A map of Yemen In 1990 two countries, North and South Yemen, united to become a single country: the Republic of Yemen. One of the poorest countries in the Middle East, Yemen’s wealth depends on its oil reserves. Much of the country occupies a high, rocky plateau. In the east, this land merges with the Rub' al Khali desert, or Empty Quarter. At the plateau’s western edge is a cooler, mountainous region: most of Yemen’s population and its most productive farmland are found here. Along the Red Sea coast, the land slopes steeply down to flat, semi-arid plains and marshlands: the Tihamah. Apart from in the cooler western highlands, Yemen has an extremely hot, dry climate.
Decades of civil war, along with a shortage of water and resources, have slowed Yemen’s development. Many people still make a living from farming, digging out terraces from the mountainsides to get the best use out of small areas of farmland. These terraces are fed by ancient water channels and are used to grow coffee and wheat. In the Tihamah lowlands, farmers grow dates and cotton.
The Great Dam of Ma’rib, built around 1800 years ago in central Yemen by the Sabaeans, is thought to be the oldest known dam in the world.
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