Tuesday, 25 December 2007
Yemen 6: A meal 'on the road'
Today was our last day in Yemen and we headed out to the National Museum. The museum is in a modern building in central Sana'a, its very well laid out with lots of interesting artifacts detailing Yemeni history. Most exhibits were labelled in English and Arabic though one exhibition hall was labelled in French and Arabic only. I learned so much about the long history of Yemen. Much archaeological work has been done recently and so there are constant additions to the understanding of Yemen's past. The museum closed for prayers at around 1pm and wouldn't be reopening until 4pm so we walked round to a juice place for a mango juice which we had both missed since leaving Dubai.
We walked back through a souq area where 'a meal on the road' took on a whole new meaning when we were invited to join some Yemeni men for lunch which they were eating, quite literally, on the road. They'd flattened some cardboard boxes out to sit on next to their ute, then purchased salta and bread from one of the local vendors which they were kind enough to share with us. One of the men spoke good English and we had a very funny chat about Lebanese pop singers: Is Nancy Ajram a floozy answer yes/no?
Further down the street I did some serious souvenir shopping and almost bought up an entire shop which sold Yemeni kaffeyas, futtas and wall hangings. It was Christmas Day so I spoke to my kids in Sydney and also to my brother Terry in the UK which was really nice though unfortunately I couldn't hear him very well over the street noise.
The nation seems to shut down most afternoons when the majority of Yemeni men and many of the women gather to chew qat. Qat is a small shrub and the people chew the leaves which give a mild high. We saw boys as young as 10 or 11 with their mouths stuffed full of the stuff, and the city streets are littered with the stalks of plants that have been stripped of leaves. In most countries in the West qat is a controlled or illegal substance Some Yemeni men jam so much qat into their mouths that it looks like one of their cheeks is going to explode and even the soldiers and police are chewing away while they're on duty. The other thing that is really popular is fireworks, we've heard them at all hours of the day and night. Even this morning at 6:30am someone somewhere was firing off a long string of crackers.
In the evening we had dinner at Arabia Felix another hotel not far from our hotel. On the way back we got lost in the souq trying to find a shop belonging to the guy who runs the Yemeni shop at the Global Village in Dubai. Another man led us round to find his house but nobody was home (he was in Dubai surprise, surprise).
After an amazing week in Yemen, we're flying back to Dubai early tomorrow morning and back to work on the 27th. All the photos are here.