Yemen Journals

Yemen - Expect the Unexpected

Best of IgoUgo

An April 2006 trip to Yemen by HELEN001

Travel Photo by IgoUgo memberMore Photos
Quote: "Yemen!...on your own...are you mad? What if you get kidnapped?" Well, I'm not, and I didn't. It was a most excellent place, with stunning and unique landscapes, generous and welcoming people, and one of the worst cases of plastic-bag pollution I've ever seen. Not for the nervous, either!

Yemen - Expect the Unexpected

Best Of IgoUgo

Overview

Travel Photo by IgoUgo member
Quote:
The Haraz Mountains, Wadi Hadhramawt, and even the vast expanse of volcanic wasteland known as the Jol that stretches for miles inland from Al-Mukhala on the east coast. There are the minarets of Queen Arwa’s mosque in Jibla, the painted ceilings of Zabid, the partially excavated temples around Marib, and the ‘pastel palace’ in Wadi Dawan. Then there is San’a itself – a walk around the old city and souk by day or by night is a sensory overload. And the most blissful thing about it all is that you can wander at leisure and actually look at things properly. There’s no pressure to buy, and it’s no problem if you want to stop and watch the craftsmen at work. For me, though, the main highlight was th...Read More

Arabia Felix Hotel

Best Of IgoUgo

Hotel | "Arabia Felix (aka Funduq al-Arabiya as Sa'ida)"

Arabia Felix Hotel Photo, Sanaa, Yemen
Quote:
I wanted traditional architecture in the old city. It took a mere nano-second to decide whether the courtyard garden at the Arabia Felix appealed more than the best roof-top terrace at the Taj Tahla Hotel. Both were located in the old city, were traditional mud brick houses, and were within budget. Having spent the last couple of months in the bleached hell that is Oman’s summer, I was experiencing a severe green deficiency. Based on nothing more than the word association of garden with green, I chose the Arabia Felix. It was a most excellent decision and it stayed most excellent until about 5 o’clock the following morning. Yes, garden does mean green in Sana’a and it was all I could do to restrain my...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 28, 2006

Arabia Felix Hotel

Sanaa, Yemen
+967 1 287 330

Dawood Hotel

Best Of IgoUgo

Hotel | "Dawood Hotel - Sana'a"

Dawood Hotel Photo, Sanaa, Yemen
Quote:
This is the hotel I would have stayed in if I had known about it, which I didn’t because it’s new. Well, it’s not new – it’s about 400 years old but as a hotel it’s still cutting its teeth. But that doesn’t mean they don’t know what they’re doing though. The hotel is a beautifully restored tower house with, and this is the clincher, a large paved terrace overlooking one of the old city’s allotment gardens. This is just a total plus in a city where there are few places where you can sit, have a drink and enjoy the view all at the same time. Large containers full of flowering plants are dotted around the terrace which is partly shaded by a large mimosa (?) tree. The gardens, completely encircled by o...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on October 11, 2006

Dawood Hotel
Old City of Sana'a, Dawood Quarter
Sanaa, Yemen
967 1 287270

Al-Hamra Restaurant

Best Of IgoUgo

Hotel | "Al Hamra or VIP - Sana'a"

Quote:
You have GOT to go to this place—even if you don’t want to eat. It’s extraordinary. You can’t miss it either. From the front it looks like a McDonalds except it’s not. It has same colours, a similar logo and a whole bunch of ‘cool’ Yemeni yoof hanging round a whole bunch of motorbikes outside. The logo stands for something like Al-Hamra but people call it the VIP as well. It’s also like a McDonalds inside except the food is an interesting fusion of burger-bar and shwarma-stall served by staff wearing the same colour uniforms as McDonalds. But walk through to the rear and you’ll find yourself in a large courtyard with a rough overgrown lawn, a couple of trees, creepers and vines everywhere, a pretty st...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 13, 2006

Al-Hamra Restaurant
Hadda Street
Sana'a, Yemen

Breakfast Alley - Sana'a

Best Of IgoUgo

Story/Tip

Quote:
It’s not really called Breakfast Alley but everyone I asked seemed to have a different name for it or else they hadn’t a scooby* so don’t go asking people for directions to Breakfast Alley, okay? Head south from the Post Office in Midan-at-Tahrir along Ali Abdul Mogni Street for about 150m until you see a huge fruit juice bar at a T-junction. Hang a right onto Qasr al-Jumhuri Street. If you want a good Internet café then the Ebhar Net is just up the next right-hand street next to the Al-Dubai Restaurant which serves excellent roast fish and other good value local dishes. If you don’t want the Internet or roast fish then carry straight on for a few metres to the next right-hand turn instead. You wil...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on October 15, 2006

