Sunday, September 27, 2009

Lebanese restaurant

Regardless of any patriotism, the best restaurant here is a Lebanese restaurant called Al Diwan. Oh, and I had a mankoushe. This is how it is called although it doesn't taste like one. It just reminded me of the mankoushe taste.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Human trafficking

I had all sorts of weird things happening to me in Yemen but this is probably the funniest, probably not the safest. I took a taxi and suddenly the driver starts telling me that he works in trafficking to Saudi Arabia, "Human trafficking" he explained and added "I never traffic Qat or drugs, God forbids, only humans!". Then he told me how he does it and then I realized after a while that he is actually promoting his work. He probably thought that I would like to be trafficked to Saudi Arabia as well. That would be interesting actually, among all things I never thought I will ever end up doing. And this is how it goes: I pay 90,000 Yemeni Riyal, which is 450 USD and the guy will take me from Sanna and drop me just few meters away from the legal border crossing with Saudi Arabia up north. Then we run on foot for half an hour once we get the signal by phone from the guy's collaborator on the other side of the border who would have paid 250 USD to silence a Saudi guard. Then trafficked men all dress up in women's Burqu' could peacefully go anywhere in Saudi Arabia. He even told me that this is the safest job ever and that he is doing it for a good cause; Trafficking Yemenis looking to work in Saudi Arabia. Some of them even come back this way for their vacation. He seriously offered to take me there.
On the other hand, I met a really nice Yemeni taxi driver who listens to fairouz all the time, doesn't chew Qat, very quiet and peaceful in his car, and drives slowly; and I only care because I know there are other Yemenis like him.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Guns... Real Guns

For the first time in my life, I held a real gun in my hand. I was terrified when I saw it. It all happened when a guy, an educated and famous person here in Yemen, told me that he is a leader of a tribe, a big one and a dangerous one, as he put it. He was laughing. Other guys with us in the car said that they all have weapons at home, one of them named bazoukas, machinery guns, and other weapons, I can't name. Then this guy takes out the gun from under his seat. I was terrified and asked him to keep it away. I asked if it is loaded and he was positive. Yemenis are crazy people, just watching them drive and getting with them in their cars makes you think that they are suicidal. They are totally hypnotized by Qat and lose all common sense. They say that every new born Yemeni gets 3 weapons as a gift right after he is born, which means that weapons in Yemen are three times its total population.


Sometimes I feel that I belong to the world and other times I feel that I only belong to that small space between his elbow and his shoulder (he would probably prefer that I say biceps, but that would be much less poetic!)


I am so annoyed that people don’t leave their signature on their comments. But appreciated anyway.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Veil

Somehow, I got to like the veil, I mean, one way of wearing it whereby it only covers half the hair and goes down the neck, the Iranian way. It is stylish. I am gonna miss it.

Time to go home

I need to go to the Gym. Today I started running in the small space of my appartment like a psycho and I felt I am in a psychic ward! It is amazing the things you do when you are alone. It is amazing how creative you turn to be and how productive! but there are times when you suddenly realize that you turned into a machine and you try to act stupid, as stupid as you can be!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Captain and the silicon girl

I took a flight today from Hudaidah to Sanaa. As we had to stop for 20 minutes at the Aden airport, I asked the flight attendant if I can get out for a minute to smoke. He said he will ask the captain. I followed him to the captain's cabin (not the hamra pub of course), when he turned to tell me that the captain refused my request, so I come forward and say, Captain, won't you make an exception? This is when the captain turned towards me and said, only if I go with you (mmmmmm, i just craved for a cigarette, for god's sake!). So we went outside, walked a little and had a cigarette. When I was back, a female flight attendant, half veiled with red lipsticks on her silicon lips, who was smiling to me just a minute before when she knew I am Lebanese (don't know why) and who was so nice to me throughout the flight, frowned at me and in her eyes I saw a plan for murdering me. The Captain is a good looking Mexican guy and I must have caused her unintentional pain. But still, I had a little evil laugh inside me. Blindness!

Saturday, September 19, 2009


I would like to claim the copyright for the word "Qatoholic" or "Khatoholic" or any other spelling for the word meaning someone who is addicted to Qat or Khat. I didn't find the word on Google!

