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Published: December 20th 2009
Who is Queen Arwa Bin Ahmed Al Sulaihi? During her era Yemen witnessed a new age of civilization development in all walks of life for she excelled in righteousness honesty, knowledge and wit which made her run her kingdom wisely to the extent that she allured the hearts of her subjects to the extent that the Yemenites used to call her” Our lady, the Free Queen” “ in honor and respect for her. She used to be called also “ Little Bilqis” i.e. Little Queen of Sheba due to her sagacity dexterousness. She began to take interest in creating convenient infrastructure for civilization development in RY Educational Affairs, through construction of schools in all the parts and granted her subjects the freedom of belief and built mosques and religious schools and for the sake of knowledge spends huge amount of money.
For the 1st time in days I felt better, no more tummy cramps, whohoo! Donnie Darko was playing on FOX on cable tv but managed to pry myself off it and leave the hotel around 9am. Outside I struggled to get a taxi so I walked to the intersection with Abdul Nasser St. and got a
taxi quickly. he dropped me off outside of town at Farzat Sana'a, the taxi station for Ibb. There is a taxi waiting for one more passenger, good timing for me, we quickly left after paying 400 rial($2) for the one hour 1/2 trip) checkpoint was not thorough they waved us through, the road was a bit windy and crazy driver as usual tries to overtake every moving vehicle in front of us, later another checkpoint 2 more actually but we managed to get through without them noticing me, the police is a bit lax at the moment.
Arriving in Ibb taxi station, I am a bit overwhelmed, lots of traffic and commotion, an old man approached me and asked me where I am from, etc, you know the usual, I said I am American, he looked at me with a grin and said "American, very handsome" can't help but laugh, I asked him how to get to Al Medina al Kadima(old town) he hailed a collectivo or bijou van for me and spoke to the driver to get me off my destination, nice fella, he waves goodbye and am on my way. it's about a 10 minute ride straight
along the same road, the taxi stops and one of the passenger in broken English pointed to me how to get to the Medina. I walked in the chaotic street scene, people selling everything, and as expected people started shouting words in Japanese, I just smiled at them, I got lost in the maze not knowing where to go, I walked around narrow alleyways and in one spice store, I asked an old man who smiled at me when I passed by, to guide me to where the Medina is, he literally walked me through the maze and pointed to a cobblestone alleyway, go up there as if to say, so I did. All the kids are now eyeing me, yelling greetings in English some following me behind.
In front of me were 2 young boys aged 13 just off from school Nabir something and Kamal, they introduced themselves in broken English, they showed me their English book they are learning the language in school, we chatted as they guide me through the old town as they are on their way there, narrow streets, tall buildings with unique looking facade, there is a term for it but I cannot
remember. Nabir bade us goodbye when we passed his house, I asked Kamal if he could show me around and I will give him some money later he smiled and nodded, the boy took me to different neighborhoods, showing mosques, ancient wooden doors, etc. All the neighborhood looks at me, some yelling something in English, a few kids tagged along as well including a very loud boy, always yelling, I told Kamal to tell him to shut up! he showed me various entry points to the town, Babel I think is gate in Arabic. Jabal Rabi, where you can get a good view from is up in the hills, Kamal pointed it to me, asked if I want to go there, I declined. We walked some more he guided me down towards the souq and then bade goodbye, he is late for lunch. I handed him 200 rial and he split it with his brother.
Found the crazy market again and weaved through alleyways by now word got out that there is a tourist in town, me! i am like a big star people following me around, greeting me, and mobbed me at one point asking for their photos
to be taken, from the dudes selling tamarind to the fish fryer dudes. They love it when I show them the photo and then would encourage me to take their buddies' pictures as well, this went on for ages and when it was time to say goodbye they gave me a piece of fried fish, I offered to pay but they declined, they asked me for phone number I have none so I gave them my email, which I doubt they would use. Anyhow, its getting close to noontime so I walked around back to where I started and tried to catch a bus to Jiblah, I approached a policeman, I told him I wanted to go to Jibla, he motioned me to follow him, he stopped traffic and hailed a van collectivo for me, he spoke to the driver, and for what I understand he told the driver to get me to the taxi station for Jibla, one dude swung the front door open and told me to get in. When we reached an intersection just passed the Taiz shared taxi stand, I was told to get off and pointed to the collectivos in the corner. I paid I
believe 50 rials for every ride, very cheap.
