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Yemen Travel Guide

Yemen — Shopping and Leisure

Nearly every Yemeni city, town, and village has some sort of shopping, usually in the form of a souk (market). Souks are attractions in themselves, and ideal places for visitors to learn the culture, language, and customs of Yemen all in one go. Souks can run daily, weekly, or seasonally. The jambiya (curved dagger), which is worn by men, is the most sought-out item among visitors and can be purchased on its own or with a case. Handmade belts and items made of silver can also be seen in many souks across the country. Jewelry made from gold and semi-precious stones is favored among female visitors.

Souk al-Milh

This is the largest souk in the country and perhaps even the entire Arabian Peninsula. It can be found in the heart of Sana’a Old City and although its name translates to ‘Salt Market’, there is more than just salt sold here. There are around 30 specialized souks, including souks of fabrics, gold, spices, artisans, and Yemeni pearls. Be prepared to barter but don’t expect drastic reductions on the original asking price when doing so. The market, which is somewhat of a small town within the Old City, is surrounded by beautiful tower houses with distinctive Yemeni qamariya stained-glass windows.

Jambiya

This is a short curved dagger that is worn by men as an accessory and is of great symbolic value. Different brands manufacture jambiya, with the price varying depending on the brand. Brands are associated with the material in which the dagger is made from as well as the quality and the design. The handle is the most significant part of the dagger, with the saifani (rhinoceros horn) handle being the most famous and most expensive. Handles are also made from the horns of other animals though the cheapest ones are made out of wood. The blade is normally made out of steel and is placed in a sheath made from wood. The sheath is then elaborately decorated with silver work, leather, and semi-precious stones to signify the status of the man wearing it. The more elaborate the sheath, the more expensive the dagger.

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