Where is Yemen?

Along with its status as one of the world’s oldest centers of civilization, Yemen is one of the most water-scarce countries on the planet, though it borders two seas.

Where is Yemen?

Yemen is located on the Arabian Peninsula in the Middle East and is part of the Asian continent.

Yemen Interesting Facts

Panorama of Sanaa, capital of Yemen
Panorama of Sanaa, capital of Yemen
  • The coffee term “mocha” comes from the Yemeni city of the same name, where coffee has been traded for over 500 years.
  • The Queen of Sheba, a figure mentioned in the Bible and the Quran, is said to have lived in Yemen.
  • Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.

Precise Location Coordinates of Yemen

The DMS (Degrees, Minutes, Seconds) coordinates for the center of Yemen are:

  • 15° 33′ 9.82” N
  • 48° 30′ 59.00” E

The latitude and longitude of Yemen are:

  • Latitude: 15.552727
  • Longitude: 48.516388

You can see the location of Yemen on the world map below:

Yemen Neighboring Countries

Yemen is bordered by two other countries on the Arabian Peninsula: Saudi Arabia to the north, and Oman to the east. The border with Saudi Arabia is Yemen’s longest international border, measuring 1,307 km (812 mi).

Since Yemen has a coastline of 1,906 km (1,184 mi), it shares a number of maritime borders with foreign countries. These include Eritrea, Djibouti, and Somalia.

The neighboring countries of Yemen (YE) are:

  1. Oman (OM)
  2. Saudi Arabia (SA)

Maritime Borders

Yemen’s maritime borders are with the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden in the Indian Ocean, the two of which are connected by the Bab-el-Mandeb strait.

Pin pointing out Yemen on a map.

Administrative Divisions of Yemen

Yemen Administrative Map
Yemen Administrative Map

For administrative purposes, Yemen is divided into twenty-one governorates and one municipality. Each of these is headed by a governor who is appointed by the federal president. Taiz is the most populous governorate in Yemen, and the largest in total area is Hadramaut. The capital city, Sana’a, is a municipality.

Each of Yemen’s governorates is further divided into 333 districts, which are subdivided into 1,966 subdistricts, which are made up of 40,793 villages and 88,817 sub-villages.

Geography of Yemen

A view of the sun rising above white sands and turquoise water on Socotra Island in Yemen.
Sunrise above Detwah Lagoon on Socotra Island, Yemen

Yemen is located at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula and covers a total land area of 555,000 km2 (214,000 mi2). In addition to mainland Yemen, there are several islands in the Red Sea that also belong to the country. Many of them are volcanic, and the largest is Socotra.

There are four different geographic regions in Yemen: the western coastal plains, the western highlands, the eastern highlands, and the Rub’ al Khali or “empty quarter.” The last of these covers much of the Arabian Peninsula and consists of vast expanses of sand in the Arabian Desert, one of the largest deserts in the world.

Most of Yemen consists of a hot desert climate and is very arid. The presence of lagoons along the otherwise dry coastline creates breeding grounds for mosquitos, and underground water reserves from highland streams are exploited for agricultural purposes.

Although almost all of Yemen is part of the Asian continent, the Socotra archipelago is geographically part of Africa and shares biogeographic features with the continent. This is one of the most biologically interesting regions in Yemen, as it is home to an impressive number of endemic species, such as the dragon blood tree.

History of Yemen

Yemen has a history that dates back to ancient times; there is evidence of large settlements in the area that existed as early as 5000 BCE. The country’s strategic position between Africa and Asia has made the location an important crossroads for humans for thousands of years.

The powerful city-states that ruled the area usually owed their prosperity to their control over the production and trade of frankincense and myrrh, both of which were some of the most valuable commodities in ancient times. The ancient Kingdom of Sabean is thought to have been the biblical Sheba kingdom.

Islam first reached Southern Arabia in 630 when the prophet Mohammed sent his cousin Ali to the city of Sana’a. In the hundreds of years after, control of the area passed between various dynasties and independent tribes. Fighting was frequent.

