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Daily Life in Yemen

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A wadi, which serves as a highway during dry season, separates new Sanaa (left) from old Sanaa (right). Old Sanaa is one of four UNESCO World Heritage sites in Yemen.

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Restaurants serving fuul, a piping hot mixture of broad beans and spices served with bread, are almost always packed with hungry Yemenis looking for a cheap, filling meal at lunchtime.

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Between playing with his friends, who have also set up impromptu fruit stands, a young boy patiently waits for tourists in the shadow of Dar al-Hajjar, the 17th century summer residence of Imam Yahya. Roughly half of Yemen's population is under the age of 15, and many forgo school to help support their families by working.

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The ancient walled city of Shibam, situated in the vast Wadi Hadramaut in eastern Yemen, dates back to the fourth century A.D. Most of its towering "skyscrapers," made of sun-dried mud bricks, were built in the 16th century or later. Some 7,000 residents still inhabit the narrow streets of this UNESCO World Heritage site.

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The 11th century port city of Al Mukalla, located along the Gulf of Aden, was badly damaged during Yemen's civil war, but remains an important center for the fishing industry. The mixture of architectural styles that still dominate local buildings reflect its history as a key trading post between India and Africa.

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The village of Jibla is located in the midst of the fertile valleys and terraced mountainsides of southwestern Yemen. Jibla served as the capital of the Sulayhid empire during the latter 11th and early 12th centuries, prospering greatly under the rule of Queen Arwa. The distinctive minaret of the mosque she built still rises gracefully above the town.

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A wedding procession through the streets of old Sanaa draws the neighbors out to celebrate the occasion with singing and dancing.

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The distinctive jambiya, a short, curved dagger worn on a belt, is an indispensable component of traditional male dress in Yemen. A powerful symbol of social status, the jambiya is often raised in celebratory dance at weddings, but rarely if ever drawn as a weapon except in the most extreme circumstances.

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The local square in any quarter of the old city is a gathering place for friends, family, and neighbors to discuss the latest news, share stories, and catch up with one another over a strong cup of tea or coffee or a glass of freshly squeezed juice.

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Seen here in mid-2004, the Al Saleh Mosque in Sanaa was completed in late 2008 under the direction of President Ali Abdullah Saleh at the cost of approximately $60 million dollars. The mosque, which can hold over 40,000 worshippers, was viewed by some as an extravagant expense in a country that ranks as one of the poorest in the Arab world.

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Along with unsheathed jambiyas, AK-47s, rifles, and pistols are a frequent sight at wedding celebrations such as this one. Despite government attempts to crack down on gun markets, Yemen is still estimated to have one of the highest rates of civilian small-arms ownership in the world.

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Children who live within the walls of Shibam love to play games, ride bikes, and cause mischief as much as children anywhere else. Despite its isolated location in Wadi Hadramaut, modern residences and SUVs are increasingly common sights.

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During the dry season, the wadi separating New and Old Sanaa buzzes with evening traffic as people come and go across the city.

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Generations of merchants and specialists (such as this family of traditional pharmacists) have plied their wares and offered hospitality to potential customers in the mazelike souq in Sanaa.

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Most Yemeni women wear the niqab (pictured on the far right) when out in public. While it's not uncommon to see women similarly covered in brightly patterned tribal scarves, it is unusual to see one, like this woman on the left, both uncovered and chewing khat in public.

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Just about everything one could want or need can be found in the souq, including a dazzling array of grains and fragrant spices.

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Boasting one of the best-preserved medinas, or old cities, in the Middle East, Sanaa is immediately recognizable by its traditional buildings built of stone, mud brick, and colorful stained glass windows.

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A camel takes a break from powering his owner's mill to enjoy a snack. 

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