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.
Yemen art can be traced back to more than 5000 years ago, using various stones, alabaster being the most popular, to depict human figures as well as deities. When it comes to human figurines, many of their sculptures are simple in nature, only showing form of the most important features such as face, body, arms, and legs. As many of these figures are inscribed with text, these inscriptions are simply of a person’s name, where they are from, and/or who they worship.
Two animals are prominent in traditional Yemen art: the Ibex, which is a popular animal in the region as has numerous cultural influence, as well as the Bull, which can represent deities due to their strong symbolism.
Yemen is a country on the Arabian Peninsula, and the music of Yemen is primarily known abroad for a series of pan-Arab popular stars and the Yemenite Jews who became musical stars in Israel during the 20th century. In the Arab world, Yemen has long been a cultural capital.
Yemen’s national anthem is “United Republic” written by Abdallah “al-Fadhool” Abdulwahab Noman.
Traditional Yemenite music is usually performed in the home, in a window-lined room at the top of the house called a mafraj during a khat chew, in which the performers chew a mildly psychoactive stimulant leaf. This form of performance uses sung poetry and is called homayni; it is a tradition that dates to the 14th century. The urban homayni style known in the capital of Yemen, Sanaan singing, is the most well-known kind of homayni today. There is a large Yemeni-Welsh community in Cardiff and other major Welsh cities. Yemeni folk music has thus become a major part of the Welsh music scene.
Yemenis are very proud of their cultural traditions. Although Western dress can be spotted on some professional men, the majority of the Yemeni population dresses in traditional style: thoub (full, white dress), mawaz (a skirt worn by men), kufia (head scarf), and jambiya (curved knife worn on an ornamental belt). Slight variations in this outfit indicate the wearer’s geographical origin. Older women in Sana’a, or those from more traditional families, can be seen wearing traditional sitaras (large colorfully died cloths) and village women outside of the capital can be found wearing a rich variety of traditional dress.
The Yemeni cuisine is entirely distinct from the more widely known Middle Eastern cuisines, and even differs slightly from region to region. Chicken 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 lipids are vegetable oil and ghee used in savory dishes, and 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 chillies, 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 chillies), and usually served with Yemeni flat bread or white bread as a utensil.
Other popular dishes include: aseed, fahsa, thareed, samak mofa, mandi, biryani, fattah, shafut, and fatoot.
Yemenis speak Arabic, which belongs to the Semitic language family. Classical Arabic, the language of Islam and the Koran, is used on formal occasions. The spoken dialects, whose areas roughly correspond to the six cultural zones, are used in everyday life. Some groups have maintained their ancient oral tongues of the south Arabic branch. The most commonly used foreign language is English, and Russian is still understood in Sana’a and Aden.
Medieval culture was rich in historical, geographic, and religious works; agricultural almanacs; astronomical treatises; and rhymed prose. Poetry in classical and colloquial styles is the most popular art form. Since the Middle Ages, poetry has been spoken, sung, and improvised during social events, at performances, and in competitions.
The majority of buildings originate from pre-Islamic fortified towers that combine in a single structure under a whitewashed flat roof the functions of dwelling, storage, and fortress.
Football is the most popular sport in Yemen. The Yemen national football team competes in the FIFA and AFC leagues. The country also hosts many football clubs, that compete in the national and international leagues.
Yemen’s mountains provide many opportunities for outdoor sports, such as biking, rock climbing, hill climbing, hiking, skiing, mountain jumping, and more challenging 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 coast of Yemen and Socotra also provide many opportunities for water sports, such as surfing, bodyboarding, sailing, swimming, and scuba diving. Socotra island is home to one of the best surfing destinations in the world.
National Day on 22 May commemorates the country’s unification. The Revolution of 26 September 1962 in the north and the beginning of revolt in the south on 14 October 1963 also are celebrated.