It is a truth universally acknowledged (she says tentatively…) that when life throws a series of unfortunate events your way, you tend to seek comfort in its various forms; food, friends, vacation. For me, I experienced an overwhelming desire to be somewhere else entirely… away from the daily grind of life. I wanted to see new faces, simultaneously however, I yearned to see the old and familiar faces of family that I had not met in some years and seeing as most of said family resides in ‘Dictionary Land,’ a trip to Yemen was in order. Thus, despite the papers, news channels and various media outlets screaming at me not to set foot in Yemen, I did just that; I went.
Don’t get me wrong, this was not done out of rebellion or sheer stupidity or even a lack of concern for the safety and well being of my family and I. Simply put, my ticket had been booked for sometime and frankly speaking, cost me an arm, a leg and a few toes, come to that. So, after checking things out with my relatives over there and receiving the green light (naturally), we set off on what, unbeknownst to me at the time, would become a very interesting journey indeed.
Having lived almost half of my life in Yemen at some point, I never view going there as a holiday, it’s actually more like going back to another of my many homes. I prepared myself mentally for the power cuts and unbearable heat as much as one possibly can. Nonetheless, when you get there, regardless of how much you train yourself to withstand the humidity in the dark, you will still, involuntarily, voice a complain or two in the heat (pun unintended there!) of the moment.
On a deeper level, it made me think of the people of Yemen, both family and non. How can they maintain this life style day in day out? Are they not fed up of living in the, literal and figurative, dark? More than anything though, it reminds you to count your blessings no matter how little you thought they were.
I was saddened to see that Yemen was still a place where poverty, litter and poor living conditions were very much a reality. In many ways, Yemen stayed in the same state in which I left it and if possible, deteriorated. I refer specifically to the serious lack of water that seems to have hit the country. This was not a problem I recall experiencing when living there Alhamdulilah. Electricity was bad enough, but water is a BASIC HUMAN RIGHT. How some people manage without it I will never know. Generally, I feel that while other countries continue to grow bigger and stronger, Yemen is still lagging behind in the race for betterment. That said, I did see little improvements here and there (because I looked very hard) that made me smile and who knows, maybe one day Yemen will catch up? After all the tortoise did win the race … eventually.
All I ever read about Yemen is negative; child marriage, terrorism, extreme living conditions etc. I, for one, wanted to see the other side and seeing as my stay in Yemen was short, I was determined to make the most of everything it threw my way, the good, the bad and the down right ugly! In my 10-12 days there, I visited around four states. I would have loved to spend more time there. In many ways it felt like being at a buffet but only being able to take a bite out of each dish; very frustrating.
My first stop was San’aa, the capital. The airport experience blew to be honest. Because this is the capital, there really is no excuse to have such a poorly maintained airport! It is dirty, the staff very abrupt and so despite the misspelt ‘Welcom to Yemen’ sign, I felt anything but at that moment in time, in fact, I wanted to get out of there ASAP. On a lighter note, the ‘Dictionary Land’ could really use a dictionary to fix that sign!
I got the opportunity to see Daar Al Hajjar during this trip, albeit from very far (thank you muddy roads blocking our path!), which was wonderful in any case. To have been able to go in would have been most delightful. Alas, another time perhaps. On the way there I was stunned by the breath-taking scenery but also by the lovely children of San’aa. One child in particular, with strikingly beautiful green eyes, will stay in my memory for a while.. he was silent and analysed me through his curious eyes as I took his picture (with Dad’s consent!). His photo was one the most mesmerising shots I photographed on this journey.
San’aa won me over, with its new café scene that certainly wasn’t around when I lived in Yemen, but more importantly with its gorgeous weather. It was so beautiful mashAllah, that despite the many power cuts, you hardly felt it because the weather stayed cool, although when your phone dies and you want to charge it, it came as a nasty surprise that there was, in fact, no electricity. The various houses I visited had no ACs and no fans prompting the following reaction from me; ‘alright people, it is not that cool!’ Actually one house I went to even had a heater, that actually tickled me, that did!
Aden was an absolute pleasure to visit. From the moment I was flying over the deep blue sea, I knew that we were in for a treat. Honestly, it made a pleasant change from looking down at the endless mass of brown when flying over Hodeidah. Aden airport is another thing to boast about incidentally, although modest, it surpasses the capital’s airport in terms of cleanliness and presentation by far. The first thing you feel when you step out of the airport is the HEAT. Strangely (and thankfully) it was tolerable! The biggest highlight of Aden for me was the beach. Simply put, it was big, blue and beautiful and everything I could ever ask for.
The other two states I visited were Hodeidah and Taiz. I was born in one and raised in the other and therefore I am sentimental about both. I did not get to see much, these trips were primarily made to visit family and friends and honestly it was wonderful to meet them all. The people of Yemen, despite the constant hardships in which they live, are kind, hospitable and constantly smiling. May Allah reward their patience in ways unimaginable.
All in all, it was a journey worthwhile and I cannot help but wonder when I will get to go next …
All Photos taken by me.