Yemeni traditions and customs

What traditions and customs are there in Yemen?

We will observe the customs and traditions of Yemen.


Food in daily life

Yemenis usually eat three times a day at home. The traditional diet varies locally and socially and is open to innovation. Usually, there is an early breakfast of strong, sweet tea with bread made from sorghum, wheat, or barley; dinner includes a prepared fenugreek oatmeal with meat, eggs, vegetables, herbs and spices, served hot in a stone or clay bowl; a light dinner consists of vegetables and/or dates.

One can drink a glass of tea or an infusion of coffee shells in the open air during the day. Lentils and peas are traditional staples in addition to sorghum. Many cheap restaurants have opened, some of them Lebanese. Local food taboos are common in the Islamic world: alcohol and pork are officially prohibited.

Food customs on ceremonial occasions

At festivals and celebrations, the festive food of the nomads is eaten, roasted or boiled meat of goat or sheep served on mounds of rice. In towns and cities it is served with garnishes of roasted or fried aubergines and mixed green salads, with fruit or custard with raisins or grapes for dessert.

People now consume more fish, poultry, and dairy products. Among the variety of sweets is the bintassahn, a puff pastry covered with honey. Yemenis prepare special dishes and sweets for night breaks during the Ramadan fast. Coffee is drunk at weddings and religious festivals. In decorated halls, people smoke hookahs and chew qat.


Most marriages are arranged by families: a groom’s female relatives suggest potential brides to him and his father, who reach a decision according to the rules of martial conformity. In most cases, the woman’s father asks her about her wishes before preparing the marriage contract.

The bridegroom and bride are linked to their respective descent groups through the male line: The groom’s father has to pay the bride price and the bride’s family is expected to help her through difficult times. Arab custom considers a parallel cousin marriage in which the father’s brother’s daughter is the bride to be ideal, as well as other endogamous marriages.

Shari’a law allows a man to marry up to four wives if he treats all of them as equals; the polygamy rate is low. Half of the adult population is married, four percent is widowed, and one percent is divorced. Both men and women can file for divorce.

If initiated by the husband, the ex-wife keeps her bride price and can remarry after four months and ten days, during which time the ex-husband has to support her. Children up to seven years of age remain with the mother if she does not remarry. Divorce and remarriage are not stigmatized.


Social and individual interactions are determined by customary law and religious norms, which include a structured series of verbal exchanges and greetings to say hello or goodbye and to avoid women who are not close relatives.

The disparity of strata reflected in the norms of behavior has been diminishing, but it still exists with respect to marriage and other rules. Cultural values ​​include hospitality, respect for the elderly, decency, and good manners when eating from a communal plate. Guests do not accept more than three cups of coffee or tea and

the cup is swung from side to side to show that nothing else is needed, and the shoes are left in the open air before entering a dwelling. The physical distance between the social actors is close.

The spatial arrangement of social interactors is circular at tribal gatherings and linear during ritual ceremonies in mosques and outdoors; inside, it’s on the perimeter, with the best position on the far corner of the wall where the door is situated.

In a market one is expected to enjoy the trading process. During social events, poets, singers, and dancers may transgress the precepts of acceptable behavior.


Religious beliefs

Sunni Islam of the Shafi’i school dominates in the south and in many regions of the north; the Zaydi Shi’a school with its center in Sa’da is practiced mainly among the tribes of the central mountains and the adjoining highlands.

A much smaller Islamic group near Manakha are the Ismaelis, who are divided into the Sulaymani (“Makarima”) branch, which is connected to Najaran, and the Dawudi (“Boharas”), which is linked to India.

Religious professionals

Islamic scholars, judges, administrators of charitable estates, elders of holy enclaves, and community prayer leaders used to be recruited primarily from the top two strata, but now they may also belong to other classes.

Rituals and sacred places

Yemenis observe the Five Pillars of Islam, including five prayers a day and a daytime fast during the month of Ramadan.

The weekly rest day is Friday. Religious celebrations include 27 Ramadan, the Night of Power; 1 Shawwal, the Lesser Festival; 10 Dhu al-Hijja, the Greater Festival, or the Festival of the Sacrifice, which commemorates the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca; 12 Rabi’ al-Awwal, the birthday of the Prophet; 10 Muharram, the day of the martyrdom of Imam Husayn; and 27 Rajab, the day of the Prophet’s miraculous journey.

In the middle of the Rajab, pilgrimages are usually made to the tombs of local saints.

Death and the afterlife

The body of the deceased is washed, perfumed and wrapped in a seamless white shroud. The deceased must be buried before sunset on the day of death. Women do not accompany the body to the grave, remaining outside the cemetery.

During the first three days of mourning, the Koran is read and relatives and friends visit the family of the deceased. Remembrance sessions are normally held on the seventh and fortieth days after death.

Secular celebrations

On May 22, National Day, commemorates the unification of the country. The Revolution of September 26, 1962 in the north and the start of the revolt in the south on October 14, 1963 are also celebrated.

The arts and humanities


Medieval culture was rich in historical, geographical and religious works; agricultural almanacs; astronomical treatises; and rhymed prose. Classical and colloquial style poetry is the most popular art form. Since the Middle Ages, poetry has been spoken, sung and improvised during social events, performances and competitions.

Graphic arts

The rich traditions of decorative art, such as silver jewelry, embroidered garments, hand-woven textiles, and architectural decoration, are still practiced. There are art galleries in the big cities with modern drawings, paintings and sculptures.

Performing arts

Traditional performances include musical-poetic improvisations called dan in the Hadhramaut, in which the singers sing a wordless melody and the poets offer them a newly created text line by line. There are ritual choral processions, tribal songs, special types of regional songs, and local and strata dances.

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