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Saturday, 05 July 2008

Enchanting Yemen: A Country Largely Untouched by Tourism - Page 2

Written by Lies Ouwerkerk
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"I taught myself as a kid," explains our trekking guide Abdullah, when we prudently inquire about his credentials in the face of a steep mountain ahead of us. "I tried this stone, and that rock, and every time I ventured a little bit farther. By now, I know that mountain inside out." Abdullah’s self-taught approach exemplifies Yemen’s response to its slowly growing tourist industry.

Enchanting Yemen: A County Largely Untouched by Tourism, Manakha, Yemen's capital, Sana'a, Haraz Mountains, travel Yemen, tourism Yemen, Yemen sights, ancient cities, Taiz, Ibb, Jibla, Kaukaban, Thula, Marib, Socotra, Queen Arwa mosque, Al-Mukalla, Hadhramaut and Doan wadis,  Shibam, Gulf of Aden, Middle Eastern travel, Arabia Felix, Lies OuwerkerkWe also follow a northeastern route to Marib, another ancient city that boasts remnants of a more than 3000-year-old civilization; then head onwards through the vast desert and the fertile, picturesque Hadhramaut and Doan wadis (river valleys) to the striking city of Shibam. Called the "Manhattan of the desert," its mud-brick buildings rise up to eight levels high, but no more, we were told this was because there is limited soil for a good foundation and it is also to prevent attack. When we finally reach the Gulf of Aden in the south, we eat fresh fish at Al-Mukalla, a harbor city of white-plastered houses, just hours after its many blue fishing boats have brought in their day’s catch.

Enchanting Yemen: A County Largely Untouched by Tourism, Manakha, Yemen's capital, Sana'a, Haraz Mountains, travel Yemen, tourism Yemen, Yemen sights, ancient cities, Taiz, Ibb, Jibla, Kaukaban, Thula, Marib, Socotra, Queen Arwa mosque, Al-Mukalla, Hadhramaut and Doan wadis,  Shibam, Gulf of Aden, Middle Eastern travel, Arabia Felix, Lies Ouwerkerk


Enchanting Yemen: A County Largely Untouched by Tourism, Manakha, Yemen's capital, Sana'a, Haraz Mountains, travel Yemen, tourism Yemen, Yemen sights, ancient cities, Taiz, Ibb, Jibla, Kaukaban, Thula, Marib, Socotra, Queen Arwa mosque, Al-Mukalla, Hadhramaut and Doan wadis,  Shibam, Gulf of Aden, Middle Eastern travel, Arabia Felix, Lies OuwerkerkClearly, Arabia Felix, as Roman invaders named Yemen when their frankincense trade was booming, has incredible potential for a well-developed tourist industry, definitely worthy of international acclaim. Yemen boasts varied topography, including almost 2000 kilometers of coastline with great diving, and at least 160 islands (magical Socotra, with its extremely rare flora and fauna, is the most famous). When combined with the country’s centuries-old traditions, architectural treasures, and fantastic weather all year round, one gets the perfect recipe for a flourishing tourist industry. So far, however, Yemen has not been able to maximize that potential like other Middle Eastern countries such as Jordan and Egypt have done.

One explanation is that Yemen suffers from a negative image internationally, not only because of civil unrest in the north, but also due to recent terrorist attacks in the Marib area and Sana’a. The USS Cole bombing in 2000 left a mark on Yemen as well. Deeply concerned about such terrorist acts ever happening again, authorities have strengthened their tourist police force in the hope of eliminating any security risks.

Enchanting Yemen: A County Largely Untouched by Tourism, Manakha, Yemen's capital, Sana'a, Haraz Mountains, travel Yemen, tourism Yemen, Yemen sights, ancient cities, Taiz, Ibb, Jibla, Kaukaban, Thula, Marib, Socotra, Queen Arwa mosque, Al-Mukalla, Hadhramaut and Doan wadis,  Shibam, Gulf of Aden, Middle Eastern travel, Arabia Felix, Lies OuwerkerkIt is also no secret that Yemen, with nearly half of its population younger than 15 years old and 43% of its people living under the $3 a day poverty line, lacks a strong infrastructure for general services and utilities, as well as financial resources to boost and maintain a healthy tourist industry. In addition, there is still a huge lack of proper tourist information and well-trained personnel in travel agencies, hotels, and restaurants who can tune into the expectations of international travelers. Maps, guidebooks, and brochures on interesting destinations are still scarce, and when they do exist, they are often poorly translated or light on detail. Both the Minister of Tourism and the movers and shakers of Yemen's tourism industry have recently promised many innovative measures to remedy these shortcomings, such as more internationally oriented hotels, more frequent flights, proper training for tourism personnel, and more accurate travel information.

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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