Socotra the Alien Island of Yemen

This is a place where legends where born. Supposedly visited by Sinbad the Sailor, who is said to have made his fortune here, and Gilgamesh, the legendary king of Uruk who featured in some of literature’s earliest works, the island of Socotra in the Arabian Sea is certainly a place that is even more mysterious that the stories which surround it.

Socotra is both unique and confusing. For instance, its name is given to an archipelago of our islands that are located off the Horn of Africa, but Socotra is also the name of the largest island in the group. It is a remote place lying 240 kilometres (150 mi) east of the Horn and 380 kilometres (240 mi) south of the Arabian Peninsula. It can also be dangerous, as Somalian pirates have been known to use it as a base.

Many or the world’s remote islands are either volcanic or atolls, but Socora is continental and is ancient, once forming part of the supercontinent Gondwanaland. It is for this reason, that is was once attached to the continental mass. It’s been moving around the Arabian Sea for about six million years, which helps to make it so diverse. Much of the flora and fauna that is found on the island is found nowhere else, and the origins of those organisms hark back to when it was surrounded by land.

Socotra has been described as being the most alien looking place on Earth, because of its landforms and unusual plants. These include a plant called Dragon’s Blood, which is a rare type of Draecena, and a weird-looking cucumber tree which had a bottle-shaped base of fibrous wood which resembles a giant cucumber.

A population of about 70,000 lives on the archipelago, but most are concentrated in the two towns of Hadibo and Qalansiya. Although the official language is Arabic, and Socotra is governed by Yemen, the ancient language called Socotri is still widely spoken.

Even though the island group is part of the Middle East, much of the islands are distinctly African in nature. The coastal inhabitants tend to be of African origin, whilst those who occupy the hinterland tend to be the descendants of Arabs.

Most visitors to Socotra go to enjoy the trekking, snorkelling and even caving. The islands also attract those people interesting in plants and birds, as Socotra has some rare species of both, which are only found on the archipelago.

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