12. Travel report: Jemen 14.02.2008 - 13.03.2008

San'a - Ibb - Taizz - Aden - Bir Ali - Mukallah - Shibam - Al Ghaiyda

With beeing able to visit Yemen, the legendary land of the Queen of Sheba, mentioned already in the Bible and the Quoran, one of our boldest dreams came true. Right from the beginning, we are enchanted by San'a, the capital of the reunited Yemen. The Madina - the old city with its acient alleyways full of life, with the beautifully decorated 5-6 storeys high clayhouses, with the souq where men are shouting, bargaining and haggling, and the especial early afternoon qat market. Chewing the expensive green leaves of the narcotic and hallucinatoric qat is for most Yemeni men a daily most important social activity. Zacharias, a Yemeni student invited us to his home and we were allowed to investigate his house in the old town. Through a wooden door we enter the dark stairway and climb up to the very top of the house. Here we can catch a glimpse of the "Mafraj", the most beautiful room of the house, with moonshaped, stained-glass windows, serving as the qat-chewing and deal-doing place. In a smaller room, layed out with carpets and seat cushions, we drink tea with Zacharias and his little niece, get many information about the country and enjoy the great views across the old city. A city right out of 1001 night.

Early mornings we start our day if ever possible with Fasuliya and Shai (Beans and Tea). In the restaurants is always an infernial noise. The waiters shout loudly and the gas burner with its one meter high flame reaches an incredible sound level. Newspapers make the tablecloth and in lieu of spoon and fork one uses the right hand to pick up the food with a piece of the flat disc bread.

The cycling on to the south is unproblematic, since we are able to present a travel permission issued by the tourist police in San'a. A pass leads us to a plateau of about 2500 meters, and from here we experience a stunning view on terraced fields, dramatically deep Wadis (valleys) and the villages perched on the rockpeaks. The visit of a village, famous for its stone architecture, the beautiful Queen Arwa mosque and the stunningly set on top of a hill, is another highlight.

We reach Aden, the former capital of the communist South Yemen, stock up our reserves and start pedalling along the coast. After 62 km our bike journey finds an end at one of the checkpoints. From here on, we get transported in police jeeps or pick ups, guarded by Kalaschnikov wearing officers, for the next 500 km. Just 35 km before Mukalla we were able to jump on our bikes again.

The travel to the Wadi Hadramawt had also to be done by public bus. The visit of Shibam, the so called "Manhattan of Arabia" was impressive with its walled city and the around 500 8-storey tower houses built very closely together. The old houses are about 400 years of age, built with straw, wood and clay only, and the roofs are covered in white lime coating to protect from the summer monsoon. A very fascinating architecture.

The next 600 km long stretch along the coast - the road often heading inland to cross mountains - were shadowed only by the strong headwind we had to encounter with. But the most strenuous bit were the last 12 km torwards the Oman border. We had to push our bikes on the tarmac road most of the way - and the last 2 km with an 18-22% incline we even had to push both together.

Yemen is a most remarkable country, for us a real dream destination, despite of the security problems, a land we wish to be able to return to - to see again this fantastic country and to experience again the Yemeni people with their fabulously hospitability.

San'a, Jemen

San'a Jemen

San'a Jemen

Beach Bir Ali

"Manhatten of Arabia"

"Manhatten of Arabia"

On the beach along
to Al Ghaida

Reaching Oman!
Ups and Downs
on the road to Salalah