Yemen is in the Arab World, in the southern half of the Arabian Peninsula, bordering the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, and Red Sea. It lies south of Saudi Arabia, and west of Oman.
A number of Red Sea islands, including the Hanish Islands, Kamaran and Perim, as well as Socotra in the Arabian Sea belong to Yemen. Many of the islands are volcanic; for example Jabal al-Tair had a volcanic eruption in 2007 and before that in 1883.
At 527,970 km2 (203,850 sq mi), Yemen is the world's 49th-largest country. It is comparable in size to Thailand, and larger than the U.S. state of California. Yemen is situated at 15°N 48°E / 15°N 48°E / 15; 48.
Until recently, Yemen's northern border was undefined; the Arabian Desert prevented any human habitation there.
The country can be divided geographically into four main regions: the coastal plains in the west, the western highlands, the eastern highlands, and the Rub al Khali in the east.
The Tihamah ("hot lands" or "hot earth") form a very arid and flat coastal plain. Despite the aridity, the presence of many lagoons makes this region very marshy and a suitable breeding ground for malaria mosquitoes. There are extensive crescent-shaped sand dunes. The evaporation in the Tihamah is so great that streams from the highlands never reach the sea, but they do contribute to extensive groundwater reserves. Today, these are heavily exploited for agricultural use. Near the village of Madar about 48 km (30 mi) north of Sana'a, dinosaur footprints were found, indicating that the area was once a muddy flat.
The Tihamah ends abruptly at the escarpment of the western highlands. This area, now heavily terraced to meet the demand for food, receives the highest rainfall in Arabia, rapidly increasing from 100 mm (3.9 in) per year to about 760 mm (29.9 in) in Ta'izz and over 1,000 mm (39.4 in) in Ibb.
Agriculture here is very diverse, with such crops as sorghum dominating. Cotton and many fruit trees are also grown, with mangoes being the most valuable. Temperatures are hot in the day but fall dramatically at night. There are perennial streams in the highlands but these never reach the sea because of high evaporation in the Tihamah.
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