A hidden message

I love technology. At least I know that when I am back in Beirut, I won't have to talk for a month about Yemen, Harad, and the camp! I also know who loves it even more for the same reason.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


I am leaving again to haradh tomorrow early morning. I have to wake up at 4:00 a.m. to take an internal flight to hudaidah airport and wait there for two hours before a driver picks me up to Haradh in a two hour drive. I am already exhausted and I have no energy at all left to do anything. I have reached my breaking point and I keep meeting new people, interesting people, inviting me to dinners, parties, and drinks, and I have no time to go. It is a real shame. Sometimes, the price for success is just too high. I just hope that the plane does not crash like the latest Yemenia because then I don’t know if I can even talk about a price!
And I keep receiving those verbal congrats which never materialize into real action. There are hugs I used to have that are worth millions of this nonsense.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

My kitchen

My TV room/Dining Room/Office

Best food I had in two weeks

Small things in life

After two weeks in Yemen (Haradh, Amran, Khaiwan, Sanaa, and the Saudi Yemeni desert) and after all the unhappy things I saw and all the miseries there exist in life that we know of but choose to go on in our small world, ignoring, where basics are always available, not knowing that this does not apply to everyone, where we get upset because the connection is slow, or because the wine is not so good, or even because electricity is cut... now I got used to feeling happiness in the small things in life. Just thinking of the small pasta salad I am going to cook now makes me want to dance!

To be (online) or not to be

Si Descartes était là aujourd'hui il dirait: "Je suis online, donc j'existe".

Friday, September 11, 2009

I desperately long for a mankousheh

Why dont they bake manakish in Yemen?

Blindness... again

There are books you read and then you forget. Well, this one, you wont. This is one of the books you remember for your entire life. And when years later you are asked, what is your favorite book, and you try hard to dig in your memory for the best you read, probbaly this one will surface first even if you liked other books more.
(The second person, YOU, suddenly emerged in my blog. That's because I heard that I have readers now. I have to watch my mouth from now on.)

Never appreciated Almaza as I do now.

They say Qat is the alcohol of Muslims. Oh how I miss Almaza!
(At Geneva airport, they are training dogs on sniffing Qat, as all UN staff, most of them based in Geneva, got addicted to it and are bringing some back home!)

When I am back...

In Lebanon, at this hour of the day, I am usually in Prague. Here in Yemen, at this hour of the day, I am listening to the Sheikh from the nearby mosque. Not only at this hour, 5 times a day!

When I am back, i will go to Prague everyday to get his voice out of my head!
Freedom at any cost!

Comme d'habitude

I heard this song a million times, but never carefully listened. It almost brought tears to my eyes! Here in Yemen, for no particular reason, I simply got addicted to it. Life works in mysterious ways!

Comme d'habitude, toute la journée
Je vais jouer à faire semblant
Comme d'habitude je vais sourire
Comme d'habitude je vais même rire
Comme d'habitude, enfin je vais vivre
Comme d'habitude

Tout seul j'irai me coucher
Dans ce grand lit froid
Comme d'habitude
Mes larmes, je les cacherai
Comme d'habitude

Birthday Gift for Everyone

From now on, I will never hesitate before deciding on a birthday gift. There will be one gift and the same one for everyone, even if I had given it before. "Blindness", the book, a must read book for every human being before sudden death strikes!
Brilliant, among the best books ever written! I just finished it and I already feel I want to start reading it again. "A book that must have been written and I am glad I wasn't born before it was".

I will buy some 50 copies of it in English and Arabic as a gift stock!

Friday, September 4, 2009


Now I appreciate the weather in Lebanon!

Yemen... still

I might be saving lives, but I am also killing lots of cochroaches!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Armed bedouins and not Gypsies.

