‘If you come to Ye­men, I will be your tour guide’


I have been hop­ing to re­turn to my home in Ye­men for the last five years.

Cur­rently study­ing in Malaysia, when­ever a friend in­quires about my coun­try, I am quick to of­fer my ser­vices as their tour guide.

When you de­cide to go to Ye­men, I will per­son­ally take you around, I al­ways say with a huge grin.

I hope to take them to Shibam Hadhra­maut to show them “the old­est sky­scraper city in the world,” a lit­tle known fact; its streets known for har­mony.

I hope to take them to Wadi Dawan so they can taste the purest of honey in the world, a sym­bol of peace, cre­ated through a cen­turies-strong tra­di­tion.

I can al­most imag­ine us walk­ing through the beau­ti­ful val­ley, with the voice of singer Abu Baker Salem echo­ing over the desert sands.

I hope to take them to Bab al-ya­man, the point of en­try into the Old City of Sa’adah if only to in­tro­duce them to the peo­ple.

I have dis­cov­ered first-hand an un­par­al­leled kind­ness in them. I of­ten think back to the strolls with my brother down the streets here as chil­dren, ev­ery farmer that we passed would gen­er­ously of­fer us fruits and refuse any pay­ment for them. All of them so poor, yet the rich­est!

I re­mem­ber mostly how we were never re­fused help here. How strangers of­fered car rides with­out a mo­ment’s hes­i­ta­tion.

There is a won­der­ful sil­ver mar­ket here that I fre­quented with my fa­ther. We would al­ways stop at a shop owned by a Jewish fam­ily to ex­change pleas­antries.

You must al­ways re­spect them, my fa­ther told me once. In the nooks and cran­nies of th­ese streets, peo­ple thrived on mu­tual ad­mi­ra­tion. No mat­ter their be­lief, ev­ery greet­ing was a warm one.

I es­pe­cially hope to in­tro­duce my friends to the finest thing about Sada’ah — its pomegranates. How I could write pages and pages on those pomegranates.

I hope to show them Sanaa through my eyes, the city that has so pro­foundly cap­tured my heart.

I hope to take my friends to the tra­di­tional Fri­day gath­er­ing at my rel­a­tives’ house, where we es­pe­cially gather for tea just to catch up on every­body else’s life.

I hope to take them through the streets to dis­trib­ute free candy to joy­ful chil­dren, to hear them scream “Jaalah” as they dance around us glee­fully.

I hope also to ar­range a stay for them at a taira­manah, where the room at the top of­fers the view of a breath­tak­ing sun­set, bathing the en­tire city in hues of yel­low and pur­ple at the time of maghrib.

I hope to take my friends to walk on the cool white sands of So­co­tra, the jewel of bio­di­ver­sity in the Ara­bian Sea.

And take them to the high­est peak of the high­est moun­tain for a view of the ocean of clouds be­low.

I hope to ex­plore Aden with them. Walk­ing on the kur­naish while men clap their hands to a pe­cu­liar beat for their friend’s wed­ding.

I am most ex­cited to show off the ele­phant moun­tain to them, truly like a big beau­ti­ful ele­phant the mid­dle of the sea.

I hope we can sit with the girls of Aden and try out their unique home­made perfumes, heady from the sub­tle scents of zabad, bakhur and la­ban alas­for.

I hope to show them Taiz and its in­fa­mous Shibani Restau­rant, where your or­der: an­dak wa­heed shai ya laed is shouted from one waiter to the next all across the restau­rant un­til it reaches the kitchen!

Here the bread of mullawah and Aden’s in­fa­mous tea will make you for­get all the trou­bles in the world.

I hope to take my friends to meet the artistes of Taiz, Ye­men’s cap­i­tal of cul­ture. I hope they will en­joy all those long dis­cus­sions on phi­los­o­phy.

I hope they will ap­pre­ci­ate the brave, em­pow­ered Taizi women.

I hope to show them a Ye­men free from all la­bels; a peo­ple free from all ha­tred.

But above all, I hope I still have a coun­try to go back to that hasn’t been torn by war.

I hope I still have peo­ple to go back to who have not been dis­placed.

I hope that if I con­tinue to talk about Ye­men, you will un­der­stand that it is home to a peo­ple just like you. All Ye­men needs to be saved is the unit­ing of hearts.

Killing peo­ple won’t solve any prob­lems in Ye­men; this is a war of ideas. And if there was ever a war that needed to be stopped, all you re­ally have to do is ask the peo­ple who want it to end.

Some days, like to­day, I see all my afore­men­tioned hopes fad­ing ...

I have made many prom­ises to many friends. I hope I can keep them.

If I can­not, I must apol­o­gize friends.

to my

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