Suq-al-Milh in Sana'a (Salt Market)

Attraction | "Suq-al-Milh in Sana'a"

Suq-al-Milh in Sana'a (Salt Market) Photo, Yemen, Middle East
Quote:
There’s nothing I enjoy more than a good suq and Suq-al-Milh in the heart of the old city of Sana’a, is a particularly satisfying one. Like all suqs it is a riot of colours, sounds and smells, it’s easy to get lost and there’s loads of unidentifiable things for sale. What makes this suq different though, is you can actually stop and look at things for more than a nano-second before being accosted by a straight A student from the School of Hard Sell. Don’t get me wrong – I ‘m not averse to a spot of cut-and-thrust bartering but I do like leisurely, hassle-free window shopping too which is pretty hard to do in a suq. But not in Sana’a where the emphasis seems to be on the social rather than mercantil...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on October 7, 2006

Suq-al-Milh in Sana'a (Salt Market)
Old City
Sana'a, Yemen

Coconut Club and Restuarant

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction | "Coconut Club and Restuarant - Sana'a"

Quote:
When I’m at home there are a million things I’d rather do than go to a nightclub – ironing, reading the phone directory, boiling my head in oil – that sort of thing. But just occasionally when I’m away travelling, if the word nightclub is mentioned I’m galvanised by the prospect of a night on the town. This volte-face only happens to me in countries where I think there’s a damn good chance that the word nightclub doesn’t necessarily mean what we think it should mean. So when a spot of clubbing in Sana’a was suggested one evening, I decided that Yemen was probably one of those countries. It was, on first glance, disappointingly familiar – a couple of bouncers on the door, loud booming music...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on October 20, 2006

Coconut Club and Restuarant
Hadda Street behind Sport City Center
Sana'a

Wadi Dhahr and the Rock Palace

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction

Wadi Dhahr and the Rock Palace Photo, Yemen, Middle East
Quote:
Wadi Dhahr is an excellent destination for a spot of sightseeing, some gentle walking, or some pretty scary abseiling, depending on whether you’re a tourist or a conscript in the Yemeni army. The Wadi itself is about 14km northwest of Sana’a, but about 10km out of town is a large red rocky plateau area on the right-hand side of the road, where you can get a stonking view of the whole wadi, with the famous Rock Palace nestling in the middle of the fertile valley. On Friday mornings, between 10am and noon in particular, this plateau is a popular pre-wedding, dagger-wielding dance spot for bridegrooms and their all-male entourages, who positively welcome the chance to be photographed. Conversely, the arm...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 20, 2006

Wadi Dhahr and the Rock Palace
Outside Sana'a
Sana'a, Yemen

Kawkaban Citadel Village

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction

Kawkaban Citadel Village Photo, Sanaa, Yemen
Quote:
"But it’s less than 3km!" I squinted up at the village of Kawkaban perched on the top of the 400m cliff above the outskirts of Shibam and tried to make out just exactly where the path up was. "I’m sorry Mohamed, but that is not a walk –that is a military exercise and I’m not doing it OK?" I’m quite happy to walk but after weeks sitting on my backside studying there was no way I was fit enough for the very steep climb up to Kawkaban in the ‘hour or so’ that Mohamed seemed to think I was capable of. In the car, during the circuitous 7km journey by road to Kawkaban I promised the obviously disappointed Mohamed that I’d tackle the route down instead. The main entrance to the village is across a stone b...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on October 25, 2006

Kawkaban Citadel Village
55 Km Nw Of Sana'a/enter at police gate
Kawkaban, Yamen

Kawkaban Citadel Village

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction | "Kawkaban to Shibam"

Kawkaban Citadel Village Photo, Sanaa, Yemen
Quote:
I was a few metres outside the gates of Kawakaban village, standing on an old bridge looking over the edge at a stone track leading between the walls of a narrow, flat-bottomed, verdant gorge cut into the side of the mountain. Looking up at the top of the steep rock face of the canyon wall on the right-hand side, it was difficult to tell just where the cliff ended and the houses began – they looked like they were growing out of the rock. If asked to describe this blending of the natural and the man-made* in one word, I’d probably say ‘organic’ or ‘harmonious’ perhaps. Mind you, I’d be hard pushed to use either of these words to describe the piles of rubbish scattered about the gorge. The villagers ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 27, 2006

Kawkaban Citadel Village
55 Km Nw Of Sana'a/enter at police gate
Kawkaban, Yamen

Thula Photo, Yemen, Middle East
Quote:
Maybe I’d been spoiled by visiting Kawkaban first, but I thought Shibam was a bit of a dump, frankly. Neither the fact that it was the capital of the Yafurid dynasty in the 9th century or that it is home to one of the oldest mosques in Yemen were enough to disabuse me of this opinion. It was, however, an interesting dump.Walking the ½ km or so through the outskirts of the village, many of the houses were concrete box jobs usually painted to match the colour of the occasional older stone buildings. There were no predefined street layouts or regimented rows of houses, but it seemed like some form of private low-income housing estate. Houses were springing up at random, and each was spawning its own a...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 28, 2006

So Is It Risky Then?

