About Socotra & Yemen
Yemen is located in the western Asia, specifically in the south western corner of Arabian Peninsula. It borders Saudi Arabia to the North, The Red Sea to the west ,the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea to the south; and Sultanate of Oman to the east. Yemen is the second largest country in Arabian peninsula occupying 527,970 Km2, and has a population of over 24 million . Yemen coastline stretches for about 2,000Km overlooking both the Arabian Sea and the Red Sea.As an oil country, Yemen began exporting oil in 1987 and there have been more recent discoveries of gas fields in Hadramout in 1993. These discoveries made the Yemeni economy depends mainly on the export of oil. in 1999 Yemen was source no. 32 of the world's oil and oil exports accounted for 80-90% of the total exports of Yemen and India, Singapore, Thailand, China, South Korea's largest importers. Yemen has natural gas reserves of about 12 -16.9 trillion cubic feet.
Among the natural resources of Yemen is its fertile land. Several crops are endemic to Yemen due to different geographical regions and diverse climates. Leading crops include millet, maize, wheat, mangoes, bananas, melons and citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, pears, apples, peaches, grapes, pomegranates and coffee. Surprisingly, Mocha is named after a sea port of the Yemeni city Mokha which was the first sea port to export coffee to the western world in the old days.
Yemen has a natural beauty and rich history. Thereby, it is qualified to house to many of the World Heritage Sites and unique tourist attractions, such as Old Sana’a City, Marib Dam, Socotra Island and Manhattan of the Desert in Hadramout are just a few. Besides its rich historical and natural treasures, Yemen also features beautiful coasts and mountains. No wonder why the Romans called it Arabia Felix (Happy Arabia). With so many amazing sights, putting together a top 10 list of tourist attractions in Yemen is not an easy task. The following list, however, should give a good indication of why over you have to visit Yemen.
Yemen has several sites recorded on the World Heritage sites including Socotra Island, Old Sana'a City and Shibam Hadhramout, and the Ancient City of Zabid. Nonetheless, so many sites are still under-discovered and local people reportedly discover different antiques and treasures in some areas. As a developing country, the Yemeni government has not yet shown interest in the tourism sector. Some studies have indicated that the development of tourism in Yemen is among the least developed countries. Tourism is a relatively small part of GDP, despite the natural and rich cultural heritage in Yemen. However, most of the hotels are up to international standards.
is the mother tongue of Yemenis, though spoken with different accents
in different regions across the country. English is spoken mostly by
educated people in main cities. Further, there are ancient Mehri and
Socotri languages which are said to be the remains of the extinct
languages of the Arabs who lived in the southern Arabian Peninsula in
ancient times. Interestingly enough, Socotri language is still today the
first language of the people of Socotra and English is the second
language of many educated adult on the island.
A cultural angle on Yemen
Yemeni customs may seem strange to a Western visitor. One of which is
arranged marriage. The bride and the bridegroom are selected by their
respective parents. In a such strict society, it is easy to see why
parents are essential to the choice of a suitable marriage partner. With
the exception of relationships within the family, a young adult doesn’t
have the chance to meet his prospective sweetheart. Instead, he has to
rely on the advice of his mother, older sisters or aunts. When adult
reaches the age of marriage which is usually around 17 to 19, the mother
looks for a suitable bride from the neighboring families or from their
Religious Holidays :
10 Dhu al-Hijjah, Eid al-Adha
1 Shawal Eid al-Fitr
10 Muharram Achourra Day
12 Rabia al-Awal . The birth of the Prophet Muhammad.
National Holidays :
May 22 National Unity Day celebration of the unification of Yemen
September 26 anniversary of the 1962 Revolution
October 14th anniversary of the Revolution of 1963
November 30th 1963 Independence Day
Socotra Archipelago is a natural gem in the Arabian Sea. It belongs to
the Republic of Yemen and is located 380 km from the south Yemen
coastline. Thanks to its location well hidden from the eyes of the world
and from any possible changes, very long isolation from the mainland of
Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa has given the islands a
precious chance to evolve unique and peculiar species of flora and fauna
that cannot be found anywhere else on the earth.
