When exploring Yemen, the following guidelines should always be followed:
- This is a Muslim-majority nation. As a result, be cautious about where you aim your camera. There are many excellent picture possibilities around every turn (the question is generally what to leave out of each shot), but always ask first when shooting people. The Arabic phrase “mumkin akhud sura minak?” is very helpful. Never, ever attempt to photograph ladies, even if you are a woman yourself. This is a serious crime that may result in more than a few angry words. Also, do not attempt to photograph anything that seems to be of strategic significance (i.e. has at least one soldier or policeman guarding it). However, if you ask politely and the guards are in a good mood, you may be permitted to take a souvenir picture with a military guy carrying a machine gun!
- Despite its proximity to wealthier oil-producing nations, Yemen remains one of the poorest countries on the planet. Many residents have difficult living circumstances. Expect local businesses to charge you a greater price as a tourist. While visitors should be aware of Yemen’s poverty level, they should avoid empathetic impulses to pay the merchant’s initial price. Bargaining is a part of life for many people throughout the globe, and it is expected of all purchasers.
- If an area is off-limits, there is a solid reason for it. As appealing as it may seem to play the daring explorer, there is no need to raise your chances of getting abducted or worse unless absolutely necessary.
In addition, be prepared to be requested for pens (qalam, galam) and sweets for the local schools (bonbon). In the former scenario, if you have one to spare, you may want to think about it. In the latter case, resist the temptation to offer a handout since it will set a precedent for the next foreigner to come. It should go without saying that you should never give money to youngsters (“fulus!” “bizniz!”). Instead, make a donation to a local charity.