More modern history involves the clashing of British and Ottoman interests with Yemeni peoples in the 19th century. The opening of the Suez Canal made the Red Sea an important trade route, and both Britain and the Ottoman Empire sought to establish footholds in the country.

In 1967, the Aden Emergency brought the end of British rule in the south of Yemen, leading to the creation of the state of South Yemen. This later became officially known as the  People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen.

Around the same time, the North Yemen Civil War that had begun in 1962 with the death of Ahmad bin Yahya effectively ended in 1968, giving control to the Yemen Arab Republic. 

The two Yemeni states fought a war in 1972 which ended with a ceasefire and negotiations that included an eventual unification of the two states. After subsequent fighting between the two states in 1979 and civil war in the south in 1986, the two countries were unified as the Republic of Yemen in 1990.

Currently, a civil war that began in 2014 continues to rage in Yemen. It is a war waged between Houthi insurgents and the UN-recognized Yemeni government and is considered to be the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

Culture and People of Yemen

Two men dancing the traditional Yemeni dance with jambiya dagger.
Traditional Yemeni dance

Ethnic Groups

Yemen has a total population of around 31 million, and the most prominent ethnic group in the country is Arab. Other ethnicities present in the country are Afro-Arabs, South Asians, and Europeans. Arab Yemenis of northern and southern origin tend to distinguish between themselves.

Religion

The state religion of Yemen is Islam, and less than 0.5% of Yemenis identify as something other than Muslim. About 35% of the population is Shia Muslim, located mostly in the north and northwest of the country, and 65% are Sunni Muslim, residing mostly in the south and southeast of Yemen.

Some estimates state that there is only one Jew still living in Yemen due to a history of persecution against Jews in the country but that there are more “hidden Jews” that practice the religion discreetly.

Language

The official language of Yemen is Modern Standard Arabic, and Yemeni Arabic is the vernacular widely spoken in the country. Several non-Arabic languages are also spoken in the far eastern governorate of al Mahrah and on the island of Socotra.

The most significant foreign language used in Yemen is English, which is taught in schools and spoken widely, mostly in the south of Yemen. There is also a significant number of Russian speakers in the country.

Cuisine

Yemeni cuisine exhibits some influences from Ottoman and Indian cultures in different regions of the country, though culinary traditions throughout the country are similar. Saltah, a brown meat stew often served with rice, potatoes, eggs, or vegetables, is considered to be the national dish of Yemen

It is customary to eat while seated on the floor, and lunch is the largest meal of the day. Part of Yemeni culture involves generously offering food to guests, and refusing this offer is considered an insult.

Biggest Cities in Yemen

Here are the largest cities in Yemen based on 2021 data:

City Population
Sanaa 2,957,000
Ta`izz 615,467
Al Hudaydah 548,433
Aden 507,355
Ibb 350,864
Ibb 234,837
Dhamar 160,114
Al Mukalla 144,137
Tarim 105,552
Ash Shaykh `Uthman 105,248

Map of Yemen with the Largest Cities

Yemen Economy Facts

World Bank Income GroupLow income
World Bank RegionMiddle East & North Africa
CurrencyYemeni Rial (YER)
GDP in $18.8 (billions of USD)
World Rank: 113
GDP per capita in $632
World Rank: 182
Major Industries / Economic SectorsOil and gas, manufacturing, agriculture, energy
Top 5 Import CountriesSaudi Arabia, China, United Arab Emirates, India, Germany
Top 5 Export CountriesSaudi Arabia, China, India, UAE, Turkey

Government and Politics in Yemen

Since the constitution of Yemen was established in 1991, the country is described as a republic with a bicameral legislature. The head of the country is the president, who is elected by direct popular vote and appoints the vice-president and the prime minister.

The first elected president of a unified Yemen was Ali Abdullah Saleh, who remained in power until 2012, when former vice-president Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi took office. Hadi was forced to flee the country when forces of  the Houthi movement took over Sana’a and the government. Yemen has since been in a civil war.

