Published: January 29th 2009December 7th 2008
Well, Sanaa has been nice, but I began to ask the locals, "What else is there besides this historical and peaceful city?" The response, "How about some quiet and beautiful mountain towns?" What they really meant, "Care for some adventure and a chance to go where no American has gone before?" Either way, sure, sounds like a good use of time to me! Thus, a road trip through Yemen ensues. It is much easier though if you simply hire a driver and guide. It can be a bit pricey, but having people to share the car with can reduce the costs. As imagined, sometimes it got a little interesting. My first experience of being in a local restaurant with tribal man, all carrying their own AK-47's while being the only American for probably miles around was different. The driver and hired escort kept a good presence and no trouble really happened. As for going into the northern part, the military escort was a must. When traveling out of Sanaa, you can expect many checkpoints. I had the impression the government wanted to make sure I was always accounted for. However, when I realized the guards were getting paid around 10$ a
day for security, it struck me that protecting my life meant about 1$ an hour. Let’s just say I was rarely bored in this vacation.
Before traveling north, we made a quick afternoon stop at an old palace of the last Imam. As the pictures show, this place was great. Much more like a Middle Eastern castle if I had to describe it. Apparently he needed this much space for all of his wives. The views from the top were quite spectacular, in which the entire valley could be seen. Within the palace, many rooms and amazing architecture lies within. It is certainly like nothing I have ever seen before and really spoke well for the craftsmanship of the area and time. A party here with good friends would certainly be in good form.
Once we started heading north, the vacation became an adventure. Up north the government has much less control, since there are many more tribal conflicts taking place. The first town we visited was Shuharah. The ride up here brought us to some of the highest elevations in the country. The road was probably the most challenging I will ever see. Unfortunately I did not
The land of Yemen
This pic helps to show the texture of much of the land.
get to drive, but standing up in the back of the truck bed proved good enough! The view along the entire way was quite thrilling.
Once inside this quiet town, I got a chance to be within a town that is literally set aside from the world's hustle and bustle. The people were quite friendly, and the feeling the area brought was very complacent, easy and certainly not in a rush. Walking around at night time, I developed a new sense of what a mountain town can be. Often I tried to consider what it would be like to live in this town, never having seen the internet and perhaps once or twice visiting a major city like Sanaa. While I have tried, I simply can no longer think of the world in such a simple and peaceful paradigm. The calmness of simply being here is quite elusive, but my night here did bring a peaceful sleep.
Waking up the next morning, we walked to a historic bridge. From here we walked down the mountain to meet our rides back. This was most definitely a hike unlike any other. Seeing the small mountain villages spread out on the
This is one of the many mounatian top villages in Yemen.
horizon, walking along the farmed mountainside and occasionally running into an old stone home, it made for a good ending on this step of the journey.
On the way back, we had some good times on the road driving with and behind the locals. As the last picture shows, often it included packing heat. For a quick history lesson, the AK is worth our time. AK stands for Automatic Kalashnikov, the last name of the Russian inventor. This rifle was made back in 1947, thus AK-47 (code named AK -1 and 2 during its testing period). It is the most popular and used automatic rifle in the world today, for it is a rather efficient and easy to use piece of weaponry. Not to mention the AK is very simple and cheap to manufacture. More AK’s have been made then all other assault rifles combined in the world. Often times today the AK -47 is a symbol associated with liberation and independence. In Yemen, where the tribal identities are stronger then a national one, having an AK is a very common practice. As for me, I thought a souvenir like this would have been too difficult for customs.
There are more photos below