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Ten Interesting Facts About Yemen

  1. It is customary for Yemeni males to bring a jambiya (a short, curved dagger) in public. Not only does the handle of the jambiya show the social status of a person, but the dagger, by tradition, also helps keep people from picking fights with one another.
  1. Yemen is part of Biblical tales and legends. Noah knew it as “the land of milk and honey.” The Three Wise Men presented the infant Jesus with myrrh and frankincense from its mountains, and some claim it is the Queen of Sheba’s home.
  1. Yemen was once divided into North and South Yemen. South Yemen was a communist state, while its neighbor, North Yemen was republic. The country was unified in 1990.
  1. Yemenis take much pride in their wedding traditions. An average wedding feast lasts 21 days.
  1. Yemen prides itself as the only republic in the Arab peninsula. The rest are kingdoms and emirates ruled by one family and one ruler.
  1. Chewing qat leaves is a social pastime. Locals would even give you a branch or two if you want to join them. The leaves act as a mild stimulant, similar to the effects of nicotine in cigarettes.
  1. Frankincense and myrrh are two luxury items that Yemen was known for. Nowadays, it is crude oil and coffee.
  1. Shared taxis are the preferred mode of transportation in Yemen. The Yemenis call it bijou, after the Peugeot cars used for cabs.
  1. Yemen is an ultraconservative Muslim country. Homosexual behavior is punishable by death, and it is forbidden to take pictures of women.
  1. Tourists are expected to give pens (referred to as qalam or galam) for the local school. Sweets are also acceptable.