Virtually every aspect of life in North Yemen has changed dramatically since 1977, including those aspects of Yemeni society which represent continuity with the past: tribalism, rural life, and use of qat.1 The driving force for change has been economic. By 1975, Yemen was caught up in the dramatic developments that affected all Arab countries. Rising international oil prices generated enormous surpluses in the producing countries, enabling them to initiate ambitious development plans and forcing them to import workers.

The Yemen Arab Republic (YAR) was in a good position to provide those workers. In the late 1970s, one of the jokes around the capital city, Sana', was that Yemen had neither an "open door" nor a "closed door" but a "no door" policy with its oil-producing neighbors. Ill-defined and sparsely settled borders allowed easy movement of Yemeni workers to Saudi Arabia and of their remittances and goods back home.

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Copyright © 1991 Middle East Research and Information Project. This article first appeared in Middle East Report 170 21:3 (1991), 24-29.

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