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Finding calm in Yemen's capital, despite the nation's instability

Adam Rivera / NBC News

The Ali Mosque has the tallest minaret in the Old City of Sana'a. It has been inhabited for more than 2,500 years and contains over 100 mosques.

Adam Rivera / NBC News

At noon every Friday, millions of Yemenis go to mosques to perform the Friday prayer. However, since the uprising that forced Ali Abdullah Saleh out of power, some Yemenis have moved from meeting in the mosques to meeting in the streets. Thousands of men gathered on this highway for a Friday prayer that was equal parts a spiritual ritual and a political rally.

David Lom / NBC News

Man sells nuts and spices along a narrow alley in the Old City.

NBC's Rock Center


Adam Rivera / NBC News

Father and son at Friday prayers in Sana'a.

Osama bin Laden may be lying in a watery grave, but in Yemen, the group he once led appears to be as strong as ever. Just a few years ago, there were only 200-300 militants in the Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). That number has now tripled, according to Gregory Johnsen, a top Yemen expert and author of the excellent new book, “The Last Refuge: Yemen, al-Qaeda, and America’s War in Arabia.” And, if you put together the group’s members, close supporters and family, Johnsen says the number is something like 6,000.

When the Rock Center team arrived in Yemen, they discovered a place that, despite all the warnings, was one of the friendliest, most hospitable of any that any of them had ever been. At the same time, they found a troubled country, the poorest in the Arab world, and a nation torn apart by several conflicts—the battle between AQAP and the government simply being the one that interests the U.S. the most.

Learn more about Yemen on Rock Center's broadcast Thursday evening at 8 p.m.

Adam Rivera / NBC News

The market is full of boys who sell clothing, trinkets and jewelry. Some have a vague understanding of French, Spanish and English and market themselves as the best tour guides money can buy.

Adam Rivera / NBC News

View of the Old City of Sana'a from atop Bab al-Yaman, one of the city's ancient gates

Adam Rivera / NBC News

A teenager restocks the inventory for the following day.

Adam Rivera / NBC News

A late night snack stand in the Old City.

Rock Center: Search for world's most dangerous man leads authorities to Yemen

Karim Ben Khelifa

Yemen's profile rose dramatically following a cargo bomb plot on two planes bound for the United States in October. Explore the country, in pictures.