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Culture & Identity of Yemen

WARNING: Terrorist threats continue in Yemen, please read this travel warning before going!

Introduction

Life in Yemen is generally simple as over two thirds of the people live in rural areas. For much of history the geography has divided the people as people have relied on community, family, and religion for survival and today little has changed in this regard. Even today most of the population works in agriculture as people make a living off the land today just as they have in the past.

The week in Yemen is based on Islam as Friday, Islam's holy day, is off of work for the people. As there is little consistency in the country and from industry to industry, some people also have off of work Thursdays and most schools are off on Saturdays, but this varies. For the majority of the population, those working in agriculture, Friday is a day off, but the rest of the week is filled with work, often depending on the sun, weather, and seasons. For many of these people work is a family affair as in many families the men and boys will spend their time outside and the women and girls often spend their days in the home.

As many of the people have lived on the same lands as their ancestors, communities are closely woven together as neighbors help each other. Communities also often come together at mosque each Friday, bringing the communities even closer together.

The land and religion are the base of the daily life for most of the population, but there is a minority of people living in Sana'a and other cities in the country and their lifestyle can be vastly different. Working hours tend to be more regular and there are numerous conveniences in the city from public transportation and markets to better healthcare and education. The cities also give the people a different lifestyle to a degree, but even here family, religion, and community are the center of life.

Identity

The people of Yemen struggle to identify as citizens of Yemen since the people tend to disagree with each other and the government is often times a reflection of these disagreements. Instead the people tend to first identify with their tribal affiliations, which have been present in the region for hundreds of years and have often been defined in contradiction to the other tribes present. Due to this, the people tend to distinguish themselves in contrast to each other and hence the unity in the country is lacking. In a wider sense of identity, the people tend to be divided by north and south. On a national level, there is little conformity in identity, but many leaders and politicians from numerous tribes are making attempts to unite the people and are encouraging them to identify "Yemenis" or "Yemenese." Some argue this is more of a cultural, than a political term, to be defined by the historic tribal culture, geography, Islam, and general way of life found in the country.

This page was last updated: December, 2013