Photos and text copyright 1995 by Jonathan B. Wight. No use without prior permission.


Cultural traditions dominate economic life.
YEMEN is a mountainous country in the southern Arabian peninsula.  Difficult terrain makes transportation slow and dangerous, and local warlords often control the rural roads. The central government can usually control the major cities of Sana'a and Aden, but power is dispersed.  Yemen's men have often migrated to Saudi Arabia and elsewhere for jobs, but political and economic problems have led to millions being repatriated.  When I visited in the early 1990s, there was desperate poverty, and people selling family heirlooms to eat.

YEMEN IS A COUNTRY of deep traditions. One of these is that men carry ceremonial daggers. This man, for example, holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the London School of Economics. Yet, when we went on a road trip across country in 1993, he clothed himself so as to be immediately acceptable to those we might run across.

HEADBANDS INDICATE political and/or tribal affiliation. Wearing the wrong one in the wrong place could lead to trouble. The dagger, however, is worn without any intention of ever using it. In fact, it is a great insult to draw the weapon in anger.

ANOTHER TRADITION is the chewing of gat, a mild narcotic. Gat is also said to aid concentration and alertness.  In this man's left cheek he holds a wad of gat which he has been working on for most of the afternoon. Although some would say gat is a scourge on the population, it is also one of the largest cash crops.

YEMEN is an Islamic state; legal issues are based on religious rulings (Sharia).