A Travellerspoint blog

April 2006

Visit to the icon


View 2006 Yemen & Greece on alexchan's travel map.

large_5550_11661289849209.jpgThe palace at Wadi Dhahr is the de facto icon of Yemeni tourism.
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It has take over two weeks for me to get here, the icon of Yemen's tourism industry ... Wadi Dhahr [http://www.weltrekordreise.ch/bilder%20ye/33059.jpg].

I've developed an obsession for photographing things that are taboo elsewhere but permissible in Yemen. Such as children as young as two years old doing the traditional dance with daggers. Nowhere better to see this than at Wadi Dhahr where men celebrate weddings (the women celebrate elsewhere privately). There were so many toddlers doing their first moves with waving that dagger. Pround dads (and some mums) all around.

At Wadi Dhahr, I was perplexed that locals had to be frisked before entry ... they were obviously wearing their dagger. I asked in my broken Arabic if they were looking for a second dagger ... no, they were looking for guns. Not allowed to fire guns into the air to celebrate weddings at Wadi Dhahr.

Moving beyond daggers to knives ... I've tried organising a group trip to the gun souk (market) but this appears off limits to foreigners. Maybe we can dress up as Abayah Barbie [http://www.textielmuseum.nl/upload/afbeelding_fotoboek/Barbie%20-%20Fulla3-400.jpg] or Burka Barbie [http://www.marinellafashiondolls.com/fotocalenzano/talebana.jpg]. But then women may not be permitted to enter ...

By the way, Abayah Barbie is very liberal; most women only show their eyes through a small slit (but some have a fine mesh over that slit as well). They wear only black. FYI Burka Barbie is not for sale here ... only for Afghan market ... it isn't black, haha!

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Yemen Arab Republic Comments (0)

A scandalous weekend


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The Aussie couple living in the building had been invited to a wedding. Upon further enquiry, the Yemeni bride was marrying a Jew. Not sure if it is better that the man was an American Jew rather than a Yemeni Jew.

Maybe the man will feature on this website soon (Jews for Allah [http://www.jews-for-allah.org/]) ... The "Before" and "After" pictures are cool but do need updating. "Jemima" is still there ... that's Jemima Goldsmith (previously Jemima Khan (Mrs Imran Khan) and before than Jemima Goldsmith as well).

At least the conversion will be painless for him (ie. will not require a hospital visit).

Historically, Yemen had a reasonable Jewish minority but many have chosen to resettle in Israel. While Yemeni Jews are held in high regard by Yemenis even today for their traditional skills in silversmithing, they are not held in high regard in other ways. Today, Jewish men are still distinguishable by their two dreadlocks on either side of their faces ... as if for the benefit of my untrained eyes.

Wanna hear the scandal within the scandal? The Aussie couple are not married and are sharing the same room ... the school relaxed its rules for money.

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Yemen Arab Republic Comments (0)

Ramblings about Yemen


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Eating

Eating has been good but somewhat repetitive. The main meal here is lunch and dinner is quite light ... it can be hard to get substantial food for dinner. Most of us feed up over lunch. The rule here is not to touch rotisserie chicken for dinner as it may be left over from lunch.

For a bread-hater, I find the breads here amazing. So many different kinds, with different names I cannot remember yet. Usually fresh out of the oven around the corner from school and you get only what you need.

Eating here is quite expensive. Eating local dishes without meat in very basic surroundings will cost about USD0.50 With meat about USD1, or if a bigger meal, about USD1.50. This is more than the prices in Malaysia and close to that in Singapore (both in airconditioned foodhalls in the malls). Yemen is one of the least developed countries in the world, and eating simply is costing me the price in a developed country? Not right is it?

For something different, we tried Ethiopian [http://www.queenofshebarestaurant.com/images/restaurant/198x128_food.jpg]one night. Very tasty cuisine ... many spicy dishes served on a one metre wide brass tray lined with a thin bread pancake. Accompanied by further servings of the same bread but in a thicker fluffier format ... the bread has a sour taste to dosai.

Looking after a sick friend

I helped out a sick neighbour over the last few days, getting his medication and lunches. Yemen is a hypochondriac's paradise. You can get any medication without prescription, including codeine-based drugs, anti-depressants ...

I succeeded in ordering my lunch in Arabic as eat-in, and my friend's as take-away. The fun came after I delivered the meals to my bed-ridden friend who was dressed in only a little sarong ... something prompted me to throw / sprinkle the change (coins and small notes) at him. Oooh, what a thrill ... it felt so naughty. Do try it sometime but don't make a habit of it.

Dress

I've now adapted local dress, wearing the sarong (know locally as mawa or futa). Certainly had to learn how to sit all over again and remember to wear dark underwear (preferably new too). Its very comfortable and I think it makes me more welcome amongst locals. I haven't started wearing a dagger yet.

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Yemen Arab Republic Comments (0)

Escape to Aden


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large_5550_11661305864975.jpgAden from our hotel window. The mountains are part of the crater rim.
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This weekend, I was (together with a Brit) adopted by three Americans ... the five of us taxied down to the port city of Aden [Aden-travel-guide-1319372]. Didn't like the Aden compared to Sanaa ... Sanaa's old city undoubtedly deserves its UNESCO World Heritage status.

Aden is a bit of a dump. The unusual thing about it is that a lot of it is built in the crater of a volcano. Some of the jagged edges you see in the picture [http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/ship/cole-aden.jpg] are part of the crater rim.

Being a port city, entertainment exists in Aden .large_5550_11661305905977.jpgAaah! Nice cool dip... unlike in Sanaa. We went to "The Sailor's Club" for drinks and dinner ... belly dancers, dancers on table tops, men literally sprinkling coins and small notes on to the dancers ... perhaps it isn't acceptable to tuck them into the dancers' costume here. Of course, at a place like this, daggers have to be left at the reception before entry is granted!

Swimming and seafood is good in Aden, so that's how we spent most of our time there.

To balance off the well-adapted people on our little jaunt, there had to be one who hadn't adapted at all. This US Navy guy takes Imodium (anti-diarrhoeal) whenever he does day trips (or overnights) away from Sanaa ... so he wouldn't have to use the local loos.

On this excursion that I had my first and only taste of qat ... the leaves that most Yemenis (including children) chew as a stimulant. It tasted awful at first but after a while you don't notice it. It didn't produce any pleasurable sensations for me ... won't waste my money on it again.

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Yemen Arab Republic Comments (0)

After a week of learning Arabic


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The language is written using a consonant script, like some other languages such as Hebrew. This means that it is written somewhat like SMS (TXT messages) ... quite confusing as "bnk" could mean bank, bunk, bink, binak, banik etc. Additional vowel signs are shown by marks above and below the proper script to assist students and dumbos, or when accuracy is importance (as in the religious context).

I guess it isn't the most practical way of writing, especially when the script is being applied to a non-Arabic language with non-compatible grammatical structure ... little wonder countries like Turkey, Malaysia and Azerbaijan have switched to alternates like the Roman and/or Cyrillic alphabets.

I can read now but am a bit slow ... my conversational skills are still limited. As children in school we referred to the Arabic script as "beansprouts [http://www.bookmytable.co.uk/images/beansprouts.jpg]" and didn't pay much attention to the teacher! Much of the script have the same beansprout look and apart from the dots to distinguish between them. Hence it is very unforgiving to missing dots and also bad photocopiers.

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Yemen Arab Republic Comments (0)