"YOUR GUIDE IN MIDDLE-EAST ADVENTURE TOURS"
Places in our Yemen tours
Here you find a brief description of some places you visit on our current tours. Itineraries (tour schedules) are listed near the page bottom.
Sanaa (or Sana'a) is the capital of Yemen. Located by surrounding mountains at an altitude of 2300 meters (7500 ft), the city is one of the highest capital cities in the world. It's the countries' largest city with a population of about 2 million. The place has two major parts: Old Sanaa and New Sanaa. Visitors usually visit only the old town, which is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the distinct architectural features of it's houses. Most notably, it's multi-story buildings decorated with geometric patterns. When you visit Old Sanaa you will also notice the unique multi-colored windows, the Qammaria, named after the Arabic word for moon (qamar) because their shape resemble a half moon. It's also used in the Arabian Voyages logo.
Walking around in Old Sanaa is an adventure on it's own. The streets are narrow, making it nearly impossible for cars to get to the town's centers. Although you might find some drivers trying to get there and see them getting stuck between two houses. Because of the tall buildings, there's lots of shade, but you will have a difficult time finding orientation spots. The souqs of Old Sanaa, most notably Souq al Milh (the old salt market), can appear like giant mazes for the first time visitor. Mazes of small and atmospheric corridors where you can walk for hours not even noticing that you are going around in circles. But have no worries, the Sanaani people are extremely friendly and helpful towards foreigners and will likely point out where to go. In fact, when asked for directions they might as well join you for the walk and on occasion invite you to their house for tea or lunch. A great chance to experience Yemeni hospitality.
Another good thing about Sanaa is it's location in the mountains. Because of the high altitude, the temperatures are lovely both in summer and winter. The region around Sanaa has a stable climate and can be visited throughout the whole year. A special feature is the Khareef, the rain season in spring, which turns the ring-road around Old Sanaa into a fast flowing river. If you are around at this time of the year, you will also see more greens in the surrounding mountains. The prices for qat drop and you will notice more people chewing the leaves.
Without doubt the most bustling spot in all of Sanaa. Bab al-Yemen, Arabic for the Gate of Yemen, is an iconic entry point of Old Sanaa which is surrounded by ancient city walls. In fact there are a few entrance points to the Old City, but this one is the most important as it lies at the major entry roads to the capital city. Until the early years of the 20th century, the gate of the Bab was closed every evening to protect the Old Sanaa residents from bandits coming in at night. A practice that is still applied in a few walled villages elsewhere in the country. Nowadays you will find a lot of street merchants in front of the Bab, selling mainly clothing, used electronics and food. Typical street snacks are the boiled potato which comes in it's jacket with a piece of paper that holds a mix of salt, pepper and spices as a dip. Besides that you will find people making a living by selling freshly boiled eggs, so you can literally get your protein fix on the road. An interesting historical feature at the inner side of the Bab, hardly noticed by most visitors, are the long rusty nails which were used to display the cut off hands of thieves. A practice of sharia law that has been suspended little over 10 years ago when local laws became more secular.
The Saleh Mosque or Presidents Mosque is the largest and most modern mosque in Sanaa. It's located in the Al Sabaeen district opposite of a green park where families gather for relaxation and pick-nicks. The construction of the mosque has been completed in 2008 at a cost of nearly 60 million USD. It can hold up to 40.000 worshipers.
The mosque was built in a Yemeni architectural style and includes wooden roofs, 15 wooden doors which are nearly 23 meters in height and include engraved copper patterns as well as 6 large minarets, 4 of which are 160 meters (525 feet) in height. Surrounding the mosque there's sprawling gardens. At night time, the mosque is lighted up and can be seen from the Old City. One of the best places to see the Presidents Mosque against the background of the mountains, is the rooftop of the Burj al-Salaam hotel in the heart of Old Sanaa - A lovely place to enjoy a cup of tea or western (Italian!) cuisine.
The Dar al-Hajjar, also known as the Rock Palace, lies in the green oasis of Wadi Daar not far from the city of Sanaa. The palace was constructed in the 1930s and has been used as a summer residence of the Zaidi imam Yahya who effectively ruled over the mountainous areas of North Yemen. It is one of the most photographed buildings in the country. Most noticeable is the location, built on a large rock. The Yemeni architecture and characteristic paintings of it's windows and edges make the building visually attractive. The palace was restored for visitors but not turned into a museum. It's five floors offer enough to see. Even from it's base the view upwards is stunning, and the view from the mountains surrounding the Wadi looking down at the palace is equally impressive. When there is enough time, our driver will stop at different spots so you can see the palace from various perspectives.
