National Geographic : 2012 Sep
• Pre-Islamic Sabaean rulers expanded their empire through the Horn of Africa and in the second century . . built architectural wonders such as the skyscraper palace of Ghumdan, cele- brated by a medieval Arab poet as "twenty oors wound with a turban of white cloud and girdled in alabaster." A er Islam spread to the region in the 630s, Happy Arabia fluctuated between periods of unity and deep division. In the 19th century the Ottomans in the north and later the British in the south tried to impose their authority, only to be confounded by Yemen's de ant tribes and its geography---narrow valleys, dizzying mountain ranges, and the Empty Quarter, one of the world's most inhospitable deserts, along its border with Saudi Arabia. Saleh---a barely educated, wily army o cer--- was the latest leader to try to tame Yemen. When he rose to power in 1978, he ruled North Yemen; 12 years later he oversaw the uni ca- tion of the north and the south. He forged ties with tribal sheikhs and Islamic leaders, buying loyalty with bribes and patronage. He cozied up to Saddam Hussein (Yemenis dubbed him "Little Saddam"), and a er 9/11 he made over- tures to the U.S. He also packed the military and intelligence services with family members and allowed corruption to infuse every facet of Yemeni life. In February 2012 Saleh stepped down, signing a deal that divided the govern- ment between his party and a coalition of ve opposition groups. Saleh, his kin, and his se- curity forces were guaranteed immunity from prosecution. Now in Sanaa, he continues to stir up trouble---inciting loyalists, even denouncing the new government as "thugs" on the TV sta- tions owned by his party. " ," exclaimed Abdul- lah al Kholani, 60, with a grin. "We would People still assemble and pray near Sanaa University's southern gate, dubbed Change Square in early 2011, when it became a gathering place for thousands of Arab Spring protesters opposing the Saleh regime. Saleh stepped down, but Yemen's woes remain. Veteran foreign correspondent Joshua Hammer specializes in Africa and the Middle East. Stephanie Sinclair's June 2011 coverage of child brides won rst place in the 2012 World Press Photo contest.