Main port and commercial centre of Yemen, on a rocky peninsula at the southwest corner of Arabia, commanding the entrance to the Red Sea; population (2004) 590,400. The city's economy is based on oil refining, fishing, shipping, and light industries, including boatbuilding. A British territory from 1839, Aden became part of independent South Yemen in 1967; it was the capital of South Yemen until 1990.
After annexation by Britain, Aden and its immediate hinterland (121 sq km/47 sq mi) were developed as a ship-refuelling station following the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. It was a colony 1937-63 and then, after a period of transitional violence among rival nationalist groups and British forces, was combined with the former Aden protectorate (290,000 sq km/112,000 sq mi) to create the Southern Yemen People's Republic in 1967, which was renamed the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (1970-90). In 1990 unification took place between North Yemen (the Yemen Arab Republic) and South Yemen. In May 1994 South Yemen (calling itself The People's Democratic Republic of Yemen) declared independence, but its attempt to break away ended with the capture of Aden by government forces in July 1994.
It comprises the new administrative centre Madinet al-Sha'ab, the commercial and business quarters of Crater and Tawahi, and the harbour area of Ma'alla. The city is served by an international airport at Khaur Maksar. The University of Aden dates from 1970.
Under British rule
Aden, a prosperous town under medieval Turkish rule, had an Arab population of 500-600 at the time of its annexation (1839). It then formed the site of an important British military base. Administrative control was exercised through the government of India, the British Colonial Office being responsible for political matters. In 1932 Aden was separated from the Bombay Presidency and formed into a province with a chief commissioner under the direct control of the government of India. It ceased to be a part of British India in 1937, and was a colony under a high commissioner, with internal self-government in non-federal matters with a ministerial system and a mainly elected legislature. The British government had protective treaties with it and subsidized traditional leaders of sheikhdoms from the Strait of Bab-El-Mandeb to Muscat territory at Ras Dharbat. Two small, unfortified islands in the Red Sea, Perim (area 13 sq km/5 sq mi; population 300) and Kamara'n (area 57 sq km/22 sq mi; population 2,200), were under the administration of the high commissioner in Aden. From 1963-67 it was a member of the Federation of South Arabia until the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen was declared in 1967.
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