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Culture of Yemen

The culture of Yemen has an ancient history, influenced by Islam. Due to its unique geographic location, Yemen has acquired a very distinctive culture from its neighbors; historically and culturally.


The music of Yemen is primarily known abroad for a series of pan-Arab popular stars. In the Arab world, Yemen has long been a cultural center. Yemen's national anthem is "United Republic" written by Abdallah "al-Fadhool" Abdul Wahab Noman.

UNESCO proclaimed the tradition of poetic songs in Sana'a, called al-Ghina al-San'ani, a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity on November 7, 2003.


The history of Yemeni theatre dates back at least a century, to the early 1900s. Both amateur and professional (government-sponsored) theatre troupes perform in the country's major urban centers. Many of Yemen's significant poets and authors, such as Ali Ahmed Ba Kathir, Muhammad al-Sharafi, and Wajdi al-Ahdal, have written dramatic works; poems, novels, and short stories by Yemeni authors, such as Mohammad Abdul-Wali and Abdulaziz Al-Maqaleh, have also been adapted for the stage. There have been Yemeni productions of plays by Arab authors, such as Tawfiq al-Hakim and Saadallah Wannous, as well as by Western authors, including Shakespeare, Pirandello, Brecht, and Tennessee Williams. Historically speaking, the southern port city of Aden is the cradle of Yemeni theatre; in recent decades, the capital city of Sana'a, has hosted numerous theatre festivals, often in conjunction with World Theatre Day.


Fatut, Yemeni fried bread with eggs

Yemeni cuisine is entirely distinct from the more widely known Middle Eastern cuisines, and even differs slightly from region to region.

Chicken, goat, and lamb are eaten more often than beef, which is expensive. Fish is also eaten, especially in the coastal areas.

Cheese, butter, and other dairy products are less common in the Yemeni diet. Buttermilk, however, is enjoyed almost daily in some villages where it is most available. The most commonly used fats are vegetable oil and ghee used in savory dishes, while semn (clarified butter) is the choice of fat used in pastries.

Although each region has their own variation, Saltah is considered the national dish. The base is a brown meat stew called maraq, a dollop of fenugreek froth, and sahawiq or sahowqa (a mixture of chili peppers, tomatoes, garlic, and herbs ground into a salsa). Rice, potatoes, scrambled eggs, and vegetables are common additions to saltah. It is eaten traditionally with Yemeni flat bread, which serves as a utensil to scoop up the food.

Shakshouka is a popular dish in Yemen. Shakshouka is made with eggs, meat, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and spices (often including cumin, turmeric, and chili peppers). It is usually served with Yemeni flat bread or white bread as a utensil.

Other popular dishes include: aseed, fahsa, thareed, samak mofa, mandi, kabsa, fattah, shafut, and fatoot.

Shahi Haleeb (milk tea, served after qat), black tea (with cardamom, clove, or mint), qishr (coffee husks), qahwa (coffee), karkadin (an infusion of dried hibiscus flowers), Naqe'e Al Zabib (cold raisin drink), and diba'a (squash nectar) are examples of popular Yemeni drinks. Mango and guava juices are also popular.

Malooga and laxoox are the most popular kinds of flat breads found in Yemen. Malooga is eaten with bean dishes, such as ful medames (similar to rice and beans). Laxoox is eaten with curries, stews, and soups, as well as rice dishes.

Bint Al-Sahn is a popular dessert dish, which is eaten with honey.


A Yemeni man chewing and selling Qat

Qat, also known as Khat (Catha edulis), is a widely cultivated plant in Yemen and is generally used for chewing. When khat juice is swallowed it produces an amphetamine-like effect. Yemenis wear traditional costumes and chew the narcotic khat-plant in the afternoons. Chewing khat is also part of the Yemeni business culture to promote decision-making, but it does not expect foreigners to participate.


Football is the most popular sport in Yemen. The Yemeni national football team competes in the FIFA and AFC leagues. The country also hosts many football clubs. They compete in the national and international leagues.

Yemen's mountains provide many opportunities for outdoor sports, such as biking, rock climbing, trekking, hiking, skiing, mountain jumping, and other more challenging sports, including mountain climbing. Mountain climbing and hiking tours to the Sarawat Mountains and the Jabal an Nabi Shu'ayb, including the 5,000 m peaks in the region, are seasonally organized by local and international alpine agencies.

The coastal areas of Yemen and Socotra island also provide many opportunities for water sports, such as surfing, bodyboarding, sailing, swimming, and scuba diving. Socotra island is home to some of the best surfing destinations in the world.


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