First impressions

Sana'a Travel Blog

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View from my hostel kitchen.

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I cruised through immigration with a free 3 month stay whereas most foreigners had to queue three times (common in the region; once to change money, second to pay the visa fee, third to enter the country).

Yemen? Yes, Yemen ... in the corner of the Arabian peninsula next to the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia and Somalia) ... one of few countries on the New Zealand's government's "no go" list, ranking up there with Iraq. Makes the previous trips to Beirut and Tehran seem tame right?

The ranking ascribed to Yemen is due the kidnapping risk. There have been tourists kidnapped by tribes and held ransom as barganing chips for new roads, release of political prisoners etc.

Stained glass window in my hostel room.

Yemen is known for its traditional architecture and buildings which are built in the most inaccessible place. That's why I'm here.


Yemen's capital Sanaa was supposedly founded by Shem, son of Prophet Nuh PBUH (Noah) after the great flood. It is some 6000 ft above sea level. Naturally, I had my share of problems with during the first few days coping with the medieval multi-storey buildings with no lifts.


I've got a room at the hostel of a college within the University of Science and Technology. The room rent for a month is about the same as a one night stay in a First Class hotel. I've enrolled at the college for 2 hours a day of Arabic lessons.

The college and hostel are located in highly-decorated medieval buildings in Old Sanaa. These old buildings typically have an internal stairwell with big steps as if it had been built for horses.  The ground floor was traditionally for domestic animals.

I wake up to this every morning ... but at about 6 am yawn!
The next floors up are living areas for the extended family and the very top is always a mafraj or lounge for the men ... the room with the best view.

Examples in Picture 1 and Picture 2.

I have my own very huge room on the fourth floor (huff, puff, pant pant), sharing the only sitting toilet in the college with two other people!

Apart from the ornate exterior, the buildings are also decorated with stained glass panels (often semi-circular) above the windows. So beautiful to wake up to the coloured lights on the white wall next to my bed.


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View from my hostel kitchen.
View from my hostel kitchen.
Stained glass window in my hostel …
Stained glass window in my hostel…
I wake up to this every morning ..…
I wake up to this every morning .…
View of my neighbours house from …
View of my neighbour's house from…
Entrance to my school, CALES (Cent…
Entrance to my school, CALES (Cen…
Donkey market near the school.
Donkey market near the school.
Decoration seller at Bab Al-Yaman,…
Decoration seller at Bab Al-Yaman…
This man kindly offered me the opp…
This man kindly offered me the op…
Jambiyahs (daggers) in the market.
Jambiyahs (daggers) in the market.
photo by: alexchan