Yemen is one of the oldest centers of civilization in the Near East. Between the 12th century BC and the 6th century, it was part of the Minaean, Sabaean, Hazramavt, Qataban, Ausan and Himyarite kingdoms, which controlled the lucrative spice trade, and later came under Ethiopian and Persian rule. In the 7th century BC, the Himyarite king Abu-Karib Asad Toba converted to Judaism Yemenite Jews In the 7th century, Islamic caliphs began to exert control over the area. After this caliphate broke up, Yemen came under the control of many dynasties who ruled part, or often all of Yemen. Imams of Persian origin ruled Yemen intermittently for 160 years, establishing a theocratic political structure that survived until modern times. (Imam is a religious term. The Shi’ites believe it applies to Muhammad's son-in-law Ali, his sons Hasan ibn Ali and Husayn ibn Ali, and subsequent lineal descendants, whom they consider to have been divinely ordained unclassified successors of the prophet.)
Egyptian Sunni caliphs occupied much of Yemen throughout the 11th century. By the 16th century and again in the 19th century, Yemen was part of the Ottoman Empire, and in some periods Imams exerted control over all Yemen.
The modern history of Yemen began in 1918 when North Yemen gained independence from the Ottoman Empire. Between 1918-1962, Yemen was a monarchy ruled by the Hamidaddin family. North Yemen then became a republic in 1962, but it was not until 1967 that the British Empire, which had set up a protective area around the southern port of Aden in the 19th century, withdrew from what became South Yemen. In 1970, the southern government adopted a Communist governmental system. The two countries were formally united as the Republic of Yemen on May 22, 1990.
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