Yemen: There are some things you can’t cover up with burkhas and chadors…

Yemen: Arabian Nights

Yemen: Arabian Nights

…circle the airport more than once coming down into Sana’a, but I don’t know why, since there’s no traffic at all… weather is beautiful; so is the scenery… cross between the Bolivian altiplano and the Grand Canyon.  Immigration formalities… no problem… but sixty buck visa not cheap…

Arabian Nights are alive and well in Sana’a… apparently God said, “Yep, pretty much like I remember it…” fairy-tale architecture…like icing on the cake, an Arab-style cake… swoops and swirls and extra sugar on the side.  Sana’a is to architecture what halwa is to sweets. 

Yemen architecture: sweet

Yemen architecture: sweet

…matching belts and daggers are the height of male fashion… chewing qat one of the favorite pastimes… like Major League pitchers warming up in the bullpen, chewing cud and looking bad… nice as can be, though.  Most Arabs are, though terrible drivers, belligerence and aggressiveness mostly a political posture, on the micro or macro level… CIA take note…

…pre-booked a hotel in the old town… a real Yemeni place, with more twists and turns in the hallway than I’ve seen since I visited Dracula’s castle in Transylvania.  I wouldn’t put a level or drop a plumb line on it, though… no Wi-Fi, of course, but the main man says I can use his computer… even offer me some of their qat, late afternoon is chew time… like tea at three…

…old Arabia… labyrinthine in layout, or Byzantine? …as if constructed one section at the time with no central plan… no map, only dead reckoning, i.e. counting turns.  Nighttime comes, and… I get lost, L-O-S-T… getting more lost with every step I take.

Sanaa, Yemen: old town

Sanaa, Yemen: old town

…only one thing to do: flag a cab…first cab politely declines, second wasn’t so lucky… tells me to hop in… can’t find my hotel either… I pay him my only few rials… hack reads me the riot act about travelling without a business card from my hotel…

“I’m lost!  I didn’t ask to be lost, I don’t want to be lost, but it happened! I’m sorry!”  I get out and start walking without much of a plan…

…taxi comes back after a block or two, and I get back in… suddenly we pass an area I remember from my afternoon walk.  Bingo!  No extra charge… two and a half dollars… keep the change…

I go right back out, cash in some Egyptian pounds for Yemen rials… at 9 p.m. the lights go out, everywhere… I snugly in my room by that time, with a fully charged battery on my computer… study Arabic five minutes, then pass out, dead to the world, a world increasingly complex and disorienting…

…had my first conversation in Arabic today… little girl asks me, “Are you from here?” “No, I’m from America.”  If only you knew…

Yemen is a revelation

Yemen is a revelation

…young girls don’t have to wear veils, but their big sisters do…religiously… (at) puberty…it’s required, not unsurprisingly.  These girls are babes… A pretty woman under the veil is still a pretty woman….

Gold shops line the street… old ways and superstitions, just like old Asia… old Flagstaff… combination banks/pawn shops/gift shops/fashion centers…

…cats rule here as in all Muslim areas, gleaning the garbage dumps and playing hide-and-seek with us cat lovers… even a cheap flight to Asmara in Eritrea across the sea.  Maybe…have to come back and stick around… back burners…

Next stops are Dubai and Doha, the Arabian polar opposite of Yemen… polar cold here… “thought I heard you mention my name, can’t you talk any louder…”

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