Yemen

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YEMEN is a republic bounded by Saudi Arabia in the north, Oman in the east, the Gulf of Aden in the south, and the Red Sea in the west.

The republic was formed after the unification of the previous Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen) and the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen) in 1990.

Several large islands, notably Socotra in the Indian Ocean, Perim in the Bab el Mandeb, and Kamaran in the Red Sea, belong to Yemen. The Hanish Islands in the southern Red Sea are claimed by Yemen and Eritrea in Africa, which lies opposite Yemen across Bab el Mandeb’s narrow straits.

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Most of Yemen consists of a high plateau, which becomes gradually lower eastwards and northwards until it merges with the Empty Quarter’s desert lands (Rub al Khali), which extends into Saudi Arabia. In the west, high mountains stretch in a north-south direction, and west and south of these lies an arid, coastal plain called the Tihama. The mountains are dissected by steep-sided wadis through which water channeled during the summer monsoonal rains.

Yemen’s climate is hot and dry on the coastal plains and in the desert but with lower winter temperatures in the uplands and mountains. Rainfall is scarce and erratic and falls mainly in the summer months in the mountains, where some percolate down to collect in underground aquifers. In the north and central parts of Yemen, this water allows cultivation to be carried out, much of it on terraced fields cut into the mountain slopes.

The country is almost entirely dependent on agriculture, even though a tiny percentage of the land is fertile. The main crops are coffee, cotton, wheat, vegetables, millet, sorghum, and fruit.

Fishing is an essential industry with mackerel, tuna, lobster, cod caught, and some canning factories along the coast. Another production is on a tiny scale, consisting mainly of a manufacturing industry that produces textiles, plastic, rubber and aluminum goods, paints, and matches. Modernization of the sector is slow because of a lack of funds.

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Yemen has five principal geographic regions: the Tihama coastal plain, the mountainous interior, the high plateau, the Wadi Hadhramawt region, and the Al Mahra uplands; the Rub‘al-Khali interior desert; and the offshore islands.

The Red Sea lies to the west of Yemen. The Red Sea is a narrow, landlocked sea that separates Africa from the Arabian Peninsula. It links to the Mediterranean Sea through the Gulf of Suez and the Suez Canal. In the south, the Red Sea links to the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea through the Strait of Mandeb (Bab el Mandeb).

The Arabian Sea, an extension of the Indian Ocean, lies to Yemen’s south. The Gulf of Aden, to the southwest of Yemen, is an extension of the Arabian Sea. Some 5 percent of Yemen’s coast has nearby coral reefs, exceptionally diverse marine habitats in the Red Sea.

Did you know about Yemen?

The term “Middle East” was coined by western Europeans as a geographic designation for southwest Asia and northeast Africa that stretches from the Mediterranean Sea to Pakistan and Afghanistan’s borders, including the Arabian Peninsula nations. This area was considered the midpoint between Europe and East Asia, often called the Far East. In a cultural sense, the term sometimes refers to all the countries of that general region that are primarily Islamic. In this sense, the Middle East also includes Afghanistan and Pakistan and some of the North African countries that border the Arabian Peninsula.

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