Due to its size, geographic position and evolutionary history, Socotra is a prime regional center of unique biodiversity. From a botanical point of view, Socotra is historically known for the rare and spectacular plants that characterize the dramatic mountain and coastal landscapes.
Natural History of Socotra Island
Socotra Island is the world’s tenth richest island for endemic plant species. And it’s the biggest island in the Middle East. Its isolated nature preserves with dazzling wildlife, including 900 species of plants and some of the rarest birds that exist nowhere else in the world, and picturesque sandy beaches. The island itself measures approximately 125 kms long by 45 kms wide and covers a total area of 3665 sq kms. In sheltered valleys and higher mountain areas is the vegetation more luxuriant. High altitudes are home to a variety of frankincense trees, three endemic Socotra aloes, and wild pomegranate. One of the most famous botanical curiosities of Socotra is the dragon’s blood tree (Dracaena cinnabari). It is restricted to the zones of sub-mountain thicket and mountain grassland. It was compared to the "blood of Abel” in ancient history. It is called Dum al Akhwein, “blood of the two brothers” Cain and Abel, in the present day Arabic language. The socotri name “Arriyahib” has no connection to the Arabic.
Flora Life of Socotra Archipelago
Scientists first reached the remote Socotra Archipelago in 1880, when Scottish botanist Isaac Bailey Balfour collected around 500 plants and over 200 of which were new species to science. Today, approximately 900 vascular plants have been recorded from Socotra, of which between 300(including some fifteen species restricted to Abd al Kuri) are found nowhere else (i.e. endemic species) they create weird vegetation – and make the archipelago the world’s tenth richest island group for endemic plant species. Many are strange-looking remnants of ancient floras which long ago disappeared from the African/Arabian mainland.
has strong links with adjacent parts of Somalia and Arabia but some
species and genera have interesting disjunctive distributions: Dracaena
cinnabari, the Dragon’s Blood tree, is a tertiary relict with related
species in southern Arabia, north-east Africa and the Canary Islands;
species of Kalanchoe and Helichrysum show strong links with southern
African species but perhaps the most strange distribution is that shown
by the genus Thamnosma with T. socotrana on Soqotra and related species
in southern Arabia, south-west Africa and south-west North America.
Socotran’s flora includes plants which can be considered taxonomic
relicts, that is with no close relatives, these include: Dirachma
socotrana, one of only two species in the Dirachmaceae, a family related
to the Malvaceae but with an interesting mixture of characters
including 8 merous flowers, stamens opposite the petals and fruits with a
dehiscence similar to that found in Geranium; Dendrosicyos Soqotranus
the only arborescent member of the Cucurbitaceae and Wellstedia a small
shrub of boraginaceous affinities but which is sometimes placed in a
family of its own.
Socotra’s fauna is just as fascinating. Among the land birds Socotra Island is home to 180 species of birds 6 species are endemic, ((Socotra sparrow – Socotra Cisticola – Socotra Starling – Socotra Sun bird –Socotra Warbler – and the rarest Socotra Bunting ( estimated with 1000 specimens alive) )). as well as 14 sub-species, are restricted to Socotra. And also it’s a host point for many immigrated/breeding birds of over 45 species such as Flamingos, Kettle Egrets, Reef Hearns, Gulls, etc. And the highest density in the world for Egyptian Vulture has registered on the island. More work is still needed to clarify the status of other species.
There are 190 species of butterfly and with a large number of endemics. The reptilian and insects fauna is also very rich 600 species of insects with 90% with high proportion of endemic. The reptilian fauna is also very rich with 19 out of a total of 22 species regarded as endemics.
shapes, caws, donkeys, and camels are common to come across. Bats and
civil cat is the only mammals native to the island.