Thula is one of the five historic towns on the UNESCO priority list of Yemeni heritage. For many visitors, this is the most beautiful village in the Amran region, and perhaps in the whole of Yemen. The first installation, named "Altaleh", goes back to the Himyarite which is confirmed by inscriptions that are still visible on the cliff. The houses in Thula are three to five floors, pressed against each other and leaving only space for narrow lanes. The gates of the ramparts, mosques and mausoleums, ancient palace of the Imam, pools, steam rooms and the souq artisans complete this medieval city that has lost none of its vitality. At the top, the ruins of several homes around large tanks are guarded by a tower, a reminiscent of ancient times. The village is surrounded by a 2000 meters long wall, 5 to 7 meters high and 3 meters wide, having 26 towers and 9 gates. About 600 stone houses, all in the same style and in harmony. Punctuated by numerous mosques including the largest rises in the 12th Century. The old souq with traditional 110 stalls and water points, which is still present in two large pools that date back to the 15th century. Overall, this village has been preserved very well and during tour you will have the time to explore this peaceful place on your own.
The town of Hababa is located south-west of Thula. A pittoresk town which is famous for it's ancient water basin.
Kawkaban is a hilltop village, with a history dating back to the pre-seventh century BC, and located north-west of Sanaa in the Mahweet province. Most notable feature of Kawkaban is it's one entrance gate which is often closed at night. The village is said to have a history of scientific and cultural life linked to the existence of schools, books and teachers. Many visitors experience the place as a quiet, small walled town on a high mountain plateau from where you have wide views over the valley beneath. You can linger around and watch the old houses, or hike up to Kawkaban from the village Shibam in the valley after having lunch in a typical restaurant where you can taste different kinds of Yemeni cuisine.
Located in the Manakhah District in the Haraz Mountains, you will find the village of Al-Hajjarah, famous for it's houses that are built onto the cliff faces. And not surprisingly, the name of the town (Hajjara) literally means stone in Arabic. The village has a population of about 2500 and contains the former residence of Imam Yahya Muhammed, the Imam of the Zaidi's from 1904 and Imam of Yemen from 1918. It's an ideal base for hiking the nearby Haraz Mountains. When accompanied by an optional local guide, you have the chance to learn about the many nearby villages and their local culture. The most notable expression of this are the tribal dances. Besides that, you will be able to find agricultural terraces - the region has the most rainfall of all Arabia. Popular crops are fruit trees, mangoes, cotton and of course coffee. The famous mocha beans (a crossing between cacao and coffee beans) "discovered" and brought to Europe by Marco Polo are in fact originating from this very region!
Not far from the capital city, you find the reminiscences of Bait Baus. Until the second half of the 20th century inhabited by a Jewish community who were known for creating highly-skilled artworks and silver jewelry. The Jews have long time left and the village is nearly abandoned. Nowadays a few Yemeni families live in the village and their kids are eager to show the few lost travelers all the highlights of the town which is completely built on a rock. The rock is accessible by a stone bridge, which has an improvised car-parking on the other side - a quiet hilly spot where young Sanaani's gather in the evening to enjoy smoking sheesha and watch the view on the city of Sanaa in the valley. If you are familiar with Geocaching, bring your GPS, because on this location you can find the only Geocache hidden in all of Yemen.
Itineraries around Sanaa
All our Yemen tours all done with local guides in Sanaa, tribal trekking guides in the Haraz mountains, and local Socotri island guides.
Listed below are the current itineraries for our 2/3/5-days tour programs around Sanaa. After these tours you have time to explore Old Sanaa by yourself. Walk through narrow winding streets, visit the different souqs and meet friendly locals who proudly pose for your camera.
We are flexible in case you want to have your private tour customized. Please contact us if you have special wishes!
Tip: Try combining a tour around Sanaa with a 3-5 days visit to Socotra island. Ask us for the seasonal quotes!
Included in all tours: all costs and services, incl. transfers, travelpermits, car/jeep & driver, ticket fees, Yemeni lunch in typical restaurants.
Breakfast is standard included in the accommodation. Only dinner is not included, but costs are generally low for international standards.
Not included: international flights to/from Yemen.
Because of the security situation in other parts of the country, we suspended several tours and are offer this itinerary as a replacement.
Itineraries in other parts of Yemen
Temporary suspended are the overland tours in South-West Yemen and to the Red Sea coast.
(The places: Hodeida, Kawkah, Bait al-Faqih, Zabid, Mocha, Taiz, Aden, Ibb, Jibla. Only occasional visits.)
Due to security reasons we stopped going to Wadi Hadramout (Seyun, Tarim), Mukallla and Maarib.
Hotels we work with
All our hotels are typical funduqs located within the Old City: hotel Arabia Felix (**), hotel Dawood (***), hotel Burj al-Salaam (****)
All accommodations are World Heritage buildings, safe and clean. The different ratings specify the luxury and decoration of the rooms.
Our standard budget hotels are Arabian Felix ($30 SGL) with it's leafy courtyard and Dawood ($35 SGL) with it's central location.
Top-end western accommodation include the Mercure hotel and Mövenpick, located in the new town of Sanaa. (on request)