Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Yemen Day 4 : Letdown

OK .. I admit I am getting a little bored of this now. What seemed like an excellent idea 2 weeks back, now seems like a chore. But what the heck, a promise is a promise, and I will complete the Yemen series :-)

Abdul gave us great hopes for the days ahead. Dinner and dancing in the mountains. Fresh fish in the market in  Hudaydah. Maybe it was the high expectations, but this was our most disappointing day.

We started out on a road towards the mountains, with a barren landscape all around us. The police roadblocks now had tanks in addition to the usual mounted machine guns. Admittedly they were circa WW-II, but imposing just the same. We gave a ride to some locals, who were happy to hang on to the back of the Land Cruiser.  But the mountain villages were seeming more and more similar. We were losing interest. ADD is usually the diagnosis for folks like us.

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We reached the hotel where we were to stay for the night (dinner/music/dancing/khat), and it was very uninspiring. The lunch was the worst we had in Yemen. At this point, the prospect of enduring the local music and dancing (obviously all male) was not looking attractive at all. So we made a decision to push on to the seaside, where we would at least get good fish. The argument being that in the mountains you cannot expect too much, the infrastructure was not good enough.


We did manage to visit ONE interesting village, where the Ismaili’s originate from. The mosque was simple and gorgeous. The small climb to the top of the mountain was nice, but all we found there was a bunch of locals chewing Khat.

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The drive to the sea was refreshingly pleasant. We passed through a wadi, with a river running through it. It was like a slice of Kerala had been pasted in the middle of the desert. Mango and banana plantations, lush green fields of other fruits and vegetables, extremely pleasing to the eye after 2 days of brown dust.



We reached Hudaydah in the evening. My first reaction was : This town could just have been transplanted straight from India. Any small town in Madhya Pradesh. And then we saw the hotel. A monstrosity. Someone’s misplaced sense of aesthetics was very evident. We did have A/C rooms, but at this point we just gave up. There was the sea, (the hotel is sea facing, on the beach) but NO beach ! Just rocks. And with what loving care we had packed our bathing suits. Our Abdul was quite distraught by all this, he was quite proud of his country, and was finding it incredibly hard to understand how we were not appreciating this excellent hotel, with the A/C rooms and all.

So we decided to explore the option of going back to Sana’a, and maybe just cut our trip short. Noura was contacted (very reluctantly yeah .. she had already warned us that there was nothing to do in Yemen for a week), and we found that we could pay more and come back on Monday. And while we were debating, ten minutes later we also found that Noura had already taken the initiative and changed our flights. Very proactive this woman.

It was so bad that we decided not to chew the Khat we had bought on the way. (Of course, how can we deny ourselves the option atleast). After a couple of shots of Vodka, we went with the peerless Abdul to eat at the famed fish. That was the one part of the day that was good as promised. Bought altogether too many fish, had them cooked, ate in the same way as before. Very satisfying, and VERY filling. Because there is no point in letting good fish go waste.

So at this point we realized that there were other reasons why tourism is not so popular in this country. There is bloody nothing to see !!!

No, I am being a bit harsh .. there are other island paradises rivaling the Galapagos, but those are on the other side of the country. But for people like us, with the attention span of a small fish, it was quite enough.

Thought for the day :  Any living should involve unlimited flexibility, or unending hedonism.

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