A Travellerspoint blog

Queen Arwa's home


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Ibb was a base for us to visit Jibla, seat of Yemen's historic Queen Arwa (1067 AD to 1138 AD). She was reputed to be a wise woman and ruled Yemen for 40 years.

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

Quickstop in Taizz


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Taizz is a (yet another) pretty walled city at the foot of a cliff ... if it weren't that, it would be a pretty walled city on top of a cliff ... that's Yemen for you.

We stopped here for lunch and explored briefly before deciding to continue to Ibb, so we'd set ourselves up for a faster return to Sanaa ... in preparation for our impending departure for Yemen.

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

Hot, hot, hot!


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large_5550_11661306889442.jpgThe drive from Sana'a to Zabid.
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Finally we explored the lowlands and surrounding highlands in the west of the country closest to the Red Sea.

Zabid is yet another UNESCO World Heritage site. It has even more minarets than Sana'a per square inch ... wish us luck with sleeping.

It is reputedly one of the hottest places in the world ... and you'd believe it too from the way Kim carried on when the power went off (as it does in Yemen), cutting off the air-con in our little hotel. It was definitely uncomfortable but a just beyond bearable for me.

We also visited other cities along the way, namely Taizz, Ibb and Jibla [http://www.thymos.com/mon2/yemen/yemen7.jpg]. Being Yemen, these naturally had beautiful fortified mountain towns as their centres.

With our travels in Yemen, we've realised that each region (and its people) is so different. In the east, people appeared quite Malay/Indian. In the west, rather African.

By the way, our travels in the region were all by shared taxis (old Peugeot 504 station wagons). They seat a total of 10 people including driver. 3 in front row, 4 in second and another 3 in the rear row. We travelled with Eelco (a Dutch school-mate), so the three of us would buy all four seats in the middle row to ensure reasonable comfort.

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

Excursion to Shihara


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large_5550_11661306783973.jpgThe stone bridge at Shihara ... nice but really, getting there was nearly all the fun ... as they say, the journey is the destination.
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Now, for our next adventure ... Shihara (Photo 1 [http://www.anytravels.com/photo/yemen04.jpg], Photo 2 [http://www.auraphoto.it/imagebank/archivio/categoria4/gallery80/AP001534.jpg]), yet another medieval city built in one of the most inaccessible places. Our trusty series III Toyota Landcruiser (ie. very old) managed the paths cut into seemingly sheer cliffs with no problems. The trip was a 4X4 lover's dream.

With Shihara, half the excitement is getting there. We required armed guards in an escort vehicle to minimise the risk of kidnapping .large_5550_11661280421497.jpgOur armed police escort on the way to Shihara... I've seen pictures from those who have been and there was a machine gun mounted on the accompanying ute [http://www.aazphoto.com/travelogue/yemen/Yemenmarib_1431.jpg]. I've been told it is a kalashnikov but I wouldn't know.

FYI, there are different grades of risk for travel within Yemen, and this will be the "highest". I've so far done the "no permit required" areas. Much of the country is in an intermediate risk grade where one has to obtain a travel permit (granted relatively easily for a fee).

I've seen that many Americans pretend to be the same nationality as their travel companions (Brits or Canadians) when not required to show passports at checkpoints. They claim that Americans are sometimes not let through as the Yemeni government can't afford to have anything happen to Americans.

The Yemeni obsession with Qat (a kind of chewing leaf; arguably a drug) is even more obvious in the highlands where they are grown.large_5550_11661289824687.jpgThat's the biggest qat ball I've seen. So much land is devoted to this pricey commodity that there doesn't seem to be enough land devoted to nutritional agriculture. I guess you could say Yemenis are Qatholics (as their second religion after being Muslims).

In Shihara we stayed at a local guest house which could have been out of the middle ages. It was built from cut rocks and plastered on the inside with mud. The floors supported by tree trunks which had been plastered over too.

Shihara is the wild west of Yemen. Although we had about 6 armed guards (with machine guns) looking after us on our trip, one vehicle in our convoy got run off the road by opportunistic machine-gun toting locals. Thanks to the armed guards following close behind, we didn't find out what their fate would have been otherwise. The near-victim in this case was a German woman who had been in Yemen for about 8 years ... she claims that this is her first incidents and events like this are rare.

In the highlands, guns and machine guns are a way of life ... possibly in the same way that daggers are a way of life in the city. Perhaps the arms are necessary to protect the valuable Qat.

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

Seiyun and surroudings


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large_5550_11661279492067.jpgSultan's palace in Seiyun.
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We had a busy time with our travels to Shibam [http://i21.photobucket.com/albums/b288/cat_mora/Yemen/85-piccola.jpg], Seiyoun [http://www.jorgetutor.com/yemen/sayun/sayun1.jpg] and Tarim [http://www.viaggiaresempre.it/016YemenTarim.jpg]in Wadi Hadhramaut, where we saw the famous mud-brick skyscrapers often dubbed the Chicago or Manhattan of the Middle East. This Shibam is not to be confused with the hilltop town that I've visited already.

We flew here as it would have taken a very long and uncomfortable trip through the desert by bus ... and we would have had to pay for military escort too ... no need to pay for that kind of excitement twice and we'd be requiring their services for the next excursion to Shihara.

The Wadi Hadramawt area is the ancestral home for many Arabs in South-East Asia. Some of those that went to Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia have made it back wealthy but others have chosen to settle there and marry the locals. Some of their descendents in Malaysia and Singapore now identify themselves as Malays rather than Arabs.

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

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