Yemen also known as the Arabian Felix is an Arab country bordering Saudi Arabia, Oman and the Red Sea. Yemen takes on a road less traveled with its unknown treasures but yet rich culture. The country has several main cities such as San’aa, Taiz and Aden but mainly comprised of villages. The majority of Yemen’s population reside in villages. Villages are small towns occupied by tribes. It is not uncommon to find dozens or more of villages neighboring one another under the same municipality. The occupants of the villages are tribe members families which the village is named after more often not.
I was given an opportunity to visit the village during my stay in Yemen. At first I disliked the idea but quickly warmed up to the notion as my travel began. The drive took hours and the trip was exhausting. I was traveling from the city of Taiz to the city of Ibb. We started at 8 A.M. in the morning and arrived in the city of Ibb no more than an hour 1/2 later. We traveled through the city and up the mountain Ba’dan which the towns people named Jabil Ba3dan. This mountain (pictured below) lead us to the village providence which made up hundreds of small villages.
The entire ride was rocky and the car swayed side to side like a boat. The roads were broken apart and unpaved. The driver went over the roads slowly as they were narrow and did not have a harness. Precautions raised tremendously considering there was no harness on side of road. Any mistake could cause the car tumbling down the mountain. This made the ride uncomfortable and dangerous. I heard that the roads have been paved since my travels but would have to see it to believe. The road was jagid but the view was breathtaking. You could see miles of green mountainous land from on top of the mountain. Contrary to belief, Yemen has considerable amount of cultivation and green land. The road kept increasing north up the mountain and it felt like I could touch the clouds.
An hour passed and we entered the village township called Al She’ir. The village we entered was on top of a mountain. This is where I was to stay for next few weeks. The houses all looked similar to one another but the color of the brick distinguished one to the other. The homes were built with cement blocks and bricks. The bricks were from a natural source as they were derived from the mountain itself. Each home had a brick gate with similarity to a fort. Neighboring the brick walls were fields of corn, wheat, vegetables and Khat. Khat is plant which contains a stimulant. The plant is used for recreational purposes and the townspeople will chew on it extracting its stimulant juices. The effects is similar to that of coffee giving a caffeine rush. Khat was and still is used all over Yemen.
Not only the homes were colorful but the Gates were as well. The design and color of the gates were rustic. Behind the gates were the people of the village. Everyone knew the other person in the village therefore secrets were of no question. The men wore long dresses called Thawb which are popular in the middle east. The Thawb ranged in colors from white, brown, blue, or even black and worn with a Jambia. (Click here to learn more about the Jambia)
The women also wore large colorful head coverings called hijab and modest clothes. The clothes were modest but imagination evolved the color of their wardrobe which was bright and vivid. Most people were related to each other and treated like family even if they weren’t. The sense of togetherness was overwhelming when staying in the village. The people residing in the village stuck by each other through thick and think. The men worked hard and so did the women. There were however a large amount of people that family’s resided in America. This gave the villagers an advantage and also provided them with more perks than others including but not limited to larger homes, elaborate cars, more water, better electricity connections, and telephone service. That did not stop them from being traditional. Regardless of income, the villagers all remained traditional in their clothing, customs and farming.
It was not un-ordinary to see a woman milking a cow in the afternoon or raising sheep. Or to see the kids playing soccer in the dirt field before sunset. The simplicity of the culture was humbling. The people made me feel comfortable in every way although I was a stranger. Hospitality was no stranger in the village and they were indeed kind. Fresh air invigorated my lungs and helped me appreciate life. I stared out my window as I left the village town and draw an image in my mind. The village was left behind but the memories will forever remain.
Written by A.K. Maleeke