Aden consists of a number of small towns: the port city, the industrial city known as Little Aden with its large oil refinery, and Madinat ash-Sha'b, the centre of government. Two suburbs, Khormaksar and Sheikh Othman, lie north of the old city, with the international airport situated between them.
It was the capital of the People's Democratic Republic of the Yemen until the uniting of North and South Yemen when it was declared a free trade zone.
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The port's convenient position on the sea route between India and Europe has made Aden desirable to rulers who sought to possess it at various times throughout history.
On January 19, 1839 the British East India Company landed Royal Marines at Aden to stop attacks by pirates against British shipping to India. Aden was to remain under British control until 1967.
Aden's location also made it a popular exchange port for mail passing between places around the Indian Ocean and Europe. Mail is known to exist from June 15, 1839, although a regular postmaster was not appointed until 1857. Aden used postage stamps of British India, with no special identification, until it became a crown colony on April 1, 1937. At that point it received a series of pictorial stamps inscribed "Aden".
In 1939, a new issue of stamps included a portrait of King George VI, but the sultans in Seiyun and Hadhramaut (whose territories had been under British protection since the 1880s) objected to this, and so the British government issued separate stamps in 1942, but with the additional inscriptions Kathiri State of Seiyun and Qu'aiti State of Shihr and Mukalla (later Qu'aiti State in Hadhramaut), plus portraits of the respective sultans. All of these types were valid everywhere in Aden.
After the loss of the Suez Canal in In 1956, Aden became the main base for in the region for the British.
The Aden Emergency
Encouraged by the rhetoric of President Nasser of Egypt against British colonial rule in the Middle East, pressure for the British to leave grew. Following Nasser's creation of the United Arab Republic, attempts to incorporate Yemen in turn threatened Aden. To counter this, but in opposition to much of the Aden population, the British founded the South Arabian Federation, incorporating Aden (on January 18 1963) and the lands of the Aden protectorates that would later become South Yemen.
In 1963 fighting between Egyptian forces and British-lead Saudi-financed guerrillas in South Yemen, spread to Aden Colony with the formation of the National Liberation Front (NLF) who hoped to force out the British. Hostilities started with a grenade attack by the NFL against the British High Commissioner on December 10, 1963, killing one person and injuring fifty, and a "state of emergency" was declared.
In January 1964, the British moved into the Radfan hills in the border region to confront Egyptian backed guerrillas, later reinforced by the NLF. By October they had largely been suppressed, and the NFL switched to grenade attacks against off-duty military personnel and police officers elsewhere in the Aden Colony.
In 1964, the new British government under Harold Wilson announced their intention to hand over power to the South Arabian Federation in 1968, but that the British military would remain. In 1965 there were around 280 guerrilla attacks, and over 500 in 1965. In 1966 the British Government announced that all British forces would be withdrawn at independence. In response, the security situation deteriorated, with the creation of the socialist Front for the Liberation of Occupied South Yemen (FLOSY), which started to attack the NLF in a bid for power, as well as attacking the British.
In January 1967 there were mass riots of NFL and FLOSY supporters in the old Arab quarter of Aden town, which continued until mid February, despite the intervention of British troops. During the period there were many attacks on the troops, and an Aden Airlines DC3 plane was destroyed in the air with no survivors. At the same time, the members of FLOSY and the NFL were also killing each other in large numbers.
On June 20 1967 there was a mutiny in the South Arabian Federation Army, which also spread to the police, although order was restored by the British.
On November 30, 1967 the British finally pulled out, leaving Aden under NLF control. The Royal Marines, who had been the first British troops to occupy Aden in 1839, were the last to leave.
Following the British departure and a short civil war, the sultans were all overthrown in 1967. After radical Marxist elements gained power in 1969, the state was declared the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen on December 1, 1970.