Also known as the long drop. At some point you are going to have to face up to this challenge. I suggest that you do 2 things. The first is practice. The second is plan in advance. There is a very good chance there is no toilet paper and water all over the floor already. The locals clean themselves with a small water hose or a cup from a bucket rather than paper. Figure out where you are going to put your things and how you will position yourself so you can get the job done and not slip and make a real mess. Also plan on there not being any soap to wash your hands once you have completed this big challenge.
Sana'a, Taiz and Aden are considered "safe" but the remainder of the country should probably be considered off-limits. A few days in Sana'a old town and a visit to Palace of the Rock 15 km outside of town certainly make for a memorable experience.
I am working in Sana'a at the moment and have the impression that you should be very careful - probably even in the abovementioned areas.
Update October 2010: After the second attack on British Embassy staff in six months in Sana'a on October 6, the situation is currently worse. At present utmost care should be taken even when moving around with the above mentioned cities, a sad situation. Given the very low number of foreigners visible in most parts of Sana'a, the few that can be seen unfortunately present a target to extremists. As I am leaving tomorrow, there will be one less target, so you will be even more at risk...
much has been said about the danger of kidnaping in yemen. while this appears certaintly to be true in the remote areas (secondary source, oil industry) the only dangers in sanaa are the altitude and the tapwater, and possibly boredom.
having said that when you find yourself in sanaa you probably want to go outside the city to see the historic landmarks. the warnings do apply there.
The receptionist in my hotel saw me taking photos of women walking by from well inside the lobby entrance. He said “They will kill you” in a mixture of resignation and friendly concern. I am not sure how accurate he may have been and I suggest you do not try and find out. Women are always in the veil here. If you want to take photos, then do so out of your hotel window or very discretely from your waist so it looks like you are not taking photos. Considering just about every man has a Jambiya, or huge dagger, on them you may be in fear of your life if caught. It can be frustrating when you want to take photos of the local culture, but it’s their rules here. With a bit of creativity you can probably get better photos than I did.
Cars without brakes? After about 20 seconds of riding in any vehicle you will start to think no car, van or truck has brakes. They use their very loud horns early and often to negotiate the heaviest traffic. Roads markings, signs and common sense are not really involved in the whole crazy affair. Every vehicle you will see is damaged. They only seem to respond to the Police because they have guns and sometimes drivers even argue with them! I really do think a blind person could drive here in the busy traffic periods. Sighted drivers do not look anyway. Keep all this in mind if you decide to cross any road by foot.
when we arrived met somebody western living in yemen and we got few advice:
*try not to stay in a fancy hotel, western type as those mostly will be the target of terrorists
*dress more local type, so no eye catching as no matter that we were dressed very local way, but small thing - we were the only people wearing sunglasses! - its already shows we not locals :) but at least my blond head wasnt glowing from far away :)
*when traveling around, YES it would be more comfortable by 4x4 BUT again same thing - only tourists taking flashy car like this.. try to mix into local life more
* dont tell everybody where you are staying in...
* and dont eat in weird local shops unless you have strong stomach and enough medicine to take care of yourself :)
*nowhere will take your credit card , so have enough cash, its cheap place but you still will need to pay for all
and I think thats all ! go and enjoy!
Most people that have travelled the middle east extensively have come to terms with hearing a call to prayer go off in every other direction and it usually isnt a big deal but come to Sana'a and we are talking about one of the longest and loudest call to prayers on the entire planet bar none. Be warned that if you stay in the old city you will hear this call (ear shattering) 5 times a day so if you are a light sleeper either stay outside the city or bring some industrial strength earplugs :) I love the call to prayers in Yemen and it is a lasting memory that I will never forget.
Traffic is UNBELIEVABLE in Yemen! The drivers seem to drive anywhere and at any direction - pedestrians have NO rights it seems. I needed to hold on to my friend's hand whenever I crossed the street or I would be UNDER the tyres instead of across from them. Even the narrow winding streets which one would think no cars would dare to enter, they cause even local Yemenis to scamper up on a kerb and wait patiently for the car to clumsily maneuver and pass by. I was nearly hit countless times-
At some point in your Yemeni Adventure you will get an upset tummy. It will happen. What can make this a very bad situation is trying to go to the Pharmacy to get Antidiarrheal tablets – fast. There are a lot of Pharmacies in Sana’a, but many do not sell the local medicine called ‘Diastop’. The best thing to do is bring your own, but I found out the hard way that that was not enough. You may want to make enquiries before you run out of this useful modern medical miracle.
Watch what you eat - which means in particular fruits and raw vegetables. In popular places it is quite obvious - most are extremely dirty and revolting... and, luckily, not very suitable for women. I must say I was relieved not to eat there.
We tried mainly "middle-class" sort of restaurants where wealthier residents and expats go and on one occasion the restaurant of a top hotel, which will remain un-named. Well, it was in one of these that xaver got food poisoning.
Presumed "killer": a much sought-after (from his part) club sandwich.
Solution: the yemeni-German hospital in Hadda road. Modern, well equipped and with really efficient staff.
As I said in my introduction, food is sure not one of the things for what you will remember Sanaa.
Lot of lamb ofcourse but not much variety.
As we were having stomach troubles we tried to eat in good restaurants and avoid the street ones but, that did not help me much as I ended up in the hospital for a food poison.
I cannot say what and where I ate the poisoned food but it gave me a hard time.
This ofcourse can happen everywhere, also at home, but here the problem was what to eat while recovering; infact I could only eat white rice and no restaurant looked able to prepare it, so we understood that any dish they brought to you was prepared in advance and that, with a warm climate does not help to keep the food in good conditions.
At the end I had to go to Sheraton restaurant to get a simple white rice, there I could eat it.
DUST! Just a suggestion. Pack loads of light coloured clothes. Preferably light brown to beige. You are going to get dusty walking around no matter what you do. I wore dark blue trousers one day and looked filthy in about 2 hours. It is not going to be a problem in the rainy season, but you will be covered with dust during dryer months.
The buildings in Sanaa are architectural gems but watch the steps!! They are very often irrregular with different height and\or width and are found in practically all buildings even in modern edifices. Spraining your ankle or breaking a leg would be a nasty way of ruining your holiday in Yemen. So watch your step especially in darkness.
There were electricity blackouts every day in Sanaa, at least when I was there in August 2005. I doubt how much the situation has changed. So stock well on candles, torches and batteries. These electricity cuts also affect the water supply. So one must learn to make best use of the daylight hours.