Oh, we really do wish we had more good things to say about Yemen than we actually do right now. As our marquee above states, now is just not a good time to consider a trip here. That has been the case for some time and it's really looking like it's going to continue to be the case for a long time yet to come. By far the least developed country in the Middle East, Yemen has been struggling with increasing poverty levels and tribal unrest for decades and, most recently, has experienced considerable political strife that has resulted in significant downgrades in safety. And there's more: a late-2009 article in the Los Angeles times stated that the average Yemeni survives on one-fifth of what the World Health Organization calls an "adequate" amount of water. The article also hints that while the quality of water consumed here is already sketchy, it's better than nothing; Sana'a is likely to become the first capital in the world to run out of drinking water. Travellers hot and sweaty from the varying degrees of aridity and humidity, buying up every bottle they can find, certainly aren't going to help. While the country, ancient and traditional, has a number of sights that could be and should be shared - such as the four UNESCO World Heritage sites of the Old Walled City of Shibam, the Old City of Sana'a, the Town of Zabid and the Socotra Archipelago - trekkers who decide to travel the Middle East's most untravelled road do so at their own risk at this point in the nation's history. ~ WBB Staff Writer
The safir is chirping in the papaya trees and the diesel pumps are starting up again. It must be morning. The sun blinds me as it creeps through my British Army mosquito net. I kill the last of the blood-sucking mosquitoes as their swollen bodies prevent them from escaping. I manage to crawl out of my net just before I roast under the grueling Yemeni sun. I live within the medieval Turkish citadel of Zabid, which is located on the Tihama Plain in Yemen. Our citadel is to be my home for the next three months of excavations. However, it is only 6:00am and I am already starting to sweat—not a good sign!
I rise too quickly from my makeshift bed and almost pass out. After regaining consciousness, I curse having spent last evening with the ‘boys’ for the pleasure of chewing qat and drinking gin…again. What were formally bad habits are now starting to become part of my daily routine. In addition to their studies, they also have a penchant for strong booze and the dreaded narcotic plant of the Arabian Peninsula: qat. The chewing of qat (pronounced 'kat') is rampant throughout the Arabian Peninsula and eastern Africa. Local tradition relates that the qat bush was originally brought over to the Arabian Peninsula some 700 years ago. According to the Qur'an, the consumption of qat is permitted whereas the consumption of alcohol is forbidden.