Oxford Announces 2010 Place of the Year: Yemen

Nov 02, 2010, 06:00 ET from Oxford University Press

NEW YORK, Nov. 2, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- It's a country that seems at once to be on the brink of collapse, the future microcosm of Al Qaeda terror, and possibly America's next Afghanistan. The stakes are high and the future is unclear for Oxford's 2010 Place of the Year, Yemen.

In fact, as this very announcement was prepared, cargo bombs originating in Yemen that were addressed to U.S. synagogues further enhanced Yemen's status as a new home base for global terror. And according to geographer Harm de Blij, author of The Power of Place and Why Geography Matters, "In the modern world of terrorist cells and jihadist movements, Yemen's weakness spells opportunity." Regional conflicts like the Houthi rebellion in the north and revival of the southern secessionist movement diminish the power of the government. Terrorist bases now reside in the remote countryside, posing a familiar dilemma for the United States: Is shoring up the country's army and police worth the risk of increasing Al Qaeda protection and loyalty? At the same time Yemen stands to be the poorest country in the Arab world, nearly depleted of its leading export, oil, while facing a water shortage experts say is heighted by the country's addiction to qat, a mildly narcotic leaf.

Once a promising experiment in Muslim-Arab democracy, Western opinion now recognizes Yemen to have all the features of a failed state. Obscured by the attention of the political geography, is what de Blij calls "a Yemen that might have been."

Population: 22,858,000

Capital: Sana

Government: Multiparty Republic

Ethnic Groups: Predominantly Arab

Languages: Arabic

Religions: Islam

Currency: Yemeni rial = 100 fils

Cash crops: coffee and cotton

President: Ali Abdullah Saleh

The Oxford University Press annual Place of the Year coincides with its publication of Atlas of the World — the only atlas published annually — now in its 17th Edition.

Finalists for Oxford's 2010 Place of the Year:



Gulf Coast (of the United States)

the Eyjafjallajokull volcano


Seaside Heights, NJ


Rio de Janeiro

Wall Street

The Gulf of Aden ("Pirate Alley")

Oxford invites comments on Yemen and the Place of the Year short list at the OUPblog.

Harm de Blij is the John A. Hannah Professor of Geography at Michigan State University. The author of 30 books, including Why Geography Matters, he is an honorary life member of the National Geographic Society and was previously the Geography Editor on ABC's "Good Morning America."

To set up an interview with geographer Harm de Blij to discuss the 2010 Place of the Year, please contact Michelle Rafferty at 212.726.6243, or michelle.rafferty@oup.com

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SOURCE Oxford University Press