OP-ED

Socotra: the world’s most unique island calls

National Yemen

Socorta "Largest forest of dragon's blood trees"

By: Azra Detanac

The Island of Socotra is a renowned UNESCO site and is recognized by many of its visitors as the world’s most alien-looking island. This unique archipelago, isolated from mainland Yemen, calls people to its shores to discover the hidden treasures there. Socotra was once a legendary place which saw ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all bask in its beauty. Centuries later, not many people are aware of the Socotra’s existence, let alone its rich biological diversity. Because past promotion from the Yemeni Ministry of Tourism has been inadequate, many people don’t even know its location.

The Island of Socotra is known for its rich history and for playing host to such figures as the Queen of Sheba and Alexander the Great. However, much has changed since then; while it teetered off the radar for years, Socotra has in recent times begun to regain its place as a popular tourist destination. As National Geographic has recognized, Socotra ranks as the world’s most important center for biodiversity, containing as it does plant species found nowhere else in the world – such as the magnificent dragon’s blood trees – and unusual birds. Moreover, Socotra’s spectacular, secluded beaches and high, never-ending mountains make Socotra a favorite destination for eco-tourism and adventure.

The Island of Socotra is considered the jewel of the Arabian Peninsula. In 2008, it was given the honor of recognition as a UNESCO world heritage natural site. Following that year, it was also lined up to be a candidate for becoming one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. Annually, approximately two thousand tourists set foot on this stunning island. However, according to Mr. Hareth, over the past year, this number dropped significantly due to the mainland Yemen’s political situation. Mr. Hareth added that due to such unforeseen circumstances, Socotra’s beauty has been ignored. In response to this, Felix Airways has started direct flights departing from Sharjah to the island of Socotra as part of an initiative to support tourism there.

Over the last several years, Yemen’s Ministry of Tourism has placed a strong focus on Socotra. Mohammed Hareth, tourism manager at Falcon Travel Services – one of the largest travel agencies in Yemen – has, with help from the Union of Socotra Tour Guides, launched an online campaign called 12.12.12 Socotra is Calling You on Facebook (www.fb.com/gosocotra) in an effort to promote Socotra and its magical and distinctive nature which attracts tourists from around the world. The campaign’s main aim is to provide a one-of-a-kind opportunity for people who have been dreaming of the chance to escape and discover the majesty of Socotra, and to do so at a low cost.