Saturday, January 10, 2009

Yemen 2008 - around Sana'a

Sana'a is a portal to many fascinating day trips located within its surrounding wadis and mountains. Unfortunately a permit and hired car are required for many of these. However, these are not difficult to obtain. Perhaps the most popular and easily accessible of these destinations is the Dar al-Hajar, or better known as the 'rock palace'. Located in the nearby Wadi Dhahr, the rock palace, which spirals majestically several stories high from a conveniently placed rock is one of Yemen's most treasured attractions. It is also not necessary to obtain a permit in order to travel to Wadi Dhahr from Sana'a.
Further northwest from Sana'a are a trio of picturesque villages; Thilla, Shibam and Kawkaban. Thilla sports a mountaintop fortress, Husn Thula - from which spectacular views of the surrounding environs can be seen. Shibam is located at the base of a cliffside with the village of Kawkaban perked spectacularly at the top. After visiting all three of these, my driver and I made our way to Manakhah, another village located in the mountains about 100 km southwest of Sana'a where we overnighted at the animated Al-Hajjarah Tourist Hotel. A night's stay included dinner; however, this was only the appetizer to the entertainment that was later offered. The next we hiked from Manakhah through the mountains to the nearby village of Al-Hajjarah.
To see more photos from this collection, check here:

Friday, January 9, 2009

Yemen 2008 - Sana

The flight from Dubai to San'a may have been less than two hours; however, despite the fact that both cities are located within the Arabian Peninsula, the contrast between the two places could not have been greater. In both cities' national museums, they sport photos comparing how the cities look not, compared to the past. Dubai of course looks nothing like it did some 30 years ago. In Sana's national museum though, the photos show just how little things have changed since cameras were first invented. In fact, many of the structures located within the walled old city are now over 400 hundred years old, making Sana's sensationally preserved old city a UNESCO world heritage site.
My hotel, the Felix Arabia was centrally located within three traditional Yemeni houses overlooking a courtyard. Like in neighboring Saudi Arabia, alcohol is difficult to find in Yemen. However, this problem is alleviated greatly once one discovers the local's favorite vegetable, khat - a stimulant which is chewed daily by Yemenis and found all over Yemen. One can spend hours chewing on khat while exploring the labyrinth-like old city with its many striking houses and shopping in the many souks. Perhaps the most bustling of these souks is the Souk al-Milh, which runs from the old city's main entrance Bab al-Yaman.
For more photos from this trip, check here: