Sana'a is the capital of Yemen, located in the Yemeni Mountains and generally the first destination for travellers to that country. See the Stay Safe section of this article and the Yemen country page for important safety advice.
One of the oldest continuously-inhabited cities in the world (others being Jericho, Damascus and Aleppo), Sana'a is believed to have been founded by Shem, the son of Noah. As a result, the city has the unlikely nickname of "Sam City".
Visas are no longer issued on arrival. You must obtain a visa from a Yemeni embassy or consulate prior to boarding your flight. You will not be let on board without a visa.
There are few tourist agencies operating after the economic decline. A good way to get a visa nowadays is by arranging it through a travel agency based in Yemen, like Arabian Voyages. However, for westerners, travel agents will likely not be able to get a visa at foreign consulates anymore. But for the majority of Asian passport holders, they still have a good chance to get a visa at the Yemeni embassies in Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong.
In Sana'a you can travel freely but you need road permits for basically every journey outside the capital. Foreigners that are found to be in places they are not allowed, without a guide or without the right documents, risk detention or even terrorism charges. It's not something to take lightly; even if you are a backpacker, get in touch with a travel agency and arrange a tour and the necessary permits. Many of the roadside checkpoints are controlled by the army, police, or even local tribes, some of which some are friendly, some unfriendly. The travel agencies know the situation on the ground, which can be different from village to village.
Currently (2018), all of the formerly served routes are suspended due to the heavy war damage to the airport's facilities.
Yemen has a few bus companies. Sana'a is connected by all major cities (Aden, Ta'izz, Marib, Sayun, etc) via bus. Perhaps the best bus company in Yemen is the new-ish Raha (established in 2008). Raha buses are in good condition and fares are reasonable. The buses are still new. Note that travelers must obtain a travel permit (tasirih in Arabic) from the Ministry of Tourism before embarking on over-land adventures. Each town has a military checkpoint that will ask for a travel permit and will likely refuse travelers entry if they have forgotten to get one. Travel permits are issued free of charge. When applying, travelers should bring their passport, a list of places they are going to visit, and the time period for travel. Travelers should make many photocopies of their travel permit as each checkpoint may ask for a copy. Travelers should also have copies of the biographical information page (that contains their photo) of their passport handy. Often foreign passengers give a pile of travel permit copies to the bus driver so that he can provide them to officials at checkpoints. Travelers should let the bus driver or military personnel know of their nationality as they need to know. Note that there are also many traffic police checkpoints. They are not interested in your permit; only those with green uniforms and big guns are.
Sana'a is a big city which, in common with many other developing-world capitals, is spreading in all directions at once. Visitors will almost certainly have to use taxis or hired cars to get around, as the street maps often leave much to be desired.
There are many "Dabaabs" or mini vans that go on different routes around the city. They serve as public buses and are quite cheap. They have fixed routes and cost 50 riyals/ride per person [as of Oct. 2013]
Taxis to the airport from the centre should cost $30 USD (November 2012). Be prepared to bargain with your taxi driver for a reasonable fare. Usually fares can be reduced by a third of the price after a bit of haggling.
Cars are used a lot but they are mostly 4x4s or pick up trucks. Drivers tend to use the horn excessively which is normal in this beautiful congested city.
Far more risky but adventurous are the motorcycle-taxis you can hop on and transport you everywhere you want to go. You will need them for Old Sanaa as streets are narrow making it difficult and time-consuming for cars to access.
The Old City of Sana'a is World Heritage listed and makes a great place to see the uniquely Yemeni style of architecture - multiple-storey tower houses with the distinctive qamariya windows. Within the Old City is the Souk al-Milh, arguably the best souk (marketplace) in the Arabian Peninsula.
Jabal an-Nabi Shu'ayb is the highest mountain in the Arabian Peninsula and one of the most prominent mountains in the world. It is 3,666 meters (12,028 feet) high and is located on the Sana'a-Al Hudaydah highway about 30 km away from the city.
Sana'a is a great place for people-watching and culture observing. The unhurried pace of Yemeni life, coupled with the almost total lack of industrialisation seen in nearby countries, means that it's quite possible to pull up a chair in a coffee shop and watch the world go by for hours on end.
If you want an experience you can only get in Yemen (and are prepared to risk your health): participate in a qat session. Qat (khat) is a mild narcotic chewed by most males in Yemen. They spend their afternoons hanging out, chewing the leaf, and conversing. A bag will cost no more than 5 dollars, and you can get "inferior" product for a cheaper price. Side effects are lack of appetite and insomnia. Qat is considered by many as the prime cause of Yemen ranking as the poorest country in the Middle East. Note that Qat is considered a controlled substance in the United States and other countries (i.e. it is illegal and those trying to bring it into such countries risk arrest).
Yemen is a great place to study Arabic for several reasons: 1. Languages other than Arabic are much less commonly spoken than they are in nearby countries; 2. The low cost of living; and 3. There are several excellent Arabic language institutes that offer both group and private courses with flexible schedules and reasonable prices.
The Yemen College of Middle Eastern Studies (YCMES)  offers courses in Arabic language as well as academic seminars in English language about the contemporary Middle East. With over 20 years of experience, YCMES is the first and only accredited program in Yemen (i.e. students can transfer credit to their home universities). Regular tuition packages include accommodation, meals, excursions, cultural activities, wireless internet, library, etc. The YCMES can also help with international and domestic travel arrangements.
Additionally, Yemen Institute for Arabic Language (YIAL) a teacher owned institute that offers similar courses outside the Old City, although it also has very good accommodations in the Old City and in the institute itself. YIAL primarily offers private courses. YIAL also organises activities and trips.
Unless you have work lined up as an expat, work in Sana'a (and elsewhere in Yemen) will be very hard to come by. The majority of the locals sitting by the road will be waiting to be hired as manual labourers or domestic staff - in the latter role competing with guest workers from across the Red Sea. Those with good abilities in Arabic may be able to find work teaching English, however this will be informal and exceptionally temporary work. Schools such as AMIDEAST, MALI, and YALI hire English teachers, but you will likely need a Bachelor's and some sort of teaching certification.
Almost everywhere you look, you will have the chance to buy the curved dagger (jambiya) worn by local men. This purchase can be simply of the dagger and its accompanying sheath, however handmade belts and silver pouches are also for sale, with many tourists opting to purchase each item separately. When purchasing a jambiya, remember first and foremost that it counts as a weapon for customs purposes, even though it is not used as one anymore. Secondly, bear in mind that the sheath is predominantly leather with either a base metal or (in more expensive models) silver working added. Traditionally, handles were made of animal horn or even ivory. While it is doubtful that the handles sold today as being made from either of these products are the real thing, a wooden or amber handle may be a better option. If a real jambiya seems too much, there are also pendants and brooches commonly available in the shape of the knife and its sheath.
Necklaces and jewellery are also common souvenirs, and many of these will in fact be made of the semi-precious stones the souvenir sellers claim. Nevertheless, a healthy grain of salt should be added to any belief that one is actually purchasing a necklace of lapis lazuli or anything like that.
Bargaining is expected and worthwhile. If you are with local guides, a common approach is to have them ask for the "Yemeni price", however any bargaining on the part of the tourist will result in discounts. Bear in mind, too, that what may seem an absurdly cheap price for an item in Western terms will still be a great return for many locals.
Yemen's currency, the rial (riyal), is subject to high inflation. As a result, many prices (particularly those quoted to white-skinned visitors) will be given in American dollars or even Euros. Any of these three currencies will be accepted by the seller, so ask for the cost in whichever currency is preferred. Discounts for paying in one currency or the other are not high enough to warrant only paying in local money, but luck may be on your side.
Due do the uprising and domestic and security problems, prices in Yemen have rocketed skyhigh. You will pay more these days  for the same services versus back in 2010. Renting a car with driver for a full afternoon will cost a minimum of $50 USD; airport transfers are $30 USD one way. Many hotels have closed but you can still find space in Arabian Felix, Dawood, Golden Daar and Burj as Salaam in the Old City or Movenpick in the new city. For Old city hotels, the cheapest single room with shared bathroom goes for $30 USD a night. Also visas were $60 on arrival at the airport in 2012 but expect now to pay $100-$140 for these services in 2012 through a travel agency. There is a lot of work getting a visa which needs to be signed by many authorities and it implies several visits of the tour agent to the immigration office.
