Yemen has never been among the most peaceable of places. Yemeni men have long believed in being well armed, and in modern times their traditional curved daggers, called djambias, have been supplemented by AK-47s and Kalashnikovs. These days the guns seem to be fashion accessories as much as well-used weapons. An uneasy union established nearly a decade ago between the Islamic North and secular South appears to be holding, despite occasional skirmishes.

But don't let that make you think Yemen is an easy or safe place to visit. There have been sporadic kidnappings of foreigners, including one incident that led to the death of several travelers. Terrorists attacked the U.S.S. Cole at Yemen's port of Aden in 2000, killing 17 sailors. While a trip to Yemen has always involved an element of risk, the danger posed to travelers at the current time is too substantial: We cannot recommend a trip there.

We wish the news were better, because Yemen is a fascinating place. Green and mountainous in some places and hot and desolate in others, it is dotted with remnants of early civilization—improbable protoskyscrapers and fallen towers made of mud and stone. In a very small area it contains an unexpected variety of terrains, climates, historical sites, people, cultures, architecture, music, clothing and food.

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