THE SQUAT TOILET
Also know 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
Be careful!Related to:
- Study Abroad
- Budget Travel
As one more member of VT and also doctor "Hydroneta" says
stay healthy to Yemen.
Clean your hands everytime you eat something.
Sounds like parent's words, but have this in mind, as is not the "must"
tourist visit to the local medicine services.
Some places in Yemen require a police escort and they usually charge about 2000 to 3000 YR. The Sana'a to Ma'rib road as well as Sa'da require them but Shaharah no longer requires them. Aden to al Mukalla also requires the assistance of the police. You can check with any travel agent or with your embassy for information. Generally speaking, these roads are problematic and kidnapping does occur. My driver to Shaharah told me that one week before I arrived he accompanied 3 Austrians to Ma'rib and they were kidnapped. They ended up unharmed but he had to wait four days while the governments negotiated a release. Be careful and use common sense.
Because of tribal tensions in certain areas as well as kidnappings in the past, a travel permit is needed to travel to most places other than Wadi Dhahr and Sana'a. The travel permits dont cost anything and they can be arranged by your hotel in most cases. Independent travel is not possible (according to the hotels) and it doesnt look like it will change anytime soon but I heard mixed reports from travellers saying it is possible if you go to the Tourist Police (dar al Hamd Hotel off Az Zira'ah st in Sana'a). The main places travellers are stongly advised to not go are the al Jawf region, the Sa'da region as well as areas around Ma'rib and the Saudi border. If you manage to travel alone you will need a lot of photocopies (around four or five a day) due to so many checkpoints.
...is still largely absent among the population. And for the most part it's not a great concern to the authorities either. Desertification is setting in as the groundwater table sinks. In the Sana'a basin water is being pumped up from the fourth (and last) aquifer, up to 1000 metres of depth. In other areas agriculture has knocked itself out already through over-pumping for irrigation. The island of Socotra is still a biodiversity hotspot but unscrupulous developers might end that as soon as they smell money. And garbage collection is greatly lacking. One of the good exceptions is the city of Sana'a, where the mayor decided to offer a job to an army of 'akhdam', the lowest caste, supposed to have descended from Ethiopian conquerors long ago. Pay is low, but it provides for steady income AND a remarkably clean city.Related to:
- Road Trip
Yemeni traffic is chaotic. Yemeni drivers disregard any traffic rule ever invented, and even though, somehow the traffic flows. It is common to disregard lanes, it is absolutely necessary to use the horn, and even when it gets dark don`t count on a Yemeni driver to turn on the lights (even if he is driving in the wrong direction). Crossroads are most chaotic of all, as traffic rules are only valid if a policeman stands in the middle. Orientation is difficult as only few street signs are bilingual, if there are street signs at all. Jaywalking is common. Believe me: You would not want to drive a car in Yemen. So if you are not going with an organized tour, hire a local driver + car (which is pretty cheap) for longer trips or share a taxi for short distances. Forget about self-driving.Related to:
- Road Trip
In Yemen - though a poor country - begging is not as visible or usual as in other third world - countries. In the outskirts of Sanaa or at traffic crossings, sometimes veiled women or children will approach you and beg for money. In some villages the children sometimes beg for pencils, sweets or money (especially in Shibam/Hadramaut or Hajjara/Manackha). The Yemeni adults do not approve, and you shouldn`t encourage their children begging (even if they are cute). In the long run, it doesn`t help them. If you want to improve their living conditions, donate to a project, but don`t give them money.
The only thing that really put me off in Yemen was the custom to throw away any rubbish on the street just where you stand (even if it is your own house door, or your neighbours). Sanaa though is pretty clean, yet the villages around Sanaa are virtual rubbish dumps. Especially the villages on the way to Manackha/Hajjara are very dirty. The villages of Hadramaut again are rather clean (with the exception of Shibam), measured from Yemeni standards.
On the photos you can see some examples of waste thrown away. It is no unusual sight to see plastic bags "growing" from trees. Sad to see, as Yemen would certainly attract even more tourists if there was an efficient rubbish disposal.
A spate of kidnappings in the second half of the nineties gave Yemen a very bad name. What's worse, after a lull from 2002 to the summer of 2005 kidnappings resumed. The last one was in September 2006. Although they were all resolved peacefully and various kidnapped travelers simply continued their travels in Yemen as if nothing had happened, one would naturally want to avoid this happening to you. If you're planning on travelling through Marib and Shabwah, make sure beforehand what the current travel advice is and ask your tour operator or guide about precautions he's taking (routes to be taken, possibly arranging for police escort).
Police escorts often will appreciate some money to buy qat. This is in no way compulsory and as a matter of principle you may not want to do this. Then again, if you feel like it you may not want to be too moralistic in this respect.Related to:
- Road Trip
Traffic in Yemen: is it really that bad?
Yes and no. Death toll is staggering (2500 per annum, compared to less than 800 in the Netherlands). Everything that's probably officially not allowed is to be expected: igoring red lights, driving on the wrong side of a dual carriage way, horrendous speeding, bad lighting both on the cars and on the streets, overall appalling state of maintenace of most vehicles, underage drivers, drivers with tunnel-vision due to qat use, women drivers with limited lateral vision due to their wearing of the niqaab. Add to this winding roads alongside steep ravines, and during Ramadan all of this aggravated by fatigue in the morning and hunger in the afternoon.
