Yemen: Historical Overview                                         

5000 BC                   

Early settlements are established in the mountains of northern Yemen.  

11th century BC     

Sabaean Kingdom  

940 BC                      

The Sabaens built the Great Dam of Marib to hold back the flash floods. (Reference to the dam can be found on the national emblem.)  

630 AD                     

Muhammed sent his cousin Ali to Sana’a.   


Sulayhid Dynasty



Ayyubid Conquest



Rasulid Dynasty



Tahiride Dynasty


The Ottomans decided to conquer Yemen. The Ottomans had two fundamental interests to safeguard in Yemen: The Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina (just north of Yemen in Saudi Arabia) and the spice and textile trade route with India—both of which were threatened by the arrival of the Portuguese in the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea in the early part of the 16th century.  The Zaydi highland tribes became national heroes for resisting the Turkish invasion.  


The British were looking for a coal depot to service their steamers en route to India. The British government concluded "protection and friendship" treaties with nine tribes surrounding Aden. The agreement was that Yemen would remain independent from British interference in their affairs as long as they did not make treaties with other foreigners (non-Arab colonial powers). The English presence in Aden put them at odds with the Ottomans.   


The Ottomans were concerned about the British expansion from India to the Red Sea and Arabia. By 1873, the Ottomans succeeded in conquering the northern highlands.  


North Yemen became independent from the Ottoman Empire in 1918.  


The areas in red (on the map) become a “British Crown Colony.”


The British, who had set up a protectorate area around the southern port of Aden in the 19th century, withdrew in 1967 from what became South Yemen.


The southern government adopted a Marxist orientation. The massive exodus of hundreds of thousands of Yemenis from the south to the north contributed to two decades of hostility between the states.  


The two countries were formally unified as the Republic of Yemen in 1990.      


A southern secessionist movement and brief civil war in 1994 was quickly calmed.  



Saudi Arabia and Yemen agreed to formally establish their border.  


There is fighting in the northwest between the government and the Huthis (a Zaydi Shia Muslim minority).  


The southern secessionist movement was revitalized in 2007.  

Jan 2011            

Public rallies in Sana'a against then President Salih began. The rallies were inspired by similar demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt. They slowly built momentum in late January 2011 and were fueled by complaints over high unemployment, poor economic conditions and corruption.  

Feb 2011            

By February 2011, some protests had resulted in violence. The demonstrations spread to other major cities.  

March 2011       

By March, the opposition had hardened its demands and was unifying behind calls for Salih’s immediate ousting.  

April 2011          

In April 2011, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), in an attempt to mediate the crisis in Yemen, proposed the “GGC Initiative” (an agreement in which the president would step down in exchange for immunity from prosecution). Salih’s refusal to sign an agreement led to further violence.  

Oct 2011            

The UN Security Council passed “Resolution 2014” in October 2011 calling for an end to the violence and completing a power transfer deal.  

Nov 2011           

In November 2011, Salih signed the “GCC Initiative” agreeing to step down and to transfer some of his powers to Vice President Abd Rabuh Mansur Hadi.  


Following Hadi’s uncontested election victory in February 2012, Salih formally transferred his powers. In accordance with the “GCC initiative,” Yemen launched a “National Dialogue Conference” (NDC) in March 2013 to discuss key constitutional, political and social issues.  

Jan 2014            

Hadi concluded the NDC in January 2014 and planned to begin implementing subsequent steps in the transition process, including constitutional drafting, a constitutional referendum and national elections.  

Sept 2014          

The Huthis, perceiving their grievances were not addressed in the NDC, joined forces with Salih and expanded their influence in northwestern Yemen, culminating in a major offensive against military units and rival tribes and enabling their forces to overrun the capital, Sana’a, in September 2014.  

Jan 2015            

In January 2015, the Huthis surrounded the presidential palace, Hadi’s residence, and key government facilities, prompting Hadi and the cabinet to submit their resignations.  

Feb 2015            

Hadi fled to Aden in February 2015 and took back his resignation. He subsequently escaped to Oman and then moved to Saudi Arabia and asked the GCC to intervene militarily in Yemen to protect the legitimate government from the Huthis.  


Saudi Arabia assembled a coalition of Arab militaries and began airstrikes against the Huthis and Huthi-affiliated forces. Ground fighting between Huthi-aligned forces and resistance groups backed by the Saudi-led coalition continued through 2016. The UN brokered a “cessation of hostilities” (COH) that reduced airstrikes and fighting across the country for several months in mid-2016.


Meanwhile, UN-backed peace talks in Kuwait broke down in August 2016 without agreement. The conflict escalated, and subsequent attempts to declare a COH or resume peace talks have failed. The Huthis and Salih’s political party announced a “Supreme Political Council” in August 2016 and a “National Salvation Government,” including a prime minister and several dozen cabinet members, in November 2016, to govern in Sana’a and further challenge the legitimacy of Hadi’s government.


Currently there is a humanitarian crisis in Yemen. The trash collectors have not worked in a long time since they’ve not been paid. Trash has collected in the streets. When the rains arrive, they wash away sewage and bacteria into the water system resulting contaminated drinking water which has led to an outbreak of cholera. “Every day 5,000 new suspected cases of cholera are registered in Yemen, the world’s largest outbreak of the disease, according to the World Heath Organization” 

There is hope that aid organizations will assist with the cholera epidemic and that peace will be restored soon to the beautiful and historic country of Yemen.