Yemen is the dark horse of the Middle East. Every so often it enters the headlines for one alarming reason or another—links with al-Qaeda, kidnapped Westerners, explosive population growth—then sinks into obscurity again. But, as Victoria Clark argues in this riveting book, we ignore Yemen at our peril. The poorest state in the Arab world, it is still dominated by its tribal makeup and has become a perfect breeding ground for insurgent and terrorist movements.
Clark returns to the country where she was born to discover a perilously fragile state that deserves more of our understanding and attention. On a series of visits to Yemen between 2004 and 2009, she meets politicians, influential tribesmen, oil workers and jihadists as well as ordinary Yemenis. Untangling Yemen’s history before examining the country’s role in both al-Qaeda and the wider jihadist movement today, Clark presents a lively, clear, and up-to-date account of a little-known state whose chronic instability is increasingly engaging the general reader.
"The West would do well to take one precaution and read Victoria Clark’s excellent new book on the country, part history and part travelogue. Clark leads the reader through Yemen’s turbulent past with humor and perception."—Richard Beeston, London Times
"Her book is a lively mix of politics, travelogue and history . . . Easily the best and most readable account of Yemen’s current problems and their daunting complexity. Clark brings the story right up to date."—Brian Whitaker, The Guardian
"Ms. Clark paints a more nuanced picture . . . The author illustrates her analysis with a string of vignettes drawn from her intrepid journeys into the remotest parts of the country . . . This book is compulsory reading for anyone who wants to get to grips with Yemen’s pit of slithery serpents."—The Economist
"An experienced foreign correspondent casts a timely light on the complex fissiparous, impoverished country now seen as a haven for Al-Qaeda."—Harry Eyres, Financial Times
"Dancing on the Heads of Snakes makes Yemen’s history and contemporary affairs accessible to the general reader. Clark tracks Yemen’s turbulent past and unstable present with a light touch, combining historical travelogue with investigative reportage. . . . Dancing on the Heads of Snakes is a commendable addition to the canon of literature on Yemen and does what many previous books have failed to do: open up knowledge of a complex and often forgotten country to a much wider audience."— Philip McCrum, Middle East International
"Untangling Yemen’s history before examining the country’s role in both Al Qaeda and the wider jihadist movement today, [Victoria Clark] presents an up-to-date account of a state that ought to be better known."—Fred Rhodes, Middle East
"Skillful political analysis . . . The text, backed by numerous references and an excellent bibliography, will engage even those readers who are unacquainted with Yemen, its history and today’s complexities. . . . an entertaining masterpiece of reportage and analysis."—Michael Crouch, Melbourne Historical Journal
"A clear, immensely absorbing introduction to Yemen's complicated history and opaque politics."—Owen Bennett-Jones, BBC World Service