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  Book review

Visitor’s Complete Guide to Yemen 

Edited by Archie D’Cruz, Arab World Tours, Bahrain; A Type of Magic, Canada; 2004. Pp. 224. Illus. Available from Kate Lawson-Statham, Overy House, Dorchester-on-Thames, Oxon OX10 7JU. Tel/Fax: Int + (44) 1865 340347. email:

This is the second publication in Arab World Tours’ Visitor’s Complete Guide series which was launched in 1996 with an information handbook on Bahrain. This guide is an attractive publication, with well reproduced colour plates on nearly every page. Many of the photographs will be familiar to anyone who has already purchased a book about Yemen, but there are also up-to-date and interesting pictures of activities for tourists.

The very high standard of printing and colour has been achieved by sponsorship through advertising to defray the cost. The lavish production gives the impression that it is an oil company publication, hotel brochure or in-flight magazine rather than a serious guide in the Baedeker sense of the word. The A4 format means that it is not a suitable traveller’s companion to be carried on tour, but should be read before departure. The strength of the publication lies in the variety of articles written by a dozen contributors. As the reader would expect, the history and heritage of Yemen are covered in several chapters, and a whole section is devoted to Soqotra. There is an article by Michael Crouch entitled ‘Living in dangerous times’ about the period before and during British withdrawal from Aden, which he wrote about in his book, An Element of Luck (The Radciffe Press, 1993). His sepia-tinted photographs and highly personal reminiscences of those distant times sit rather oddly with the rest of the guide. More relevant today are the biographies of leading Yemenis, which illustrate some of the success stories since the upheavals of the 1962 revolution and the 1994 civil war. For the visitor to Yemen, the chapter, ‘Where to stay’, is an extremely well presented description of the range of hotels, and there is much useful information in the ‘Visitor’s Directory’, including a map of major tourist sites. There are also ‘tips for tourists’ and facts about Yemen in the margins of each page. A note in the margin of the chapter on qat claims that during British rule in South Yemen qat-chewing was forbidden, but this reviewer does not remember any ban in Dhala, which was one of the few areas in the south where qat was grown and chewed extensively!

The enthusiasm of the publisher and the affection of the contributors for Yemen mean that the guide achieves its aim of encouraging tourism, particularly at a time when any positive publicity for Yemen is more than welcome after the many negative attitudes expressed in recent years.

Julian Paxton