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Darker days in Yemen


Many of you who might be following Yemen because of my current presence here no doubt have heard about the latest unrest in Yemen. Those of you who haven't, better that you hear it from me rather than the sensationalist Western media. Yesterday, there was a car bomb in Marib, about 100 miles to the west of Yemen. It killed 7 spanish tourists and their Yemeni guides. Of course, this throws a wrench in any number of plans, but it really isn't as bad as the combined phrases of "car bomb," "Yemen," and "seven people dead" might sound. For one thing, all the tourists have pretty much evac'd, which was pretty funny because they all fled to the airport in convoys guarded by the local cops. Of course, since they have no ties to the community like we do, this was big news for them. So, now we have the city to ourselves, which is awesome, since I've never really liked seeing other foreigners outside of "my" program when studying abroad. Plus, the cost of souveniers is going to plummet, since the people in the suqs were already starting to raise prices in anticipation of the onset of the tourist season. In practical terms, this means next to nothing for us, aside from a lot of logistical headaches. Our planned trip to Marib is off, and the trip to Hawdramaut is also, since we'd have to go through Marib. This sucks since the Hawdramaut is the center of the Yemeni honey, frankincense, and silver trade. The amusing/disturbing part of all this is the recent security briefing from the embassy security officer. When asked about the security viability of housing 40 to 80 Americans in one hotel, and the possibility for a car bomb he replied with this gem: "There is no history of car bombs in Yemen, although, I guess there isn't a history of car bombs until there is a history of car bombs." That was eight days ago. So, now they're splitting all of us into groups of 6 to 8 and disburses us around the old city hotels, where car bombs can't operate because of the crazy alley ways. This should be interesting, since we can now be right in the heart of Sana'a and go into the suqs every day. Of course, getting to the YLC will be much more complicated, and it takes me away from all the cafes where a group of us has been regularly ensconsced recently, so much so that the Yemenis are calling us regulars. On the whole, the Yemenis are probably getting the worst of all of it. All the locals I usually talk to are horrified. Not the least of which is because Yemen was undergoing a nascent tourist revival, which is why Europeans were in Marib in the first place, touring one of the lost palaces of Queen Sheba. It's already being blamed on al Qaeda, and if they catch anybody, it'll probably turn out to be foreign Arabs, or extremist from the Zaydi rebellion up north that aren't satisfied with the recent cease fire. So, in the mean time, we'll all disembark to the Old City, the government is putting more guns on the street (which I didn't think was possible) as a show of force, and life goes on. I'm probably safer now, since Yemen had gone two years without a terrorist attack or kidnapping, this was just the Yemeni law of averages coming back to earth. Aside from the deaths, the worst part of all of this is that the embassy cancelled the Fourth of July party, since they didn't want that many Americans together. Just another day in the Middle East, so it goes.

Posted by mc327503 07:36 Archived in Yemen Arab Republic

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