Soqotra’s nature is unique and irreplaceable, and it is our collective responsibility to safeguard it.

Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP & former Director General of IUCN

Socotra in Sicilia is an initiative aimed at spreading knowledge and triggering conservation and sustainable development actions for the beautiful Socotra archipelago (Republic of Yemen), a Man and Biosphere reserve (2003), a Natural UNESCO World Heritage site (2008) and a Biodiversity Hotspot, located in the Indian Ocean, East of the Horn of Africa.

Socotra in Sicilia will host the 18th International Conference and Annual General Meeting of the Friends of Socotra (FoS), together with events celebrating Yemeni culture and nature, with focus on Socotra: photos exhibition, screenings, round tables, gastronomy, handicraft, music.
All events will take place in Palermo, Sicily (FoS Conference: September 27th – 28th, Side events: September 27th – October 6th, 2019).

Adenium obesum subsp. sokotranum (Vierh.) Lavranos on the rocky cliffs above Socotra’s shores (Photo: V. Melnik).

Socotra, the pearl of Yemen, is globally known for its unique biodiversity and language, its characteristic beautiful dragon blood trees and amazing species-rich coral reefs. However, as is the case for all islands in the world, Socotra faces severe challenges that are widely understood to accelerate the loss of natural and cultural heritage. The erosion of cultural heritage leads to a direct loss of identity and connectivity to the place, while the loss of natural heritage causes damage to fragile ecosystems of which the destruction will affect human health and resource availability in the future. The current environmental challenges on Socotra include:

  • climate change impacting the environment and people caused by cyclones and drought;
  • overgrazing and wood collection which lead to the loss of vegetation and fertile soil, overfishing which leads to irreversible changes in the marine environment and threatens future livelihoods of local fishermen;
  • exotic species that may cause a loss of biodiversity and even affect human health, and finally;
  • rapid unsustainable developments without environmental consideration that will change the Socotra landscape forever.

Socotra is beautiful, yes, but its nature and culture are in danger. The beautiful dragon blood trees we see, are actually dying, and there are nearly no young trees on the island. The coral reefs are strongly affected by the cyclone impacts and a growing international market for local fish. Much of what we observe as common today on the island, may disappear in just a few generations if there is no involvement and help of local communities.
Local Socotri and international experts are truly concerned, which is why a yearly event by a non-governmental organisation (FoS) about Socotra, bringing both together, is important. Such events help to exchange thoughts and ideas among a wide group of people, to raise awareness on the global importance and vulnerability of the islands and their people, and the challenges the local culture and nature face.


About Socotra

Socotra’s biodiversity is like an ancient book of beautiful, precious texts, of which only one copy remains, but is fragile to the softest touch…

Dr. Kay Van Damme (Honorary Chair, FoS)

Through tales, myths and legends

Some of the content in this webpage is intended for the general public and should not be used as a reference; for specific information please consult primary sources or contact the scientific committee or FoS at fos.secretary@gmail.com with specification of the field of interest.

Millions and millions of years ago the Socotra archipelago started to break apart from the Arabian Peninsula and from the African Continent. It seems that at least 18 million years ago the archipelago was already strongly isolated. But the theories are varied. Together with Madagascar, Socotra is considered among the most ancient continental islands in the world. Mysteries and legends have always shrouded this ancient land, placed only a few hundred miles from the coastlines of Africa and Arabia. Socotra is the biggest island in the archipelago and the largest island of Arabia.
Socotra is a magical place, a botanical and zoological sanctuary, with a seemingly extra-terrestrial look, full of mysteries and legends belonging to ancient civilizations. It is an open-air insular laboratory of nature in the middle of the ocean, where the local biota follows the natural rhythm of life. There are many traces of ancient civilizations and others having yet no recognized origin.

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Special issue about conservation in Socotra on Rendiconti Lincei

In order to celebrate the forthcoming International conference “Socotra in Sicilia“, the scientific journal Rendiconti Lincei of the Accademia dei Lincei, the oldest and most important scientific Academy of Italy, launched a Special Issue entitled “Twenty years of biodiversity research and nature conservation in the Socotra Archipelago“. The issue will publish a collection of contributions …

Island frontier of Socotra as a commerce hub in a new article on Al-Masāq

A new article published on Al-Masāq journal on April 2019 compares Socotra, Sri Lanka and Mediterranean islands, among the most important commerce hubs of the Late Antique and Medieval ages, using parameters of scale and proximity in order to evaluate the extent of the islands’ frontier(s). The study provides new insights on the history of …

Friends of Socotra conference and meeting

18th FoS International Conference and Annual General Meeting

Villa Malfitano, September 26th – 29th, 2019

International Socotra Conference and Annual General Meeting of the Friends of Socotra (FoS).

The “Friends of Soqotra” (or Friends of Socotra, both spellings are possible) meet every year gathering naturalists, botanists, marine biologists, geographers, sociologists, linguists, archeologists, explorers, writers, travellers interested in Socotra from all over the world. Presentations and discussions occur for ongoing projects and scientific research about Socotra. Attendees actively promote awareness for the conservation of the unique culture and nature of the Archipelago and its sustainable development. The aim is to create an event that brings together all people with a heart for the Socotra Archipelago, its biodiversity, its myths and traditions, its history and future.

A photography exhibition of FoS’ former and current activities about the island will be installed at the meeting venue during the conference days.

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Socotra in Sicilia

Architecturally, Yemen is the most beautiful country in the world. Sana’a is Venice on sand…

Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1972

Why Socotra in Sicilia

Today Palermo, the city of exotic gardens and of African light, hosts Socotra and Sicily offers Socotra its help. A rich and unique biodiversity links the two islands although they are quite different from a biogeographic and taxonomic point of view. Socotra is today under threat together with its inhabitants, its memory and its natural and cultural heritage. One of the most beautiful and amazing places in the world risks to be damaged irreparably.

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