Despite you feel that there is widespread poverty we were not harassed by many beggars. This occurred only in the countryside and especially when we had short stops for a drink or our driver's qat. . These were mainly women or children reaching our car window. This was more persistent in Tihama region and Taizz. Have some coins with you if you wish so. In cases of children we gave them pens. They were really happy with them!!
Everybody who is minimally interested in Yemen knows that you need a visa to enter the country. It's rather expensive and the easiest way to get it is through someone in Yemen or some institution such as a language school.
One must also have the EXIT visa. I learned about this just 3 days before departure!! I was told that since I stayed just one month then I did not need it. However I decided to do it anyway. SIAL wrote me the appropriate letter of application in Arabic. I went to the Ministry of foreign Affairs in Sana'a. It is the building with round windows near the imposing Saudi Arabian embassy.
I nearly got shot in the process. I ignored the guard at the door and walked straight in. The electricity went out before I entered the lift so I had to climb about 5 flights of steps. All conversation was in Arabic and I was sent from one desk to another. I paid 400 YR. Finally the visa sticker was peeled off its sheet and stuck triumphantly onto my passport. Shukran wa ma assalaama.
The colonel was very helpful.
Check your passport!!!!
Be warned, we didnt know it!
Did you make a recent visit to Israel and your passport has the Israeli stamps in it?
THEN YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO ENTER YEMEN.
We flew from India to Sana and had to wait for 12 hours before our plain to Rome was leaving. To bridge this, Yenmen Air had promised to give us a hotel in Sana to pass the time. On arrival in Sana the Airport security gave us the cold message that we couldnt enter Sana and use the hotel they had promised because they found Israel Immigration stamps. No excuse, we were punnished for having these stamps in our passport! Also Yemen Air didnt do anything to comfort us. We had to stay 12 hours at the waiting room at the airport!
Bought a small orange-coloured Yemini knife(jambiya) that most people carry around and when i scanned my bag at the airport they picked it up and confiscated it, my scissor was also taken but this returned to me at the next airport. The knife was never returned and probably pocketed by the guard since everyone loves those knives.
If traveling out of main...
If traveling out of main population centers on your own or with one or two others, be REAL careful. Foreigners are taken hostage by hill tribesmen and held for ransom; this is sometimes done to bargain with the government, but some foreigners have been killed in captivity. Don't eat or touch people with your left hand.
We also had a run-in with the army during our drive to Hodeida. Actually, it was our driver who had the run-in but it was an uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situation. We were stopped at a checkpoint and the soldiers searched our car. They found boxes of something or other in the trunk and proceeded to yell at the driver. Then one of the soldiers started knocking our driver around. I was going to get out of the car to try and help our driver but the CEO of our organization advised me not to interfere so I reluctantly stayed in the vehicle and was getting really steamed. Eventually, they let the driver go and we continued on. I'm not sure what this all means except that as foreigners it's probably a wise thing to stay uninvolved from such encounters.
There is a risk of kidnapping...
There is a risk of kidnapping in Yemen. Just after I arrived, a Norwegian diplomat was kidnapped with his 7 year old son in the centre of Sana'a, and when the kidnapper's car was stopped at an army checkpoint just outside the city, he was killed in the crossfire. This was fairly shocking for me and I was wary of walking anywhere in the city for a couple of days, but it is extremely rare for people to be kidnapped from Sana'a itself and I consider it to be one of the safest cities I've visited, much safer than my home town of Birmingham.
Most hostages are taken in high risk areas such as Ma'rib, Al Jowf, Shabwa and Abyan governorates, and most have been treated very well by their captors(many have been given gifts of jewellery when they were released!) but it was unfortunate that four tourists were killed in 1998 when their tour bus was kidnapped in Abyan, although these kidnappers were members of an international group which had not operated in Yemen before.
There are ways to lessen the risks. Firstly, I travelled round Yemen using public transport which I consider to be safer than using tour company vehicles, if a lot less comfortable. Toyota Landcruisers are especially targeted as they often carry tourists, diplomats or foreign oil workers.
Secondly, avoid the areas mentioned above and ask advice from people in Sana'a (the tourist office, embassies, locals and expats).
