27-Mar-2005 -- This visit to a Confluence is the first in Yemen and will bring the number of countries with visits to 162. Why is Yemen so far behind in contrast to the neighbouring countries Oman and Saudi Arabia, which are almost complete? Out of 48 possible points that can be visited none has even been attempted yet. The reasons I see are:
- Yemenites don't rank visit of confluence points very high in their priority lists.
- Tourists are required to book a tour in order to obtain a visa. Within an organized tour, extra loops to confluence points will not amuse the whole group and need extra efforts to make the tour guides ready for a CP visit. However, as of March 2005 we were able to obtain tourist visa at the embassy in Berlin without a tour booking. In Yemen, we were allowed to travel in the south-western part of the country without escort or special permit.
- Yemen is badly contaminated with land mines. Although it is not very likely to step on an anti-personal mine, the idea of free roaming is not a good idea. I like to advice the confluencer in Yemen to view the distribution map in the landmine impact report. Additionally, local people can tell if their community is mine free.
4:18 a.m. Ṣan`ā': The earsplitting loud Muezzin keeps us awake until our alarm clock rings.
5:45 a.m. We leave our hotel in Ṣan`ā's old town and find a way through the maze of alleys to the bus station.
7:00 a.m. We manage to get bus tickets to the city of Ibb and enjoy a smooth bus ride in a nice air-conditioned coach.
9:30 a.m. The air condition is still not switched on. It appears to me that the oxygen inside the bus has reached the 0% marker. I hear moaning around me, some passengers are close to fainting. On my repeated demand, the bus driver finally turns the air conditioner on.
11:00 a.m. We get out of the bus at the outskirts of Ibb on a noisy, dusty and dry road. After a short walk, the heat has dehydrated us. To our delight, we find a juice bar. But the owner is not offering juice, since there is no electricity to run the juice extractor.
12:00 a.m. We manage to catch a shared taxi to al-`Udayn. The winding road follows up and down through the mountain ranges. The driver issues sick bags to the passengers.
1:00 p.m. We reach the police control post in al-`Udayn. We are requested to hand over our passports and are asked the usual questions of nationality, marital status, from where we come, etc. I have some difficulties explaining in Arabic where we want to go. My explanation seems to be somewhat fishy - to be safe, two soldiers are sent with us to escort us. The next hour we spend in trying to explain the soldiers my mission. My hope to successfully visit that point is shrinking. We are 3.5 km beeline from the point in al-`Udayn and we are surrounded by high mountains with almost vertical grades. As I point out that the visit of the point might involve some hiking and climbing, one of the soldiers disappears. 15 minutes later he comes back with a bag filled with Khat (Qāt), Yemen's number one drug.
2:00 p.m. On my suggestion, we take a taxi towards the village al-Ḥazm. At first the distance to the CP increases to 4.5 km, but then we can turn right and the GPS shows a direct approach to the point. I hand the GPS receiver over to the soldiers and let them find the way. To my surprise, the road comes as close at 700 m to the point and another dirt road brings us even within 350 m to the point! We let the taxi driver wait and the four of us begin our hike. The younger soldier takes the lead with the GPS, the others follow. Guang and I, we both find it uncommon to gaze the gun barrels pointing to us, when following the soldiers with their shouldered guns. The closer we get to the point, the steeper it gets. The older soldier proposes to stay behind and wait for us until we return back from the point. Several times I can convince him to come with the rest of the group. After climbing some terraces we manage to reach the point!
2:30 p.m. The owner of the territory approaches us and gives us some water, which we all drink desirably. He then invites us to his nearby house (ca. 50 m from the CP). We are served with tea (šāy). The soldiers start to enjoy the trip by chewing Khat in the cool climate inside the house. They let us know that we shouldn't report this to their colleagues, because it is forbidden to chew Khat during work. Our taxi driver found the way up to the house and joins in the Khat session. The family kids enjoy posing for pictures. Notice the gas lamp on the left.
3:30 p.m. We find our way back and spend the night in the city Ibb, 30 km east of the CP.
CP visit details:
- Time at CP: 2:20 p.m.
- Duration: 5 hours (until we were back to our route in Ibb)
- Distance of car parking: 350 m
- GPS height: 1466 m
- Description: On a steep grade on the northern side of a mountain. The vegetation consists of cactus (prickly pears), grass, and bushes with thorns between rocks (bedrock). Nearby towards the valley side Khat (Qāt, Catha edulis). The region is extremely mountainous and dry. The area loosely populated. Villages tend to be located on mountain tops.
- Given Name: Soldier-Escort Confluence
Story continues at 13N 45E.