Yemen, an impressive country, with a rich folklore and good people but always immersed in problems. In the spring of 1999 I took a tourist trip that I will never forget accompanied by my wife Iselda and my son Jordi. Yemen came out of a civil confrontation and was in a parenthesis of peace, this provided an opportunity to visit it. Of course it had its risk but we decided to face it. Unfortunately, shortly after, Yemen returned to a state of conflict.
Much of what I saw was imprinted in my mind and I could tell countless anecdotes, four words define part of their culture:
Djambiyah: Ceremonial dagger that every Yemeni wears on their waist, it should not be used as a threat under severe penalty.
Burka: Black female clothing that hides 100% of the women’s body
Kat (Qat): Chewy fresh leaves with digestive and euphoric effect (not drug)
Kalashnikov: Worn by many Yemenis in the streets as part of their attire, in the markets we saw stalls selling bullets on the ground
Of course, many other things surprise foreigners, and here I want to show something that I always look for in my travels, the markets. The sounds, smells and colors take the senses to the limit, all imaginable products were offered, lots of kat leaves, utensils, camels, goats, meat, fruit, fish, legumes, spices etc.
Yemenis looked suspiciously at us as foreigners but soon their demeanor turned friendly. It was only necessary to tell them that we were Spanish and mention Al-Andalus. Al-Andalus = Andalusia is part of Spain, it was Arab territory and… they know it. I should say, we are not Andalusian but it worked.
In the days that the trip lasted we did not see other tourists. One night I was walking with my wife and a traveling companion through the narrow streets of the old San’a neighborhood, without realizing it we were in almost dark and we began to get worried, we soon calmed down when we saw that the few passersby greeted or asked where we were from and then continued on their way.
This was back when digital photography was in its infancy and I had my last analog camera, a Pentax MZ-5. The film used was Kodak Gold 200 and it was developed in my neighborhood store, on this trip I took more than 200 photos.
A few days ago I wanted to use the Pentax MZ-5 camera to make an article but after buying the batteries it decided not to work. From what I have found on the net the problem consists of a small worn gear in the mirror motor, after so many shots logically has died, RIP.
Later, I scanned all of my negatives in a Minolta Dimage Scan III scanner. The quality is not perfect but I think they will serve to illustrate my article.
Here you have some photos of the markets of Yemen with their geographical location. In the photo at the top you can see a kat seller in San’a, the capital of Yemen.
Bayt El Faqih / Endless market
I have an authentic djambiyah with its belt that I bought but to a Yemeni man who wore it, he was kind and sold it to me.
My souvenirs of Yemen: Djambiyah, kat tree trunk, typical building, Saba sand, legumes and seeds and the cover of the photo collection.
I hope you forgive me for attaching this collage but I have not been able to resist the temptation, I have my house full of objects that remind me of the trips I’ve made.
One last consideration, you may have noticed that there are no women in the markets, as I said at the beginning of the article there are many things that surprise foreigners, the list would be endless.
Thanks for reading my article, I hope you liked it