Sunday, July 5, 2009

Suqatra Island, Yemen

This enchanting and little known island also known as Socotra is located off the coast of Yemen in the Middle East. Isolated from the rest of the world its plants have evolved into many bizarre shapes and forms that are unknown in other parts of the world. One of the most famous of these is the Dragon's Blood Tree the sap of which is used to make crystals that can be used as a dye or as an alleged aphrodisiac. The plant depicted on the right is the strange Desert Rose (Adenium obesium) but sometimes more popularly called the Elephants Leg Tree. The Island is slowly becoming known to the world and has great potential for eco-tourism as long as the visitors don't do more damage than good. Other species include the Cucumber Tree and the Socotran Fig. Suqatra was listed as a World Heritage Site in 2008.


The Archipelago of Socotra lies at the entrance to the Gulf of Aden between the Latitudes (12.18-12.24) north of the equator and the longitudes (53.19-54.33) east of Greenwich. It is about 380 km a way from Ras Fartak in the Yemeni eastern province of Maharah and about 553 miles away from Aden province.

Socotra stretches as a piece of land with an area of about 3650 square Km; up to a length 125 kilometer and width of 33 Km in the Indian Ocean, with an archipelago of small islands like AL-Akhawain island, Darsah island, Samh island and Abdul Kori island which is the most densely populated and is always known for its affluence of Diamonds collection. It is the second largest an archipelago after Socotra.


According to the census held in 1994, the Socotra archipelago is inhabited by about 65,514 people.


The surface of the island varies into four kinds of relief as the follows:

The Central Plateau:
It occupies most of the island area and is parted by Tatrat Valley into two main parts: the eastern and the western Plateau, overlooking gradually the coastal plains.

The coastal plains:
The coastal Plains are situated in the north and south of the island and are non-existent in the east or west of the island due to the extension of drifts to the coast.

The coastal plains are divided into two parts:
The northern coastal plain named Hadibo plain, the southern plain which is called by the island inhabitants as Nawjad.
The Hadibo plain is divided into different areas as the following:
Ras Mdhin plain and the plains of Dirya’h valley and Taua’an valley

The Southern coastal plains:
The Nawjad plain that divides into the plains of Difarho valley and Diezarhu valley. Those plains extend from the south of Moma Ras area east of the island until Shoab Ras in west. Agriculture- suitable soil covers those plains while soft sand dunes are near the coasts.

The most important of which are the mountainous 24 km range of Hajhar mountains which are located at the eastern part of the island along Arida Bay, overlooking Hadibo and extending north easterly to south westerly at a distance of 25 Km of which the highest peak is Dawkam whose altitude 1630 m above sea level. There are also a number of other mountains, including Valege mountains east of the island whose altitude 640 m above sea level, the 978 m Qulahl mountains which lay at southwest of the island, the 699 m Kadah mountains in south and Qaten mountain whose altitude 800 m above sea level.


The plains are interspersed by many valleys. Some of which pour at the northern part of the island and some of which pour at its southern part and the most important of which is azroo Valley which intersects the island from north to south in addition to the valleys springing out from the Hajhar Mountainous Rang which are characterized for their running water all along the year. Those valleys are the valleys of Danjhn, Hasharah, Danayah, Draba’ah and Toa’aq.


The island is prevailed generally with a sea relatively hot weather of which the average daily temperature in Hajhar Mountains ranges between 26-28 Celsius while in June and July the temperature reaches its extreme and falls during January and February.

The island is subjected to sharp southern westerly winds during the summer months (June, July, August) with an average speed between 13-18 Km /h, whose speed decreases gradually during September till end at the beginning of October. In June, July and August, the speed of south-western winds hits 40-50 knots, accompanied by severe sea turmoil.

The average humidity ratio ranges between 55% as the maximum in August and 70% as the minimum in January. Average annual rainfall of the island is 150-170 mm but this quantity fluctuates to a great extent from one year to another.

Administrative regions

The island is divided administratively into two regions as the following:

Hadibo: it is the capital of the island and located in the north-east of the island, and it has the largest urban center. The inhabitants of the city raise goats and cattle. It is also surrounded by thick forests of palm trees along the valleys, where water flow endlessly. The city provides the minimum basics of health services.

Qalanseya and Abdul Koree region: it is situated in the western part of the island, and equips many residential-populated quarters. Its main city is Qalanseya located at the western coastal strip of the island. it is the second urban habitation after Hadibo. Its houses consisted of one floor only, colored predominantly in white, which gives the city a beautiful character.

In 1967, the island it was administratively related to Aden province, but later it became a part of Hadramout province under the Republican decree No. (23) for 1999.

Historical Introduction

The name of the Socotra island originated from one old forgotten language-dialect spoken at one time by the pre-historic passers to the island. This ancient term of a name given for the island was "Eipheba Sakhotora" which used to mean "The island of Happiness.

