Yemen: Values & Religion                                         

The majority of Yemenis are bound together by similar values and a common religion. Below are some recurrent beliefs that many Yemenis hold true:

  • Importance of family
  • Faith in Islam
  • Modesty in dress
  • Acceptance of one’s place in society
  • National pride
  • Harmony and humility
  • Smooth interpersonal relationships
  • Hospitality
  • Respect for tradition
  • Respect for authority
  • Respect for elders
  • Compromise
  • Patriarchy

Q: What do you think patriarchy means?

A: Patriarchy is a social system in which the father or eldest male is head of the household, having authority over women and children. Patriarchy also refers to a system of government by males, and to the dominance of men in social or cultural systems.


The family is the center of the social structure and includes aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, and honorary relations such as godparents and close family friends. People get strength and stability from their family.

Saving/Keeping Face, Harmony, & Group

Anything that might hurt another's self-esteem is to be avoided or else one risks ending a relationship. One who is insensitive to others is said to lack a sense of shame and embarrassment. This concern for self-esteem helps to maintain harmony in society and within one's particular circle, but it also can give rise to a willingness to sacrifice personal integrity to remain in the good graces of the group.

Relax… and put your feet up. Think again!

  • In some Arab cultures, as in other cultures, to show a person the bottom of your shoe is a major insult. It is seen as displaying your lowest, filthiest body part.
  • It's also considered a bad idea to put one's shoes or feet on a desk or other piece of furniture. This is also the case is Japan, Thailand and France—where such actions are considered taboo.
  • An equivalent gesture in the United States might be to flash your bare bottom.

How would you feel if someone did that to you while in a school classroom?


Most Yemenis are Muslim (followers of Islam). About 65% are Sunni Muslim and about 35% are Shia Muslim.

Other religious groups include people of Jewish, Baha'i, Hindu and Christian persuasions. Many are refugees or temporary foreign residents. This latter group makes up a small minority of the population at about 0.9%.

Daily Prayer

There are many sacred aspects to the Islamic faith. One is the importance that prayer, considered an act of worship, plays in the devout Muslim daily routine.

Observant Muslims pray five times each day while facing Mecca. Because daytime length changes throughout the year, the prayer times also change. Often prayer times are posted in public places or online for easy reference.

Prescribed times for prayer are named:

  1. Fajr                one hour before sunrise
  2. Dhur               at noon
  3. Asr                 mid-afternoon
  4. Maghreb        sunset
  5. Isha               about 90 minutes after sunset

Five Basic Rules of the Islamic Faith

1.  Belief in one God, Allah and his prophet Muhammad

2.  Pray five times a day

3.  Fast during the month of Ramadan

4.  Give alms (money, food or other gifts to the needy)

5.  Make a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia (photo) at least once in a lifetime


The following are considered unclean and should not to be touched or swallowed.

  • Pigs and pork meat
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Human or animal excrement
  • Carcasses of dead animals
  • Dogs - They may be kept for security reasons, but only outside of the house.