At the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula, this small country is a trove of amazing culture, history, architecture, and even nature, but sadly, the brutal civil war - fed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States - that has raged here since 2014 has created a humanitarian disaster that has all but halted tourism.

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One of nature's more dramatic flora, the dragon's blood tree is endemic to Yemen's Socotra archipelago, and named for its dark-red sap. And while Socotra has managed to remain largely insulated from the brutal fighting in the rest of Yemen, these days these amazing trees are still increasingly under threat from climate change and development pressures driven by the United Arab Emirates, which have become an increasingly heavy-handed presence here. Post:

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  • Socotra Island is a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its unique fauna and flora - especially the endemic, dramatic dragon's blood tree - and actually a bit closer to Somalia than Yemen. It had managed to stay largely insulated from Yemen's brutal civil war but has just been seized by the Southern Transitional Council, separatists who want to restore the independence of South Yemen. I guess for the time this pretty much drives the last nail into the coffin of tourism hereabouts, sadly. And just yesterday the Boston Globe ran a piece about Socotra which took note of two even more profound threats to the island's ecosystem: development by the United Arab Emirates and global warming:
    Otherworldly beauty in the balance in the Galapagos of the Middle East
    An archipelago in Yemen is home to stunning biodiversity. Civil war, geopolitical wrangling, and climate change threaten all of it.
  • Here's a reminder of the amazing heritage present in such a small country: it has no fewer than four UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the historic town of Zabid, the old quarter of capital Sana'a, the old walled city of Shibam, and one natural site, the Socotra Archipelago. So sad that all this marvelous cultural and natural wealth is largely off limits until further notice, but anyway, to read more about this remarkable sites, click here:
    Yemen - UNESCO World Heritage Centre
    Yemen - UNESCO World Heritage Centre
  • New blog post on the effects of conflict on tourism, and the rights and wrongs of encouraging tourists to come to conflict-affected areas:

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