Yemen, until recently, was a country largely ignored and unknown by the media, by Westerners, and even most scholars of the Middle East. Yemen does not have the vast oil reserves and geopolitical importance of Saudi Arabia, the glitz of Dubai, Lebanon’s cosmopolitanism, or the West’s long and storied intrigue of Egyptian history; however, it is a country that is rich in culture, hospitality, and beauty. Do not be dissuaded by the embellished media reports of terrorism and danger, and take a serious look at Yemen if you are considering studying or visiting the Arab world.
Yemen is, by and large, no more dangerous than any other country, and many would argue is, in fact, safer. Certainly there is extreme poverty, old jihadis from the Soviet-Afghanistan War, and present Al-Qaeda sympathizers, but there have been no incidents of American or European students harmed or killed in Yemen. There have been, unfortunately, American troops, Western tourists and missionaries killed in a few isolated incidents–but many hundreds of students have come and gone without harm. But, you can check the State Department’s Travel Warnings to see a list of incidents and all sorts of reasons why you shouldn’t go there.
The Department of State is concerned that al-Qa‘ida and its affiliates are actively engaged in extremist-related activities in Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula. The Department remains concerned about possible attacks by extremist individuals or groups against U.S. citizens, facilities, businesses and perceived interests.
Realistically, however, you can be certain there is more overall crime and danger present in parts of Washington DC, the United Kingdom, Mexico, and so forth. I was pleasantly surprised to come across a recent story in the Los Angeles Times which took a measured look at the lives of foreigners and students currently in Yemen, and avoided the typical, lazy journalism which arbitrarily throws about “underwear bomber, failed state, and ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden”.