Yemen Country Facts

اليَمَن – al-Yaman
Capital city Sana’a
Surface 527,968 km²
Population 30,491,000
Road network length 6,200 km
Length of highway network 0 km
First highway N/A
Motorway name N/A
Traffic drives Right
License plate code YAR

Yemen or Yemen (Arabic: ٱلْيَمَن‎, al-Yaman), officially the Republic of Yemen (ٱلْجُمْهُورِيَّة ٱلْيَمَنِيَّة‎, al-Jumhūrīyah al-Yamanīyah), is a country in Asia, located in the south of the Arabian Peninsula. The country is approximately 12 times the size of the Netherlands and has 30 million inhabitants. The capital is Sana’a.


Yemen occupies the southwest of the Arabian Peninsula, located on the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. It has land borders with Saudi Arabia and Oman, the African country of Djibouti is only 30 kilometers by sea. Yemen measures 1,100 kilometers from west to east and 500 kilometers from north to south. Several islands belong to Yemen, including the large island of Socotra, which lies some distance off the coast of Somalia. Socotra belongs geographically to Africa, making Yemen actually two on two continents.

The country is divided into four regions, the Western Coastal Plain, the Western Highlands, the Eastern Highlands, and the Rub’ al Khali Desert in the northeast. The western coastal strip on the Red Sea is also called Tihamah, which literally means ‘hot land’. The rivers from the highlands often do not reach the coast due to the extremely high evaporation rate, but they do provide groundwater, which makes agriculture possible despite the arid climate.

The western highlands have more precipitation than the coastal region, this region receives the most precipitation of the entire Arabian Peninsula. The Jabal An-Nabi Shu’ayb is also located here, which is the highest point in Yemen at 3,666 meters. The eastern highlands have plateaus, canyons and abysses and are often located at 1000 to 1500 meters altitude. The central north and northeast consists of almost uninhabited sandy desert.

Yemen largely has a desert climate, which is somewhat more moderate in the western highlands due to the high altitude and somewhat larger precipitation amounts. The average maximum temperature in the capital Sanaʽa is 22 °C in winter to 28 °C in summer, with 265 mm of precipitation per year. However, Sanaʽa is located at 2200 meters above sea level. The average temperature in the coastal city of Aden ranges from 29 to 37 °C, with less than 40 mm of precipitation per year.


In the mid-20th century Yemen had only about 5 million inhabitants, but especially from the 1980s the population grew rapidly reaching 18 million inhabitants in 2000 and 27.5 million in 2016. The population is very young, more than half of the population is minors. The birth rate in Yemen is one of the highest in the world.

The country has 10 cities with more than 50,000 inhabitants, and 4 with more than half a million inhabitants: Aden, Taiz, Al Hudaydah and the capital Sana’a. Yemen has a largely Arab population and a tribal society. About two-thirds of the population is Sunni and the rest is Shia.


Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East, with a GDP of just $2,500 per capita. Most Yemenis work in agriculture, often for their own food supply. There is little industry outside of the oil and gas industry, which accounts for over 90% of Yemen’s exports. Much of the economy is informal. Economic development is hampered by conflict and corruption. A major threat is the water shortage, there are few rivers in Yemen and a large part of the river water evaporates due to the heat. The groundwater threatens to run out. Even before the conflict, the shortage of water was a major problem for Yemen.


The area was in ancient times the kingdom of the Sabeans, a people who traded with neighboring parts of Africa. Christianity reached Yemen in the 4th century, followed by Islam in the 7th century. Yemen’s governance has historically been difficult due to its difficult terrain, lack of infrastructure and divided society. Various dynasties ruled Yemen in medieval and modern times. At the beginning of the 20th century, the country was divided between a British and Ottoman part. At the end of World War I, the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen was established, later also known as North Yemen. The capital was initially Sana’a, from 1948 this was Taiz. The rest of Yemen remained a British protectorate until 1967 and was known as South Yemen. This country became independent from the United States in 1967United Kingdom.

South Yemen followed a Marxist-Leninist model and had strong ties to the Soviet Union. Between 1962 and 1970 a civil war was fought in North Yemen, which meant the end of the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen. Egypt was heavily involved in this conflict, which was also referred to as the ‘Egyptian Vietnam’. In the 1970s there were a number of conflicts between South Yemen and North Yemen, but then plans were already being made to merge both countries into one Yemen, which became more concrete in the late 1980s due to the potential oil income in the border area. Both countries merged into the Republic of Yemen in 1990.

From that moment on, the country was under the rule of President Saleh and was characterized as a ‘kleptocracy’, during this period Yemen was considered one of the most corrupt countries in the world. The economy also developed only to a limited extent, although projects were started for the extraction of oil and gas. In 2011, protests broke out against poverty and corruption and the plan to allow Saleh to become president for life. However, Saleh resigned in 2012, but a larger-scale conflict erupted from 2014, when Saleh-affiliated Houthis took over the capital Sana’a. Civil war then broke out, after which a coalition led by Saudi Arabialaunched a military intervention in 2015, largely aerial and with little strategic success. Saleh was shot dead by a sniper in Sana’a in 2017. The country is still in conflict with major humanitarian consequences.

Road Network

Yemen’s road network is very limited, partly because of the inhospitable landscape and limited economic development. The road network is clearly less developed than in neighboring countries. There are approximately 71,300 kilometers of road, of which only 6,200 kilometers are paved. Roads in the former North Yemen are generally better than in the former South Yemen, except around Aden, where the road network is also decent. There are no real highways in Yemen, although the Sana’a ring road is well developed with a parallel system and grade separated intersections. There are plans for a new transit route from Aden to the Saudi border, which should cut travel time in half. Traveling in Yemen is time consuming because of the mountains and deserts. The new road will cost $1.6 billion. Plans also arise from time to time to open a bridge connection tobuild Djibouti.

Traffic in Yemeni cities is chaotic, with little regard for traffic rules. Traffic lights do not always work and are sometimes absent. The maximum speed is 100 kilometers per hour. There is a large proportion of drivers who do not have a driver’s license and are younger than 16 years of age. Vehicles are often in poor condition and frequently lack lights or turn signals. The traffic on the major roads between the cities is reasonable, but off the major roads an all-terrain vehicle is quickly necessary.

A 450 kilometer long dual carriageway is being developed that should form a north-south route from the border area with Saudi Arabia via the capital Sana’a to the port city of Aden.

Road numbering

Yemen has road numbering of N roads and R roads. Details are unknown. Road numbers are reported to be up to four digits.


Signage occurs sporadically, although there are also new signposts. These consist of green plates with white letters and are in both Arabic and English.


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