Had been to Sana'a Yemen on work for about three days. Some really striking things about Yemen....
1)Chewing Khat : Its a shrub whose leaves, when you chew them, can induce mild euphoria, excitement, hallucinations and even constipation. It is indeed bizzare to find every one, i mean it when i say everyone, on the streets going about the routine with their cheeks like this kid on the picture. A sitting can cost upto $20 dollars and its not uncommon to find people earning 15000 yemeni rials spending 12000 on eating Khat. Its indeed becoming a national issue - what with 40% of the country's scare water goes into irrigating Khat crops.
2) Pre Oil Arabia : If you want to see what Arabia would have looked like before they struck oil, then you should visit Yemen. The traditional charm is amazing. People still wear their traditional clothes and daggers, there are no flashy concrete and glass structures, women wear abayas, Indians are respected, people beg on the streets, middle class men drive bikes ( though they are banned in parts of Sana'a) and there are no russian street walkers.
3) Highest penetrated consumer durable is possibly the Kalashnikov. No, its not about war or violence on the streets...its just hip to have a gun. The russian made kalashnikovs sell at about $300 while you also have the cheaper chinese versions from $70 onwards. Its not uncommon to find a bunch of friends sitting around , with guns on their shoulders watching the cars go by. In fact, on the high street where the Bank of Yemen and other banks have their offices, youd even find a innocous looking sign ( the no parking variety) which says no Guns - with a pic of a kalashnikov!
4) Greatest Hospitality youd ever see in this part of the world: Ive never felt so welcome in any other place. Walk through the old streets of Sana'a with a camera and youd have every other person to ask you where you are from and he would say " Welcome to yemen".
5) Amazing food : Iam not a foodie and i definately dont have a fancy for Arabic food. But eating out in Yemen is a completely different experience. To start with, its no holds barred easy style of eating. Everyone on the table shares and eats from the same plates. The large yemeni bread in kept lying on the table - no plate / basket. And the portions are god damn large. Dont miss the Banana dipped in honey in Shahabani restaurant.
Sana'a, is atleast 2500 years old and is people claim it to be one of the oldest surviving cities. Some pictures that i took of the old city while i was there.....