Culture of Yemen
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (December 2009)|
Religion in Yemen consists primarily of two principal religious groups of Islam; Sunni and Shi'a. About 52% of the Muslim population is Sunni, and 46% is Shi'a. Sunnis are primarily Shafi'i, but also include significant groups of Malikis and Hanbalis. Shi'as are primarily Zaidis, and also have significant minorities of Twelver Shi'as and Musta'ali Western Isma'ili Shi'as (see: Shia Islam in Yemen).
The Sunnis are predominantly in the south and southeast. The Zaidis are predominantly in the north and northwest, while the Jafaris and Ismailis are mostly located in the main centers of Sana'a and Ma'rib. There are mixed communities in the larger cities.
Less than 1% of Yemenis are non-Muslim, adhering to Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, and Atheism. There are also approximately 3,000 Christians, 400 Jews, and an extreme minority of Hindus. Neither the constitution nor other laws protect or inhibit freedom of religion; however, government policies contributed to the generally free practice of religion.
The music of Yemen is primarily known abroad for a series of pan-Arab popular stars and the Yemenite Jews, who became musical stars in Israel during the 20th century. In the Arab world, Yemen has long been a cultural center.
UNESCO proclaimed the tradition of poetic songs in Sana'a, called al-Ghina al-San'ani, a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity on November 7, 2003.
The history of Yemeni theatre dates back at least a century, to the early 1900s. Both amateur and professional (government-sponsored) theatre troupes perform in the country's major urban centers. Many of Yemen's significant poets and authors, like Ali Ahmed Ba Kathir, Muhammad al-Sharafi, and Wajdi al-Ahdal, have written dramatic works; poems, novels, and short stories by Yemeni authors like Mohammad Abdul-Wali and Abdulaziz Al-Maqaleh have also been adapted for the stage. There have been Yemeni productions of plays by Arab authors such as Tawfiq al-Hakim and Saadallah Wannous and by Western authors, including Shakespeare, Pirandello, Brecht, and Tennessee Williams. Historically speaking, the southern port city of Aden is the cradle of Yemeni theatre; in recent decades the capital, Sana'a, has hosted numerous theatre festivals, often in conjunction with World Theatre Day.
The Yemeni cuisine is entirely distinct from the more widely known Middle Eastern cuisines, and even differs slightly from region to region. Chicken and lamb are eaten more often than beef, which is expensive. Fish is also eaten, especially in the coastal areas.
Cheese, butter, and other dairy products are less common in the Yemeni diet. Buttermilk, however, is enjoyed almost daily in some villages where it is most available. The most commonly used lipids are vegetable oil and ghee used in savory dishes, and semn (clarified butter) is the choice of fat used in pastries.
Although each region has their own variation, saltah is considered the national dish. The base is a brown meat stew called maraq, a dollop of fenugreek froth, and sahawiq or sahowqa (a mixture of chili peppers, tomatoes, garlic, and herbs ground into a salsa). Rice, potatoes, scrambled eggs, and vegetables are common additions to saltah. It is eaten traditionally with Yemeni flat bread, which serves as a utensil to scoop up the food.
Shakshouka is a popular dish in Yemen. Shakshouka is made with eggs, meat, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and spices (often including cumin, turmeric, and chili peppers), and usually served with Yemeni flat bread or white bread as a utensil.
Milk tea (after qat), black tea (with cardamom, clove, or mint), qishr (coffee husks), qahwa (coffee), karkadin (an infusion of dried hibiscus flowers), Naqe'e Al Zabib (cold raisin drink), and diba'a (squash nectar) are popular drinks from all over Yemen. Mango and guava juice are also popular.
Malooga and laxoox are the most popular kinds of flat breads found in Yemen. Malooga is eaten with bean dishes, such as ful medames (it is similar to rice and beans). Laxoox is eaten with curry, stews, and Yemeni soups, as well as rice dishes.
Qat, also known as Khat (Catha edulis) is a widely cultivated plant in Yemen and is generally used for chewing. When Khat juice is swallowed, its leaf juice has an amphetamine-like effect. Yemenis use traditional costumes and chew the narcotic khat-plant in the afternoons. Chewing kat is also part of the yemenic business culture to promote decision-making, but it does not expect foreigners to participate.
Football is the most popular sport in Yemen. The Yemen national football team competes in the FIFA and AFC leagues. The country also hosts many football clubs, that compete in the national and international leagues.
Yemen's mountains provide many opportunities for outdoor sports, such as biking, rock climbing, hill climbing, hiking, skiing, mountain jumping, and more challenging mountain climbing. Mountain climbing and hiking tours to the Sarawat Mountains and the Jabal an Nabi Shu'ayb, including the 5,000 m peaks in the region, are seasonally organized by local and international alpine agencies.
The coast of Yemen and Socotra also provide many opportunities for water sports, such as surfing, bodyboarding, sailing, swimming, and scuba diving. Socotra island is home to one of the best surfing destinations in the world.