In the marine world Socotra has taken a spectacular place as it has mixture of species from different biogeography regions- the western Indian Ocean, the Red sea, East Africa and the wider Indo-Pacific. Despite of the small archipelago, Socotra Island is home to more than 680 Species of fishes are comparable to those of the Red Sea. and about 230 species of hard corals (five are endemics) and 30 species of soft corals. In addition to 300 species of crustacean (nine are endemics), 490 species of mollusks, and 230 species of algae. Sea-turtles also nest on the north of the island but there is a need for more work on these (as with almost all Socotra’s wildlife). An endemic fresh-water crab, Potamon socotrensis, is common in the temporary water-courses. In general the fresh-water habitats of the island have been little studied and it is still not clear whether there are endemic freshwater fish living there. Among the insects it is not surprising to find many forms with reduced wings, lessening the likelihood that they are blown off the island.
biogeographic perspective, Socotra is more closely linked with Africa
than Arabia but there are also interesting affinities with other island
groups such as the granitic Seychelles and even some remote islands of
the Atlantic Ocean. There remains a great need for further studies of
individual species and of main habitats on Socotra. To date, for
example, there has been very little work done on the southern and
western plateau, the more isolated granitic pinnacles, as well as the
major part of the islands’ coastal waters.
Socotra's unique character makes it a natural World Heritage site. In practice, however, what matters is the effect on the ground. There is no little doubt that potential revenue sources for the local population must be developed and these may include small-scale tourism, the cultivation and export of native plants, or the collection and storage of seeds and cuttings for propagation as part of international programs. Given the social and developmental pressures which are now a fact of life on Socotra the continued survival of many endemic species, and of unique habitats is at risk. Socotra provides both an opportunity and a challenge for mankind.
Fortunately the concept and value of conservation is still high on
the agenda of the island’s people. It is to be hoped that local and
national efforts to protect Socotra's unique wildlife are supported by
international assistance and that the island’s uniqueness is maintained
for the benefit and pleasure of future generations.
How to Conserve Socotra Island with Eco-Tourism and the Biodiversity of Socotra ?
Socotra has one of the richest island floras in the world – on a par with those of the Galapagos, Mauritius, Juan Fernandez and the Canary Islands. However, island ecosystems are often fragile and their native species vulnerable to overgrazing from introduced herbivores and to being out-competed by exotic plant species.
The threats to the Socotran flora can be illustrated by considering the fate of the vegetation on other oceanic islands. The decimation of Dracaena draco on the Canary Islands and Madeira is a particularly relevant example. On Socotra, however, Dracaena cinnabari is widespread over the centre and east of the island and it is the dominant tree in some areas. In the Canary Islands its closest relative, D. draco, is reduced to five trees on Madeira and is extinct on four of the seven Canary islands with no more than 200 trees surviving on the other three islands.
undoubtedly drastic changes to the vegetation and widespread extinctions
in the past but now a balance seems to have been established between
man and nature. There is no evidence to suggest that the situation on
the island has changed much since Balfour’s visit in 1880. There seem to
have been no extinctions since Balfour’s time and certainly the
suggestion that the island’s flora has been decimated by huge goat herds
(Lucas et al. 1978 etc.) is totally unfounded. However, proposed
development on the island could see the situation deteriorate very
Together to protect the unique island of Socotra.
Ecotourism Definition :
"Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people." (TIES, 1990)
Principles of Ecotourism:
Ecotourism is about uniting conservation, communities, and sustainable travel. This means that those who implement and participate in ecotourism activities should follow the following principles:
Almost everything is strangely different, on Socotra Island, wildlife, nature, fauna and flora and the bizarre formation of the rocks, everything you'll see and touch on your Socotra holiday is seldom not found anywhere else .
Socotra Island also has beautiful beaches and magnificent untouched coral reefs enticing scuba divers and snorkel into the warm Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean waters. This makes Socotra holidays not only unique but a completely new destination to explore. For those people who are looking for something new and different in a holiday, Socotra Island should be the first top on their list. Activities vary from exploring the unusual features of the island, hiking on mountains to relaxing beaches in the tropical sunshine.