Yemen Culture and Traditions

Customs and traditions

Yemen is a conservative country. The family is extremely important and family and clan affiliation also play a big role. Greetings often take the form of a ritual, when you shake hands for a long time while hearing about how it is with health, family and the house. Often they hug each other and kiss each other on the cheek, but strict separation between the sexes is applied.

Yemenites value hospitality and invite a guest to the best house they have. You want to give foreigners a good impression of the country and the people and are eager to help with problems. It is a matter of honor to treat their guests well and protect them. Extreme expressions can occur: foreigners who have been kidnapped in connection with clan feuds, for example, have been told that they were served lavish dinners and treated as guests of honor during captivity. In the 1990s, there were a number of host country frames, where guests found themselves playing tiles in a game whose purpose was to get the country's central government to listen to the clan's demands.

  • Countryaah: Overview of the capital city of Yemen, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.

Men are not bothered to walk hand in hand with male friends, however, public physical contact between people of different genders is unusual. It is not considered normal for a man to greet a woman by taking her hand. The man should wait for the woman to stretch out her hand, otherwise just bow and address her. Usually men and women spend time separately, with the exception of special family gatherings. How strict religious traditions about gender segregation are applied, for example, vary from region to region and between different social groups, and foreign women can often avoid the rules that apply to Yemeni people. In the first months of 2020, it was reported that the Iran-backed Shiite charter (ruling, among others, in the capital) has begun to apply stricter rules, with moral police in place to monitor socializing in cafes and universities,

Culture and Traditions of YemenThe attire has always been important in formal contexts. As a foreigner, it is not enough to "dress up" to appear relaxed and informal. Business meetings require dark suits for men, and for women, skirts that extend below the knees and full sleeves apply in all contexts. Even when visiting Yemeni homes one should dress properly.

Everyday, many Yemenis dress in traditional clothing. In the north, for example, it means a kaftan or long shirt, thawb, combined with a jacket and a shawl around the head. In southern Yemen, many men wear a kind of plaid skirts to a plain shirt. The garment, which is common in many countries, is called in Yemen futa. On the head, the man may have a shawl or a hat. In principle, all women wear a veil and many also cover their face, for example with a black niqab according to a Saudi model. In the most conservative families, women also wear gloves to cover every inch of skin. During the Ottoman era, the often colorful traditional clothes of the Yemeni women were replaced by the practice of wearing sharshaf, a black garment that can be described as a skirt and veil in one.

Yemeni men also often wear, especially in northern Yemen's clan areas, a janbiyya (by Arabic word for page, janb). It is a heavily bent dagger, which is visibly stored in a leather sheath down in a fabric around the waist. Janbiyyan is often decorative and ornate, and sometimes has gold details. The handle can also contain expensive materials, such as expensive wood, ivory and the like. The dagger is not used as a weapon, but is a tradition and status symbol.

However, in rural areas, especially in northern Yemen, it is common for men to have firearms and sometimes carry them in everyday, not infrequently modern, automatic carbines. The weapons are worn both as a symbol of masculinity and as protection in precarious settlements where clan feuds are common and everyone is expected to be able to defend themselves, their family and their property. Wearing weapons was well before the war situation in recent years, even in the capital, but the government tried to ban it. In restaurants and public places you can therefore see placards and grants with crossed firearms.

Alcohol is prohibited in accordance with Islamic traditions, but has previously been sold at some hotels in Sanaa and Aden. Most Yemeni men and a lot of women chew qat every day, especially in the northern parts of the country. The plant juice from the bush has effects on the human central nervous system. In most other Muslim countries, qat is forbidden; even though it is not stated in the Qur'an, the precautionary principle usually prevails so that Muslims are advised not to use drugs.

Religion is important in Yemeni society, where the vast majority are deeply believing Muslims. Most Yemenis are happy to meet non-Muslims and would like to show them religion from its best side, but religious issues can be sensitive to discuss. Publicly expressed atheism is rare and can be considered offensive. It is advisable to show respect and discretion, especially with people you do not know well. One should not publicly criticize Islam, Prophet Muhammad or the Qur'an.

Mosques do not wear shoes or revealing clothing, and women must cover their hair. Do not photograph women without explicit permission.

It is important to remember that traveling to Yemen is dangerous because of the security situation and most governments in Europe, including the Swedish, discourage their citizens from all visits (see Tourism). The danger lies not only in extremist groups and fighting, but also in crime and kidnappings with economic motives. Aqap (see Political system) and similar groups (see Modern history) have killed foreigners in kidnappings and attacks with political motives.


Poorly developed infrastructure has long been an obstacle to development in Yemen, making it difficult for the state to control difficult access to rural areas. The road network is poorly maintained and in many places parts of the roads are washed away during floods in principle every year. However, new investments in the infrastructure have been made with the help of oil revenues during the 00s and major improvements have been made.

There are no railways, but there are plans, among other things, to connect Yemen to the railway network that extends between the countries of the Persian Gulf. Whether it is uncertain if they will be realized.

The port of Aden has long been an important hub for international shipping, and it has recently been expanded to handle international freight traffic between Europe, Asia and Africa. A container terminal was inaugurated in 1999. However, the port suffered a severe setback when a French oil tanker was subjected to a blast attack in 2002. Soon after the business recovered, a new threat to shipping in the area arose, in the form of Somali pirate operations.

Yemen's oil exports are mainly via Ras Isa on the Red Sea. Other important ports are in al-Hudayda, al-Mukalla and Mocka.

Yemen has around twenty airports, most of them small.

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