I heard a man yelling Jibla so I motioned to him and he pointed the taxi bijou to get on in. We went up hill, about 10 minute trip, past valleys and terraces full of qat plants, later we arrived in the new town I can see the old town from the there, the taxi drove about halfway to the top and then stopped, right away a tourist guide spoke to me as I pay the driver, I asked him if he can show me around how much would I pay, he asked me how much I can afford to pay, I said 200 rials, he said 300 rials and he'll walk me around town, so it was a deal. Good English, his name is Ali, nice guy, he laments on how tourist is now a trickle compared to last year, due to troubles in the north, it's hard when you rely on tourists to make a living, if no one shows up you dont get paid! We walked past the qat market, all the boys sat in the alleyways trading or should I say selling their precious qat, they encouraged
me to take their pictures so I did. Then went up to the Queen Arwa mosque, some parts of which are 1,200 years old! Including the white minaret, another minaret, a red on is 500 years old, we went inside the compound and he spoke to the caretaker, I can see the inside of the mosque if I make a donation, I gave him 500 rial($2.5) and he was happy, I have to make it quick as people are praying, the tomb of Queen Arwa is inside, she was a popular ruler and when she died at age 92, she had built numerous mosques, schools etc. and the town then was known as a center for Islamic teaching, the school still exist as I was shown.
I wanted to get a god view of the town so Ali spoke to one of the teachers and he lead us to his house on top of the building we had a good view of the town, then he invited us for lunch, he said I dont have to pay him just contribute to the school. Lunch was good, spaghetti with spicy sauce, flatbread and stuff, I took out the free fried
fish from Ibb and we shared it, after tea, we have to leave and the dude wants me to give him 2,000 rial, i said no, I am sorry but I have not that money, I thought he said just donate something never thought it would be specific amount! I was firm no way i will give him that $10 he asked, I brought only enough to get to pay the guide(Ali) and get back to Taiz. He accepted the 500 rial I gave me and we left hurriedly. We walked down to the Queen Arwa museum, 500 rial entrance fee, I declined so we just walked around the compounds, Ali said it is being renovated by funds from Unesco, and has been going on for 10 years now, Dar as Sultana palace where the museum is, is a huge complex with apparently 365 rooms but is now house quarters to some of the locals, to restore the whole structure, Ali said some family have to be paid to move out so they can reconstruct the massive palace.
As we walk down towards the taxi stop we saw 2 gringos, not very friendly with a forced smile, I ignored
them, Ali introduced me to a green eyed dude who is a tourist police, he had his boy in his arm, very cute fella, he stares at me the whole time. I shook their hands and Ali got me on the taxi quickly as it is leaving, I paid him then we left. Got off at the end stop, took another taxi van to the Farzat Taiz, I got dropped off and hurriedly at the taxi station got hushed to a waiting taxi that filled up quickly, I paid the 400 rials again and off we go. The men in the taxi are all chewing qat as we go. The 1st checkpoint outside the town I was noticed by the ever alert police, taps on the window I passed my permit photocopy to the driver, they asked me where I am from, America I said and I noticed the whole taxi took a discreet look at me, I ignored them. One dude could not stop staring. We parked 5 meters from the checkpoint, waiting for word from the police as they check the permit, then an arrogant police dude came to the car and was asking me something in Arabic,
I could not understand him, he is getting annoyed, yells at me, everyone in the taxi was talking to me in Arabic explaining what the police wanted to see, I just shook my head, finally the police had had it, waves us through annoyed! Later I realized I think he wants to see the original permit, but hell I am at the very back of the taxi I have to pry it off my money belt, I could barely move squezzed tight at the back! Anyway all is happy again and resumed their qat chewing habit until their cheeks were about to burst.
2 more checkpoints, none asked me for the permit, just waves us through quickly. Arriving at the Farzat Sana'a, i hailed a cab for 300 rials and dropped me off at my hotel, the young dude was happily chewing qat as he tries to converse in English.
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