Ten Thoughts on Yemen

 1) When you are reading the news from outside the country you feel that Sana’a is under fire. It’s really not, other cities may be, but not Sana’a, so feel free to visit.

2) Every time I visit Yemen, the beauty of the architecture and buildings amazes me.

3) Although brown is still a dark color, wearing a brown abaya instead of a black one is an unconventional move that could bring about a great deal of discussion. Some will “love your bold move, and hope that all women start wearing colored abayas.” Others will wonder why you want to “bring too much attention to yourself.” But most importantly, everyone in the street will assume you are NOT Yemeni.

4) Since people assumed I was “foreign” because of my brown abaya, I let them believe that. I learned that foreign women have a lot more access to enjoy the city. They can enjoy a nice shay bil7aleeb (tea with milk) and eat kabob in the old city, and no one will ask min bait man (which family are you from)? No one will give them strange looks because they are not supposed to be there, and no one will talk badly about them! Instead, they warmly welcome them to the country. I wish men acted the same way towards women from their own country.

5) The word al-wihdah (unity) sprung up everywhere. Alwihdah supermarket, alwihdah barber, alwihdah school, and even alwihdah Kleenex. I guess that’s the government’s grand plan for preserving unity!

6) The Saleh mosque is seriously misplaced! It really does NOT fit in Sana’a. You can see the mosque from almost anywhere in the city, and from wherever you are you will notice the sharp contrast between the neighboring houses and the grand mosque. It’s a remarkable symbol of ultimate power and corruption in a land of poverty.

7) It is easy for terrorists to operate in Yemen, they just have to put on a lithma (niqab) and no one will check.

8) I sometimes feel like I completely belong in Yemen, but other times I feel like I’m a total stranger in my own city of birth.

9) Everyone is on facebook and I mean EVERYONE! Whether they are your friend or not, they will look at your pictures, and it will be the topic of discussion during lunch or qat sessions. Then you will never hear the end of it from extended family members!

10) Although the political situation keeps getting worse, the Special Olympics ceremony that we attended gave me hope that things can improve. It was an amazing opportunity that showed me that when there is a will we can actually make great things happen.


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