Best Of IgoUgo

Story/Tip

Travel Photo by IgoUgo member
Quote:
So is it risky then?Well, although you’re not guaranteed to be kidnapped in Yemen, you could be.  Kidnappings of foreigners had, until recently, dropped off over the last few years, partly because there were so few tourists and partly because the government decided that kidnappers would be sentenced to death. However, things have livened up again since December 2005 when a party of Germans were kidnapped then released unharmed. The following day a party of Italians were kidnapped in the same area and they too were released unharmed after a few days. This week, four French tourists were kidnapped from their convoy and it is thought that the kidnappers are from the same tribe that c...Read More

And Do You Really Need a Tour Operator?

Best Of IgoUgo

Story/Tip

Travel Photo by IgoUgo member
Quote:
Do you really need to use a tour operator to see the country?No, you can arrive at the airport, find a hotel, work out an itinerary using public transport, book your own tickets, arrange your own travel permits, maybe attempt to pre-book accommodation and set off hoping that the army don’t either chuck you off the bus and send you back or make you stay on the bus for another god knows how many gruelling hours. Just because the police give you permission to travel doesn’t mean that the army have to. I really don’t think this is an option for tourists short on time or patience.You can also arrive at the airport, find a hotel, work out an itinerary using the internal airline network, book...Read More

Smooth Operator - Yamanat Tours

Best Of IgoUgo

Story/Tip

Travel Photo by IgoUgo member
Quote:
And when I say smooth operator, I don’t mean in a creepy lounge-lizardy, wide-boy sort of way either. Far from it! No, what I mean is that from first email contact to final farewell at the airport, Mohamed Shaif of Yamanat Tours (www.yamanat.com) was a smooth operator in terms of efficiency and organisation. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that Yemen is probably a tad more unpredictable than your average holiday destination, so it helps if your tour operator isn’t. When I’d sent out my initial email to a number of tour operators (see Do You Really Need a Tour Operator?), Mohamed had replied within hours providing a couple of itineraries, estimates, and a few suggestions about places tha...Read More

Qat Litter

Best Of IgoUgo

Story/Tip

Travel Photo by IgoUgo member
Quote:
I know this is going to sound a bit odd but, the first time I chewed qat I was quite overwhelmed by a feeling of nostalgia for my first infant school – the food in particular. At this school they practised the quaint custom of giving you the cane AND a lecture about starving babies in Biafra if you didn’t eat your school lunch. The lecture was bearable but as bewildering to a 7 year-old then as it would be today. The cane however, either across the back of the legs or on the palms of your hands, hurt like hell. The problem was vegetables. Hated them. Especially green ones. So I’m afraid I have to confess to having spent many a childhood afternoon slowly chewing a mouthful of vile-tasting green mush...Read More

Sana'a - Split Personality

Best Of IgoUgo

Story/Tip

Travel Photo by IgoUgo member
Quote:
It’s not that I thought I’d waltz out of the airport and straight into a world of ancient Yemeni architecture without coming across some style of suburbia first and it’s not that I thought that Sana’a didn’t have any suburbs - I just wasn’t quite sure what to expect. From what I knew of the economy of Yemen I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to come across too many gleaming shopping malls or fusion Arabic-Italianate white-walled villas common in the spotless suburbs of your average Gulf Peninsular capital city. One glance around the arrivals hall at the airport was enough to confirm this – it reminded me of an airport in up-country Burma in 1980. I’ll admit that in Sana’a, air traffic control was a b...Read More

Surprises in the Suq

Best Of IgoUgo

Story/Tip

Travel Photo by IgoUgo member
Quote:
I’m not usually one for enthusing about retail outlets, but just occasionally I’ll go a bit wild. In old Sana’a, with its combination of gob-stoppingly amazing architecture and brilliant suq, it’s all to easy to walk past treasures without seeing them because, let’s face it, the brain can only take so much stimulus at any one time. Especially if you’ve only got a few days in town and you don’t have a decent guidebook. I’m sure I’d have discovered these places if I’d had more than a few weeks in Sana’a, but I’m not so sure I would have found them in that time if I hadn’t been told about them. When I’m at home, I consider shopping to be a necessary evil, whereas when I’m away, it’s more like sightseein...Read More