Visitors should be careful when eating from street stands and the like, as the same warning which applies to tap water applies to poorly-prepared food. Salta is a popular Yemeni lunch dish that is served very hot. Salta fahsa is like salta, a soup but with a lot of meat and one portion fills at least 2 stomachs. Fasuula is the kidney-bean based stew that is normally eaten with bread and fresh vegetables. Its the most common part of Yemen diet and typically used for breakfast.
Nearly all Yemeni food is budget. An average meal at a Sana'a restaurant will cost less than 5 dollars . You will find chicken, served with rice on many spots. And there are a few fish restaurants like Mataam Dubai behind the Tahrir Postoffice, and the Fish Souq (market) in the south of the city where you can buy fresh fish. In Sanaa, fish is very expensive for local standards and expect to pay at least $10  for a meal with rice, vegetables and fresh fish.
Two words: Hadda Street. That is where the more "upscale" restaurants are located. If you want a clean environment with a larger range of food, this is where you should go.
Try: Remas and Greenland (Haddah area) which both serve fried chicken and many many other dishes. There is also the famous KFC on Haddah/45street
The five star hotels (Sheraton and Mövenpick) have decent, but pricey western food (and beer!). In the Haddah neighborhood you will find a number of more expensive restaurants like Grill 101 (American), Deja Vu restaurant and coffee shop, Zorba's (Greek) and Mehraja (Indian).
As in the rest of the country, the tap water should be avoided at all costs. Bottled water, both chilled and at room temperature, is readily available and very cheap - as is the normal range of juices and softdrinks.
Nice tea and coffee house is "Friends Kafeteria" in Al-Tahrir area, Mocka Intersection. Here you can involve yourself into interesting conversations with Yemeni men. Also food is available. It looks like this place never closes down.
Near the Shumaila Hari Supermarket you will find the Coffee Trader, a place where you can get an excellent latte or cappuccino at Starbuck's prices and eat a piece of carrot cake while checking your e-mail on their wireless internet hotspot. What a treat!
Good option to stay is new part of Sana'a. It's walking distance to Old part of town but hotels offer better value to money. Around Tahrir area there are about 10 hotels to choose, ranging from five star Taj Sheba hotel to no-star hotels. recommended are 2 Wadi Hadramout hotels. More expensive Wadi Hadramout hotel is cross the main road from Tahrir Square, other more economical is near Taj Sheba hotel at Ali Abdulmogny Street. There double room with bathroom and TV costs about 2000 Rials (usd 10). Staff is very helpful and friendly and some speak English.
Sana'a itself is highly unsafe by global standards, though it is relatively safe in contrast to some other parts of Yemen. The overall security threat level in Yemen is extremely high. Terrorist organizations, including al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), continue to be active in Yemen and Sanaa.
In September 2012, a mob attacked the U.S. Embassy compound. In December 2012, an Austrian man and a Finnish couple studying Arabic were kidnapped in central Sana’a. As of December 2014, al-Qaida has announced their intention to imminently execute an American man kidnapped in Sana'a if their demands are not met. Attempted kidnappings of westerners have continued.
Do note that gun carrying is very normal in Yemen, as many men hold or have a gun for traditional reasons. One should not be alarmed at the sight of a gun, even military style assault weapons.
Travelers should also be watchful, particularly in the Old City, as the streets are poorly signposted and unwary visitors will often find themselves in someone's courtyard. Maps of Yemen tend to have details of the city, but (as with road maps in the country) they are unreliable. If at all possible, visitors should find themselves a local guide. Security escorts are probably unnecessary, although the situation can change rapidly.
The vast majority of Yemenis are honest people, but the risk of kidnapping and even execution by affiliates of al-Qaida and other terrorist groups is very real and not to be taken lightly.
The awe-inspiring Dar Al-Hajr (often known as the Rock Palace) is located in Wadi Dahr roughly 30 minutes from the city centre and makes a very easy afternoon's excursion. You will be able to take one of the local taxis. A full day excursion can take you to Thulla, Kawkaban and Shibam (not the Hadramout version but the Amran version) which is approximately 55 km from the outskirts of Sana'a. It is possible to stay overnight in Kawkaban, although there are only two hotels (more like full-board guest-houses as there are no restaurants). Accommodation and meals costs about 7 Euros.