Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sana‘a, Yemen

We flew inland to see Sana’a, the Capital City of Yemen which is at a higher elevation than Aden. The weather forecast predicted the temperature would drop to 20 Celsius at night which is “room temperature” in Canada so we thought that would be nice. What we didn’t consider was that “room temperature” has been over 30 degrees for us for over two years. When we arrived in Sana’a, we were FREEZING! We spent the first two hours trying to find a coat for me. I didn’t really want to spend the money on a coat since we had lots of cold weather gear back on the boat so I settled on buying a wool blanket that I wore wrapped around my shoulders and it would also serve as a nice souvenir when we returned.

Sana’a is a historic city which was founded by Noah‘s son (yes the one with the arc). The old part of the city is gated with a stone wall surrounding over 14,000 buildings many of which dated back to 1,000 AD. It felt like walking through am open-air museum although it is still an active city. People live and work in this amazing place. The women of course wore burkas and most of the men wore a long white gown with a suit jacket over top. An important part of the men’s attire is the Jambiya. It is a curved dagger that is worn in a wide belt at the front. The dagger sits in a leather sheath which ranges from very simply to very elaborately decorated with silver and jewels.

Many men wear a scarf. It is a diverse accessory as it can be worn in an almost infinite number of configurations on the head and neck. Steve bought and wore one and then several people talked to him in Arabic. Two different times he was asked if he was Armenian. One woman said the scarf was typical of a tribe in Gaza.

We spent many hours strolling through the Suq (open- air market) where people sell everything from fruits and vegetables, fish and live chickens, to hardware and perfume. All of the stalls are manned by men most of whom were chewing Qat. Qat is dubbed as the “national past-time” but it is also the national problem. It is a leaf that is chewed all day long and has a cumulative narcotic effect. By noon, we could notice the change in behaviour. The men become either sedated or more boisterous similar to being drunk. Luckily, it is custom for all the shops to close down between noon and 4 so typically the men go and sleep off the Qat for the afternoon. This break was also a good opportunity for Steve and I to go back to the hotel and rest our weary feet.

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