Tourist Attractions in Yemen

As a cradle of human civilization, the potential for tourism in Yemen is high. There are a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country, and its island of Socotra presents unique geographical and biological beauty. 

Unfortunately, the ongoing civil war in Yemen currently makes it an unsafe place to visit. The US Department of State has issued a travel advisory recommending against travel to the country.

Old Walled City of Shibam

Multi-storey traditional buildings made of mud in Shibam, Yemen
Multi-storey traditional buildings made of mud in Shibam, Yemen

A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982, the Old Walled City of Shibam is “one of the oldest and best examples of urban planning based on the principle of vertical construction.” The site has been given the nickname, “the Manhattan of the Desert” for the multi-story buildings that tower together.

The structures were built in the 16th century and are constructed of sun-dried mud bricks.

Socotra Island

A view of a Dragon Blood tree and a canyon on Socotra Island, Yemen at sunset.
Dragon Blood tree on Socotra Island in Yemen

This Yemeni island in the Arabian Sea is unlike any other. It’s known for its unique plant life, the most iconic of which is the Dragon Blood tree pictured above. 

It is possible to camp in nature and explore this beautiful island with a guided tour, but the experience isn’t cheap. Flights to and from the island are infrequent, and tour costs are high.

Al Saleh Mosque

A view of Al Salh Mosque against a semi-cloudy sky in the early evening.

Among the many mosques in Yemen, the Al Saleh Mosque, also known as the People’s Mosque, is certainly one of the most impressive. It was consecrated in 2008 and is located near the presidential palace in Sana’a. It may not be as old as the Great Mosque of Sana’a, but it is larger and much more visually striking.

Great Mosque of Sana’a

This is the oldest mosque in Yemen, located in the country’s capital and founded between the 7th and 8th centuries. It is said to be among the oldest mosques in the world and is part of the Old City of Sana’a World Heritage Site.

The collection of manuscripts at the Mosque is particularly impressive, containing up to 40,000 documents. The Sana’a Manuscript, one of the oldest Quranic manuscripts in existence was discovered here in 1972.

Transportation and Infrastructure of Yemen

There are a number of international airports in Yemen, of which Sana’a International Airport is the largest. The largest airline in Yemen is Yemenia. Although Yemen has several international airports, it is not currently possible to access the country by flight; this is because of security concerns with the ongoing civil war.

Once inside Yemen, security concerns again can make it difficult to get around safely. Taxis and hired cars are generally the most popular ways to travel, as there are no railways or major public transport options. Roads are often of low quality in the country, especially away from major cities.

It is possible to travel by ferry to and from some Yemeni ports, but this is not recommended due to the presence of pirate activity in the Gulf of Aden.

Climate and Weather of Yemen

The weather in Yemen varies based on location and elevation, though most of the country is arid and hot. About 80% of the annual rainfall in Yemen occurs in the country’s coastal areas, and there are more days with rain at higher elevations.

Daily temperatures in Yemen can easily reach 40°C (104°F) in the summer months from June to September. Temperatures can also drop to 14°C (57°F) in January, the coldest winter month.

Yemen Related Content

Yemen Key Facts

CountryYemen
CoordinatesLatitude: 15.552727
Longitude: 48.516388
Country CodesAlpha 2: YE
Alpha 3: YEM
Country Flag Emoji🇾🇪
Int. Phone Prefix+967
Capital citySana'a
Continent
Subcontinent
Asia
Middle East
Country Area527,968 sq km
Population 30,490,639
World Rank: 48
Median Age18.7
Life expectancy63.8
Major languagesArabic (official)
UTC/GMT TimeNumber of time zones: 1
  • UTC+03:00
Internet TLD.ye
Biggest AirportSanaa International Airport (SAH)
Average temperature23.85 °C
74.93 °F
Administrative Divisions1 municipality 21 governorates
Political systemPresidential representative democratic republic