I have to accept the fact that i am now in a nomad area, a tribal one, or more precisely a bedouin region. A roof is not something common, so yes, if i am in a hotel this is indeed fakhama. It is true that people here dont seem to notice the cockroaches walking on their bare feet and that they enjoy theit food mixed with the sweat of the 50 degree temperature but still if we manage to find a restaurant who serves food with utensils then we have found the best one. And people envy us because we are sitting on one of the tables! I never thought that I would sound like the shallow bourgeoisie but where do you draw the line? I have survived hard conditions and not the best ones even in quite modern cities but there is a threshold for everyone. This is a bedouin sahara. Tribesmen with rifles on their waist sharing a table with you a common. Armed men inside the so called hotel is common but I look in the eyes of the people and all seems to be normal for them. All is relative. if so, then let it be. All is just normal. I did eat in that restaurant, I did fight an urge to throw up and a i did postpone a tear ready to scroll down. It is not that bad, because I know it is temporary but I just never thought there is a limit to what I can bare when it comes to standards of living yes there is a threshold to everyone. I wish they were gypsies, but they are not.

Food of the day - Harad again (Nomad area)

Best restaurant and best hotel in Harad:
(note that the hotel has the latest technology: TVs)
I came to think that when Darwin spoke of evolution he also meant that human being adapt in different ways. You cant say for example that since there are human beings in Harad, then Harad is a livibale place. Wrong. The thruth is that some human beings are able to survive in harad and others are not. All depends on adaptation and knowledge of possibilities.

50 degrees

Well, under 50 degrees, I doubt that my mental abilities will still be the same. Now add to that the sight of sweat mixed with dirt and all sorts of amrs both primitive and Kalashnikovs on people preparing your food and sweating above it, their hands in their pants or skirts is a more precise description, others eating along cats with full dirty hands and looking at you. Just opening my eyes made me want to throw up. Now you imaging serving me laban as a jus. Do I need to say more?


I am not fasting but i havent put anything in my mouth since early morning. I didnt have time to buy food but even if i did i wouldnt find any shop open! I am staying in Herad till Saturday in a hotel named "fakhama"(luxury) that is not fakhama at all.

Sanaa to Harad

Four hour trip from Sanaa to hajjah (herad) where an IDP camp has been set in coordination with the authorities. Emran which is another governorate by which we passed as well is another location for a possible camp but I was told that they still need the consent of the tribes there despite the government approval.
We are driving amidst large fields of qat and amazingly beautiful little Yemeni houses and going up a tight road between a deserted mountainous area of volcanic nature. We could see the volcanic rocks used to build a small watching house to protect qat fields!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Racism, Qat, and IDPs

On my first day in Yemen, and before even leaving Beirut, adventure has started first with some racist Lebanese guy. At the airport a Lebanese worker (manager or something) in charge of the Yamenia flight was giving orders to some Yemeni passengers, speaking to them with superiority. I look around me and I find 3 workers helping the snobbish Lebanese women on the nearby Air France ticketing booth and none helping those poor Yemenis. I am sure that they take them for maids or something because they are black and skinny so the guy left them to place their heavy luggage on the trail on their own whereas 3 guys were helping that fatty Lebanese going to Paris. Suddenly he got notice of me and with surprise and full of respect he asks me where I am going. It seems that since I don't look Yemeni, the guy suspected I stood in the wrong line (as if saying what are you doing among those dirty people) and when I said Yemen, he said, please come forward and ordered the lady behind the contoir to make me pass first. I objected saying that those people were here before me so why should I bypass them? He said: I am helping you. I said: and why me, why don't you help them too? He said as if he did not really get what I am saying, so that you finish fast. I said: only because I am Lebanese (actually non Yemeni, non black) then my time is more precious? they came first, they pass first, and he still couldn't get that I am accusing him of racism and he still had this awe look on his face as if he doesn't understand why I would turn down his offer to help me and that I should be grateful instead! Why don't those Yemenis stand up for themselves anyway? Had there been someone else in my place, probably they wouldn't mind crossing over them and they would still not utter a word!

Other than that, two pictures remain of my first day in Yemen: The long line of people lined on the edge of street shewing qat and the many guys holding a khanjar (old authetic sword) on their belt and dressing like 6th century!

They also lost my luggage on the Yemeni airport and found it in transit!

Fries here are called chips. I should remember that. Tomorrow I am off to Harad in the north where it seems UNHCR is setting an IDP camp. More to come.