Food in Yemen
Yemeni cuisine is distinct from the rest of the Arabian Peninsula, and it is a true highlight of any visit to the nation, especially when enjoyed with locals (which is an invitation most visitors will receive more often than they might expect).
Salta, a meat-based stew flavored with fenugreek and served towards the conclusion of the main course, is the trademark meal. The flavor may startle novices, but it is one well worth learning.
Yemeni honey is especially well-known across the area, and most sweets will use generous amounts of it. Bint al-sahn, a honey-drenched flat bread dish, is particularly noteworthy. Yemeni raisins are another delicious delicacy worth trying.
The qat leaf, although not technically a “food,” is something else to put in one’s mouth. This is the Yemeni social drug, and nearly everyone chews it after lunch until about dinnertime. The plant is grown all throughout Yemen, and most Yemenis are delighted to give tourists a branch or two. Chewing qat is an art, but the basic concept is to chew the tiny, soft leaves, soft branches (but not hard ones), and build up a big ball of the material in your cheek. The capacity to chew ever-increasing balls of qat is a source of pride among Yemenis, and the sight of men and boys strolling down the street in the afternoon with inflated cheeks is one the visitor will quickly get used to. The precise effects of qat are unknown, although it is thought to be a moderate stimulant. It also has an appetite suppression effect, which may explain why, despite the character of Yemeni food, there are relatively few overweight Yemenis. Another unintended consequence is insomnia.
Drinks in Yemen
Yemen is an officially dry nation; nevertheless, non-Muslims may carry up to two bottles of any alcoholic beverage into the country. These may only be used on private premises, and going outdoors while under the influence is not a good idea.
Many juices and soft drinks are easily accessible, but avoid more scruffy-looking juice stores since they may be utilizing tap water as a basis. With their meals, many Yemenis will drink tea (shay) or coffee (qahwa or bun). Yemeni coffee is much weaker than the robust Turkish coffee found elsewhere on the Arabian Peninsula.
It is best to avoid using tap water. This is a very simple task since bottled water – both cold and at room temperature – is widely accessible.