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Geography

The Republic of Yemen lies at the southwestern tip of the Arabian Peninsula between longitude 12 and 20 north and between 14 and 54 east. Total land area is about 555,000 Km2 (excluding the Empty Quarter). Yemen is bordered by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the north, the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean in the south, the Red Sea in the west and the Sultanate of Oman in the east.

Diversity and mountains characterize Yemen's landscape. A chain of high and low mountains and terrain overlook coastal plains. Yemen features low lands, coastal plains and green valleys of running water during rainy seasons. The vast desert of Yemen extends to the east and north (especially northeast) of the country. The natural topography of Yemen is divided into five different regions: the coastal region, the highlands, the mountains, the Empty Quarter and Yemeni Islands. In the Arabian sea, there are a number of Yemeni Islands close to one another. The largest and most famous one is Socatra Island which enjoys abundant and rare fauna and flora.

1. Mountain region with heights ranging between 1000-3760m. high

The western mountain range represents a large area of the country. It is the range called Al-Surat mountains stretching longitudinally from the north to the south and transversally from the west to the east which resembles the letter "L". These heights go down in different directions. They descend sharply westwards to the Red Sea, southwards to the Gulf of Aden, and eastwards and northwards to the interior desert areas. In the mountain heights, stretching from the north to the south, there are a number of basins (beds), of considerable agricultural importance with large populations, such as Sana'a basin, Yarim basin, Jahran flatland, Sa'da flatland, Alboun flatland, Aqwat Hadhramout bed and Si'aith bed in Mahara. The most prominent mountains in these heights are the mountains of Attaq, Bayhan, Mukairas, Al-Dhalie', Yafie', Sabra, Hudhour Alsheikh, Miswar and Prophet Shu'aib which at 3766m above sea level is the highest mountain in Arabia

2. The Highland region

This area lies to the east and north of the mountainous heights going in parallel to the heights towards the Empty Quarter. The maximum height of this area is 1000m gradually descending. Such area is represented by the highlands in Sana'a, Al Jouf, Shabwa, Hadhramout and Mahara. The out- skirts of this area in the north overlap with the Empty Quarter.

3. The Coastal Area

This area includes the coastal plains overlooking the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea. They are connected to each other forming a coastal strip that extends from the Oman border south- westward to Bab Al-Mandab. This strip then changes its direction northward to the borders of Saudi Arabia, thus making it more than 2400km. long. The width of the plains range from 30 to 60 km.

4. The Empty Quarter (Alrub AlKhali)

This is a Yemeni desert area located to the north of Hadhramout highlands, and to the south of the western heights. This area consists of desert plains covered with gravel, sand and sandy dunes in Volving in some parts desert plants and vast oases, that were formed due to the collection of the seasonal water. It is inhabited by the wandering nomads because of its pastoral land.

5. The Yemeni Islands

This part of the country consists of islands scattered along the coasts of Yemen. There are 120 islands, most of which are located in the Red Sea. The biggest islands are Kamaran, Greater Hunaish, Minor Hunaish, the rest of Archipelago, Zaqar, Zubair, AL-Tayr and the strategic island of Meon at the Bab Al-Mandeb. In addition there are islands located in the Gulf of Aden and thc Arabian Sea, the largest of which is Soqatra.

The ancient Greek and Roman geographers were in the habit of dividing Arabia into three great provinces,-Arabia Felix, Arabia Petrea, and Arabia Deserta : the first nearly corresponding to the modern Yemen, but including Mahra, and Hadramaut; the second the modern Hejaz ; and the third extending north-east from Arabia Felix as far as the Euphrates. These divisions, however, were purely arbitrary, and neither known to nor recognised by the inhabitants of the country.

Some oriental authors included the whole peninsula within the two provinces of Yemen and Hejaz, while others have divided it into five, namely, Yemen, Hejaz, Nejd, the Tehama, and Yemama. Hadramaut, Mahra, Shehr, and Oman have also been reckoned independent provinces by some, while many include them in the two great divisions, Yemen and Hejaz.

Yemen Proper forms the southern portion of the Arabian peninsula. It is bounded on the south by that portion of the Indian Ocean known as the Gulf of Aden; on the west by the Red Sea; on the north by the Hejaz and the Desert of Ahkaf; and on the east by the province of Hadramaut. It is naturally separated into two divisions,-the low country, styled the Tehama, which is parallel to the sea coast; and the Interior, or mountainous region between it and the Great Arabian Desert. The former, which signifies a warm or maritime region is the tract intervening between the mountains and the sea; it extends in length from the Gulf of Akaba to the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb, and is divided into two portions, the Tehamas of the Hejaz and of Yemen.

This district has few perennial springs, but is watered in some places by mountain torrents, which, descending from the high land, flow during the greater portion of the year, and in the beds of which, even in seasons of the greatest drought, water can be obtained by digging a few feet below the surface of the ground. It is not unusual in the Tehama for whole years to pass without any rain, save a few gentle showers, and in such cases the hill torrents are absorbed long ere they reach the sea; but the heavy dews are usually sufficient to refresh the parched soil, and prevent an absolute famine. Here cereals and vegetables are produced in tolerable abundance, but the soil is not well suited for the growth of fruit.

Parallel to the sea coast are a number of islands, and a multitude of coral reefs and islets. The mountainous region comprehends the finest and most fertile parts of the peninsula, and forms a striking contrast to the arid and sandy plains which occur on the littoral of the Red Sea. It extends over the crest and slopes of the great mountain chain which traverses the country in a south-easterly direction, increasing in elevation towards the south, and, from the abundance of its grain, coffee, vines, and fruits, and all the productions which constitute the chief wealth of an agricultural country, as well as from its salubrious climate and abundance of water, it has well merited the title of "Happy."

Even though Yemen is considered among countries of high temperature due to the sun shining on it most of the year, the diversity of Yemen's topography has led to diversity in climatic conditions. The climate in the coastal region is characterized by high temperature with humidity during the summer and moderate weather during winter. The interior and mountainous region is rather moderate during summer and cold during winter. Moderate temperature prevails in the highlands and western plains where temperature ranges between 10-30 degrees and dropping below zero during winter. Humidity could reach 80% with rainfall between 300 mm and more than 1000 mm a year. The climate is different in the dry eastern region where temperatures reach 40 degrees during the summer and drop to 10-15 degrees during the winter with rainfall not more than 50-100 mm, especially at the far lands of the Empty Quarter. Between these two regional climates, there is a 'transitional' climate which extends from north and east of Sana'a to the western borders of Mareb. These areas are affected by monsoon wind coming from the east and with climate dropping from the west accompanied by rain during the summer and less rain during the winter.



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