To leave the capital you need a permit, and to get one of these you have to take a letter from a sponsor (language school, travel agent) in Arabic listing all destinations you want to visit, to the Tourist office. If they don't consider these destinations to be safe for foreigners, they won't give you a permit. Some tourists I spoke to in Sana'a moaned about the hassle of getting a permit, but I think it is a good idea when you look at the security situation in Yemen at the moment. Having said that, during the three months I spent in Yemen, I never felt in any danger.
There are army checkpoints on all routes out of the capital, although there don't seem to be any in the Tihama (along the Red Sea coast).
In Britain especially, there have been several newspaper articles and newspaper reports claiming that all Yemenis are untrustworthy and that if you go to Yemen, you WILL be kidnapped. These articles are almost always accompanied by photos of men in traditional Yemeni dress with a Jambia(dagger) on their belt and a kalashnikov over their shoulder, with the intention of stressing the danger of a visit to Yemen. However, people in Yemen wear these items every day (although guns are theoretically banned on the streets of Sana'a) and they are status symbols, nothing else. I have never seen a jambia raised in anger, and you very rarely hear of them being used in such a way, so it angers me when I see these pictures in our newspapers and on our screens.
If anything, it is the Yemenis who have come off worse because of the kidnappings and bad media coverage. it has damaged their much needed tourist industry by frightening all the tourists away. This is a real shame as Yemen has much to offer, and is not nearly as dangerous as it is often thought to be. (The man in the picture is my teacher Helmi, looking very 'threatening' with his jambiyya!)
T keep up to date with the...
T keep up to date with the situation in Yemen, there are two very good English language newspapers, the 'Yemen Times' and the 'Yemen Observer', both known throughout the Arab World for their critical look at the Yemeni Government (Yemen is unusual in the Middle East as it has considerable freedom of the press). Visit their websites:
If you can read Arabic, you can find Yemeni newspapers online as well as other great sites (in English or Arabic) about Yemen at TeleYemen
Yemen is not a country as we...
Yemen is not a country as we know it. There is a central gouvernement, but the power is in the hands of the different tribes. When there is a conflict between tribes or between a tribe and the gouvernement, one of the things that can be done is taking hostages. This has been very normal for hundreds of years. Only recently also foreigners are taken hostage. They are treated as guests, which means that nothing will happen to them. Because hostage taking means a high (negative) profile in the western countries the gouvernement sometimes take armed action against the hostage takers. This resulted in casualties.
The parts of the country where there are conflicts change from day to day. Always follow the latest warnings!
A little story to remind you...
A little story to remind you what could happen on the Yemenite roads.
There are no traffic rules that are beeing observed. In a bend of a road the local sheik was turning his car around. One of our drivers approched this bend with to much speed. A collision was unavoidable. In this accident our Landcruiser ended up in the qat-field beside the road. To make metters worse, the sheik was the owner of the qat-field! Because the local ruler always is right, we were 3 times wrong. We collided with the sheik, we damaged a qat-field and hurt the sheik economicly by crushing 4 of his qat-plants! It took hours to come to a settlement and to get the Landcruiser back on the road, because noone would help us. After paying US$ 100 (which is an enormous amount of money by Yemenite standards) we could resume our tour. Because of the delay we had to travel after dark which is a dangerous action in itself due to lack of illumination (that is on cars!). It became even more precarious when our car suddenly wouldn't move anymore. A short investigation made clear that all petrol was used. Fortunatly we just past a petrolstation. Unfortunatly our driver didn't have any money to pay for it! Ofcourse I lend him some cash so we could get on the road again. The next day I got it back (almost with interrest, money business is always correct in Yemen).
Women in Public
You don't see many women in public - and if so, many are covered completely and seem to be rather non-existent.
As a male - don't talk to these women! It might get all of you in trouble!
Ever since I returned home from that trip I heard about kidnappings of tourists in the Yemen, so I would not feel comfortable and safe going there now...
Yemeni small boys & girls are...
Yemeni small boys & girls are very sweet ! However some of them ask you for a tip or candy even though you just talk with for a short time. Don't spoil them.
To women traveller : You...
To women traveller : You should not go out after dark by alone. They think women should be inside home at evening. If you ramble about the streets at night, you would lay yourself open to censure.
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