When people found out I am traveling to Yemen, most of them were confused and bizzared with questions such as “Why Yemen?” I did not choose Yemen and was also confused how could I answer that. So the thing is my father was posted there and I was also visiting my parents and see how the things in Yemen.
I took the Yemenia flight which had a direct flight from Jakarta to Yemen but with 2 stops which is in KL and in Dubai. I had a bad experience with Yemenia. Really not an airline I would go on with. I had like almost twelve hours on the plane until my ass was really flat and the service was not really good at all. Well I had to take it cause it is the only flight that has less time.
When I arrived at Yemen it was so scary at first. I arrived at midnight and the Yemeni was rushing their way to the immigration line. I had stares at me from men which I find it so annoying. And even the immigration officer does not speak that much English.
Then I got out of the airport and was greeted by my dad. But then even from the bad experience I just had with the flights I need to accept at how it is.
On the way through my dad’s house I went through some sort of check points done by the soldiers guarding each point of the Sana’a city. Luckily they let us passed by because I was in the diplomatic plated car.
When I arrived in the compound where my dad was living which was at Beirut Street. It was really dark because the electricity went off. Sana’s had a turn on putting on the electricity on and off so that time it was dark. I could not see anything rather than the fact that only the moon light that shines above and the breezy cold wind at night. There was not much I could do at night other than resting.
The next day I got out to buy some food with my dad and as I got out of the compound and to the streets, I saw plastic bag were nearly everywhere. Then my dad told me that those plastic bags are the ones they used to put in Khat, some sort of drug of leaves they use to socialize amongst others. It is somehow legal in the country and they sell it almost everywhere.
I spent my days in Yemen convincing my dad so I could have a tour around the city with Indonesian Students studying in Hadramout which are staying in Sana’a for the Indonesian Independence Day at the Indonesian Embassy of Sana’a. I also had the chance to show around an Indonesian dance at the embassy too.
So when I got free time I begged hard to let me go out. It was hard to go out without someone knowing how to speak arabic. After Indonesia’s Independence Day, my friends took me to Asr and we saw the view of Sana’a City from above. It was really cold and freezing because we drove up to the hills where the wind was blowing hard. A view from Asr.
BAB EL YEMEN
After that I wanted to see Bab El Yemen. When I arrived it was almost dark but we went on to visit the shops there. Bab El Yemen which means the Yemen Gate marks the entry to Yemen. But in real it is the entry to the buildings of the old city in Sana’a.
I found so many interesting shops to look at. It is a traditional market where they sell a lot of stuffs needed in daily life. From clothes, jewelry, shoes, zambia (men accessories), keychains, stones and so on. It is a wonderful place to explore and also very cheap and yes you have to bargain in Arabic and I was lucky I had a friend who could help me do it. I did a lot of shopping with my brother and we both spent around YER 1800 (around IDR 980.000 or USD 83). We bought like about 3 traditional cloths, 1 slayer, 3 handmade bags, 10 scarves for men and more. But really the cloths were so different from the ones you can find in Indonesia.
I revisited the Bab El Yemen for two times because I was amazed and impressed by how the culture sticks so it well. I really loved the tea they sell around Bab El Yemen, it is so rich with taste.
OLD CITY OF SANA’A
Old City of Sana’a was around Bab El Yemen. It was so rich with culture and old architecture. Different than anything you could have imagine. Nothing is like skyscrappers. But the way they designed those houses were magnificient. And no one can ever tear them down as it is not allowed to.
We went around the old city of Sana’a and saw many things from the handcraft shops made by Yemeni Women, the bakery shop, some cows, frying pans and so on.
I kept walking around and sat down between the valley where I could see cars and people passing by. It was a great experience to observe the people of Yemen.
AL SALEH MOSQUE
I paid a visit with my family to see the grand mosque itself. It was so magnificient that the compound was big enough to have a lot of guests enter the mosque. The guards were so kind to let a diplomatic car get in and parked inside the compound as it was closed to some people. And when you get to inside the mosque they kind of checked your bags for safety reasons which is standard procedure.
As you get in you can see the big open space hall inside it. It was huge and each architecture represents something. The mosque itself was built by the previous president and they honored the mosque in his name, Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The ceilings of the mosque were amazing as it was painted in different colors. Also the big lamp hanging in the middle was also beautiful and lightens up the ceiling above. It was so grand that I am afraid the big lamp might fall on to me.
DAR AL HAJR
I had the time to visit Dar Al Hajr which is the imam’s palace, the first palace of the first yemeni president. The palace was built on top of a rock. Yes a rock!
Built with many staircases,windows, glasses, there were rooms that functioned for everything, the palace was really magical. It also had caves, storage rooms and a meeting room that functioned for sisha, complete with the sofa and the sisha. It was magnificient. This place really holds a lot of history.
It was initially a village where Jews were occupying in the olden days but then they were sent away leaving the village abandoned. Now it is a toruist attraction as the rocks are seen in green color (and no it was not because of the grass, the rocks we really green).
This place gets really cold in the day because of the wind. I caught myself freezing there. This place has also become a place to chew khat as this place holds a peaceful and relaxing view.
Yemen holds a lot of culture and historical places to visit. I would like to visit and explore much of Yemen, but due to the security there it is not safe for a foreigner traveling alone without the locals or having people traveling with you speaking in arabic.
I would love to visit Yemen again and see the magical history that Islam holds here.
PS: PLEASE CORRECT ME IF I AM WRONG ON THE DETAILS BECAUSE THESE ARE THE STORIES MY INDONESIAN FRIENDS TOLD ME