The Republic of Yemen lies on the south-western edge of the Arabian peninsula, bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, Oman to the east and the Red and Arabian Seas to the west and south. Dwarfed by Saudi Arabia, it is nevertheless the second largest country in the peninsula, covering an area slightly bigger than France or Spain.
Like its neighbours, much of Yemen has a mainly arid climate, with little or no rain – especially in the Rub al-Khali desert in the east, and the long, coastal plain in the south.
But other areas – including the western highlands, which rise to more than 3,600 metres (almost 12,000 feet) above sea level – have a far more varied climate. In the summer months, the monsoon from the south-west brings the highest rainfall in the whole of the Arabian peninsula: with annual totals of 750 to 1,000mm (roughly 30 to 40 inches), about the same as many parts of the UK.
In lowland coastal and desert areas, however, rainfall is very sparse: below 100mm a year; along the coast conditions are also very humid. Tragically, in recent years, severe droughts have occurred, exacerbating already extreme food shortages caused by war, and making conditions for Yemeni people even worse.