By Zakaria Al-Kamali
Compared to other provinces in Yemen torn by political conflicts, Socotra is like a star in the Yemeni sky where it lives a state of stability and calmness and attracts a good number of tourists.
In 2013, president Abed Rabbo Mansour declared Socotra an independent province after it had been administratively part of Hadramout province in the east of the country.
Socotra is an archipelago that is composed of four islands in the Indian Ocean off the coast of the Horn of Africa, 350 km south of the Arabian Peninsula. It was classified as a World Heritage site in 2008 for its unique biodiversity and environmental importance.
According to official statistics, about 300 tourists from Western nationalities visit Socotra per month, although there is no direct flight to the island from Arab capitals.
The manager of the Tourism and Environmental Police in Socotra, Abdullahi Musa, added that the island received 2,385 tourists during 2014. “The Russians are considered the most visitors to the island, then China, the United States and the Czech Republic as well as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates,” he said.
Aviation to Socotra is considered the only obstacle for tourists who want to visit Socotra, especially after Sana’a airport fell under the control of the Houthis.
However, Yemenia Airways has launched its first international direct flight from Dubai to Socotra Airport.
The commercial manager of Yemenia Airways, Mohammed al-Mekhlafi, said that 90 tourists travelled on board of Yemenia Airways inaugural flight, there are many requests received by the company from several regions of the world to provide flights to Socotra. “The direct flights will contribute to flourishing tourism and Dubai will be the station of the foreign tourists who want to visit Socotra instead of Sana’a,” he added.
The local authority in the province of Socotra welcomed this step implemented by Yemenia Airways to facilitate travelling to Socotra and linking it with the world abroad.
On other hand, many tourists avoid travelling to the island during the windy season, which continues for four months. Mohammed Alarqbi, a specialized researcher at the Naval Research Unit on the island, said that the number of tourists on the island increases from October until the beginning of May and then tourism stops due to the windy season from June to September.
Socotra is a charming island that enjoys unique biodiversity. There is about 37% of plant species, 90% of reptiles, and 95% of wild snails than do not exist any other place in the world, in addition to the Dragon Tree which is considered one of the rarest trees on the island.
The island is also characterized by a chain of mountains that extend about 24 km from the north-east to south-west. The highest altitude is more than 3000 km. It has beautiful, soft, and white beaches that extend for about 300 miles.
On the other hand, experts fear an increase in the process of cutting trees. Specialized researcher Alarqbi says that people are now turning to firewood, especially with the aggravating gas crisis and this threatens the unique biodiversity of the island.