The fame and historic important of Socotra dates back to the beginning of holy commodities trade prosperity and the activity of the old trade route which is much better known as Frankincense, Myrrh and Laudanum route for the island was one of the main producers of such essential commodities in addition to its being the back reserve for the support of Yemeni ancient Hadramawt Civilization along the first millenium BC when the kingdom of Hadramawt was named ( kingdom of Frankincense, Myrrh and Laudanum).

Based on its important role in the production of the sacred goods and valuables from various spices and pearl, it has had a presence in books of ancient voyagers. In the geographic exploration ear, it was coveted by invaders, where the Portuguese colonized it (1507-1557). They stayed till the end of the fifteenth century. Then, the British colonized the island, considering it an important strategic point so that they occupy Aden Aden on January 1839.

On 30th November 1967 the island became part of what was known as South Yemen. But now after the reunification on 22nd May 1990, It is a part of Republic of Yemen.

The Socotra archipelago

The archipelago consists of the main island of SUQATRA, ABDU ALKURI, SAMHAH, ARSAH, SIYAL ABDU ALKURI and SIYAL SUQATRA.

Abdul Kori island is the most densely populated and is always known for its affluence of Diamonds collection. It is the second largest an archipelago after Socotra. It is away 200 miles from northwest of the island of Socotra. There is a small berth at the southern shore of the island of ABDU ALKURI.

The archipelago also includes a number of rock outcrops like SIRAH, ADLAH, SAYHAR, JALIS, RADAD, KARSHAH and DHA’IN DHATIL.

Tourist sector

This important marine location can make it a distinctive center for tourism and investment attraction, due to the island’s supporting elements of attractive features that were created through the nature existing there.

These are represented by its green forests that cover extensive areas of land suitable to be transformed to several Tourism scenes. Besides, certain tourist activities such as fish canning and diving places can be implemented in such a rare and naturally protected area.

Socotra is considered a natural jewel of rare biodiversity. The long geological isolation of the Socotra archipelago and its fierce heat and drought have combined to create a unique and spectacular endemic flora. The archipelago is a site of global importance for biodiversity conservation and a possible center for ecotourism.

Yemen is greatly interesting Socotra to take advantage of its diversified stocks and diverse natural and economic characteristics. The tourist attractions describe generally the island as a museum of natural history, including a rare biodiversity receives an attention by the UNESCO and several international bodies which make further efforts to preserve the island’s environment.

Socotra, the colony settlement for rare natural birds and plants and enjoy an important strategic location, is now prepared to become the pearl of the Arabian Sea and relatively shining diamond. It is a new era.

The UNESCO and international bodies’ interests of Socotra included firstly etting up a number of development programs devoted to preserve the island’s rare biodiversity, including the nomination of Socotra as a natural reserve in order to serve humanity.

Setting up a project of the protection of biodiversity in the island and the archipelago, the government issued in April 1996 the decree No. (96) to avoid causing any deterioration in the natural environment of the island with the increased pace of economic and population growth on the island during the current and future periods. It is to implement projects of protecting environmentally sensitive species and sites to ensure the sustainability of development in the naturally protected areas.

Socotra island can be regarded a kingdom of medical shrubs and plants. Some of theme are rare, the others unique. It occupies the tenth rank amongst the richest island in the world in respect of unique plantation kind and the rare ones.

It boasts having 750 kinds of plants of which 600 kinds are rare and 150 kind are uniquely owned by the island where noequivalents are available all over the world, the most important of which is two Brothers Blood tree. the seven different Ladanum tree. This concentration of the kinds of Ladanum is not available anywhere except on this island, in addition to other natural plants which are commonly used on the island on which the Socotra depended as a sort of cure for the different diseases.


The island also abounds with many species of birds which form with the plantation environment and Marine environment one of the Tourism parameters. It is considered one of the most important locations in the Middle east in which birds live due to the spread of natural woodland 105 kinds of birds of which thirty kinds procreate on the island, 4 kinds indigenous, 14 kinds are subject to extinction worldwide ...they are The Socotran Starling, Socotran Alhazijah , and the Socotran Learner.

A Yemeni association for protecting birds seeks to expedite the conduct of studies and surveys of the island to map of the distribution of birds and breeding places for protecting them.

The beach
There are a number of beautiful beaches on the island, the most important of which is Nawjed beach.and also many species of marine animals and fish, especially shrimps.

The shores of the island reach 300 miles and have unique characteristics in terms of pure white sand dunes and palm trees.

They are good locations for recreation and diving, particularly after providing tourist infrastructure services in the island. The beaches of Socotra contain many rare diverse water creations like green turtles in addition to coral reefs and pearl, which the island of Socotra famous since ancient historical times.

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Yementourism said...

very wonderful images

Jana said...

beautiful reporatage, thanks for showing us this masterpiece of nature!

ashraf said...

i like this island and i would like to go there.

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