So what about the no in the first sentence? Just expect the unexpected. Sounds like a cliché, but it works.Related to:
- Road Trip
Canadian Government Warning about local travel
Driving habits, poorly maintained vehicles, unclear and unheeded traffic laws, excessive speed, roaming animals, and pedestrians pose hazards. For security reasons, travelling along routes outside cities should be avoided. Should you need to do so, you should drive in convoy and during daylight hours. Advise friends or employer of your route as well as expected time of arrival and destination. Travellers should not use the Aden-Taiz-Sana'a highway. Anti-personnel mines and unexploded munitions remain a danger in the southern and eastern areas of the country, particularly around Aden, and the central highlands.
There is no rail service. You should avoid city buses and use only officially marked taxis after pre-negotiating fares. Car hires with chauffeurs are advisable. You should travel by air between major cities.
A typical Governments warning
Canadian Government Warning
SAFETY AND SECURITY
There exists heightened tensions in Yemen, together with increased threats globally from terrorism. Since April 2005, there have been a number of grenade attacks in Sana'a against Yemeni government forces. On September 15, 2006, two oil installations near Ma’rib and al-Mukalla were attacked in simultaneous terrorist operations.
On July 19, 2005, the Government of Yemen announced the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies. A number of civil unrest incidents have occurred since the announcement. Westerners may be targeted and there is a possibility that the unrest may escalate. Avoid leaving vehicles unattended. In the event that you have to do so, carefully inspect both the interior and exterior upon return to detect any attached devices or suspect packages nearby. Treat mail and packages from unfamiliar sources with suspicion. If you notice anything unusual, contact your sponsor or employer, or call the Yemeni police immediately. Suspects as well as witnesses to incidents may be held for lengthy periods without access to legal counsel or consular officials. If access is granted, it may be severely limited by the Yemeni authorities.
The level of risk to foreigners in Yemen is high. Vehicle hijacking is common. Yemeni authorities have increased security throughout the country, especially in areas frequented by tourists. Remain vigilant, do not show signs of affluence, and ensure personal belongings and travel documents are secured. Kidnappings of foreigners, mainly by disgruntled tribesmen, have occurred in the past. In most cases, these have been resolved peacefully, although there have been fatalities.
Staying healthy should be one of your major concerns as it can spoil the pleasure of your journey. So take care of the following:
1. Tap water is not generally drinkable even by locals. We were told that probably only Seiyun has good quality water. Luckily bottled water is readily available everywhere so as beverages. As for tea, water is boiled
2. Take care of fresh vegetables that are tap water washed.
3. Take care of forks, spoons, plates, cups before you eat. I noticed that in many restaurants cleaning them meant only dipping them in some water and serving them to the next customer. I always dried everything with napkins
4. Fresh juice is very popular but if you order one and they tend to add water, do ask them politely to use bottled water or give them one yourself
5. Wash hands!! In many cases we ate in places with bare hands. There is always a water sink somewhere but don't expect to find soap. So either carry one or use the travel disinfectant wet napkins.
6. In seaside areas take precautions for mosquito bites (though I was not annoyed at all) as malaria is always a risk
7. In case you seek medical advice, better ask your driver or your hotel where you can go. I noticed there are many medical offices-clinics but conditions varied. There are also a lot of private medical clinics some run by foreign doctors, so don't hesitate to ask.
Yemen: A land of plastic bag!
Not a danger but a warning:
Yemen is not for the seriously environmental conscious visitors. Unfortunately Yemenis don’t seem to care about pollution and myriads of plastic bags lie in the country side. This is a result of…qat consuming. Qat chewers buy it in such small plastic bags, they consume it and then they don’t bother littering even remote areas.
Also lots of pets are roaming freely........so many of them are found killed by cars on the roads
IS YEMEN SAFE???
This is issue is frequently posted and I can undestand concerns as recent kidnappings have badly damaged the image of this wonderful country.
If you exclude the "dangerous for kidnapping routes" (Dhamar to Bir Ali and Sana'a to Wadi Hadramawt) where mainly the presence of police escort caused me some nervousness, Yemen is an extremely safe country. But imagine, that the yemeni government is doing its best to guarantee your safety.
Though there were few tourists around I NEVER really felt any threat. I was even walking around alone in between men carrying their jambiyas and kalashnikofs but all I could face was people saying hello and "welcome to Yemen"!!
Yemenis are among the friendliest people I have ever met. Very hospitable, kindhearted, love to have fun. Just open your mind and heart, greet them in arabic (learn some in advance) and you'll be rewarded by their hospitality. The people are of Yemen's best impressions.
And please don't take any travel instructions posted by governments seriously...
In a nutshell: GO TO YEMEN. It is a rewarding experience! (read my proposed itinerary in "Things to do" in order to enjoy the best of Yemen with minimal sense of insecurity)
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