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An Introduction to Yemen

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On the Road Again
On the Road Again
... and apparantly running straight into the cement factory ahead.
Call OSHA
Call OSHA
A stop at a gas station, and it becomes apparant that they don't use oil pans in Yemen, where all the earth is indeed one giant oil pan.
La Bomba - grenade-shaped power drink
La Bomba - grenade-shaped power drink
At the convenience store ...it's a pretty funny idea, just a little odd. Made in France, too. I bought it, but I decided not to drink it.
Roadside Assistance
Roadside Assistance
I guess it's traditional to wheel on down to the roadside and wave for alms. There were a lot of people doing it...
Green Balls for Sale
Green Balls for Sale
Green Balls for Sale
Impending Goat Steaks
Impending Goat Steaks
This didn't look good ...
Baah!
Baah!
... but the ruck slowed down and the goat had a cool story to tell his goat buddies.
Less Veiled
Less Veiled
I noticed that toward Hodeida the women were usually less veiled as up in Sana'a.
Trash
Trash
It wouldn't be a complete Yemen travelog without a picture of trash. Towns and roadsides are full of it. People think nothing about tossing trash from the car window.
We Got It
We Got It
A roadside shop for ????? Maybe those are just parts that fell off passing cars, and you can go here to buy them back (?) Anyway, this was the place we were ambushed, in the friendliest way, by farmers from Ismaili, who insisted we go with them to their coffee area ...
Yet another swell door
Yet another swell door
Yet another swell door
All-stone terraces...
All-stone terraces...
Here was something dramatic and new - stone terraces that were not only walls, but tiled with stone on top, all around the coffee.
Coffee Tree Stadium?
Coffee Tree Stadium?
These types of all stone terraces made the coffee look like it was "potted" by stone, and gace the whole assemblage the appearance of a stadium with cement benches. It was just amazing.
Hi-Rise Low-Rise
Hi-Rise Low-Rise
As we climbed the tall houses started to give the appearance of high-rise appartments, the way they were perched atop such steep mountains. There was something oddly urban about the scene around me, like being in a towering city of skyscrapers, as if the mountains were buildings themselves and the abodes were just penthouese on top.
Husn Al-Mukhar, Bani Ismaili, Yemen
Husn Al-Mukhar, Bani Ismaili, Yemen
At the very pinnaccle of Jabal Bani Ismaili, Husn Al-Mukhar, the town that has an an ancient Christian church and castle. It is 2200 meters, too high for coffee cultivation.
Imposing and Sheer Mountains
Imposing and Sheer Mountains
My feeling, of being in an urban environment even though we were so far from it, seems aided by the fact that the "natural" and "built" environments are oddly merged here. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of years of human habitation have sculpted the hills with man-made details that, with a little imagination, blur the line between human and non-human creation.
Mud Brick, Stone Built
Mud Brick, Stone Built
While most houses are stone, some are earthen, which also blurs the divide between what is "natural" and not: on one hand the mountains are sculpted, on another the artificial structures are made of, well, mountain, or the material moutains are made of.
Dude, We're in Yemen
Dude, We're in Yemen
Duane and I in Ismaili, Yemen. To say that the roads are rough here, altitude extreme, and that my lungs are filled with dust from the road goes without saying.
Closer View of Coffee Terraces
Closer View of Coffee Terraces
Right along the roadway were some convenient terraces. We got out to have a closer look at these plantings, which were South-facing in the full sun (as is much terraced coffee, as opposed to the valley coffee of Saihi, which also has some shade tree usage.)
Potted Plants
Potted Plants
As I mentioned, the stone cobbles on top of the terrace, all around the coffee trees, made it look like potted plants. There is also more space between these coffee trees than any other origin I have seen. I don't think they have the water to support any more trees than this, thus the low density of the plantings. The stone on the top of the terrace helps prevent evaporation.
Yemen Mokha Dawairi Cultivar
Yemen Mokha Dawairi Cultivar
The coffee in Ismaili, at least everything I saw, is Dawairi type of Mokha seedstock. That explains why all the Yemeni coffee from Ismaili I have seen always has a particular appearance, rounded, small, dense seeds.
Spires and Towers
Spires and Towers
Over and over I was struck by what an amazing and singular place this was. To live like this must be even more remarkable if you leave it. Being from Yemen is not the same as being from any other place, I would guess. If you are from Cincinnati and move to Baltimore, there are going to be many familiar things. If you are from Ohio and move to Frankfurt Germany, language, culture and history would be so different ... but there's familiar terrain, conveniences, McDonalds. B ut if you live in the moutains of Yemen and move almost anywhere else, I think you would feel like someone from outer space. I know I felt that way being here, in Ismaili
Sunset
Sunset
A dramatic ridge lined wth homes in Ismaili
Wedged!
Wedged!
The first problem with the road wasn't how vertical it was, but how narrow it was. The old Toyota's could make it through, but this newer SUV type Land Cruiser had no chance.
Heave-Ho!
Heave-Ho!
What it came down to was moving rocks by hand ... not too many but before we discovered the narrowness, Mr. Sowaid put some nice scratches into the side panel of his car. Fact is, as one of the big Sana'a exporters, he had never been to Issmaili before! (Al Muhakri, the man with first-person contacts in Ismaili, had been here).
Children of Bani Atiah
Children of Bani Atiah
We reach the town and the town reaches us ... I mean, everybody in the entire place has surrounded our cars. I feel like we were successfully hunted, the roadside trap was laid, and, with hospitality, we were snared. We are the quarry.
Doors and Windows
Doors and Windows
Everywhere I go in Yemen, I seem doomed to photograph the fronts of bulidings, the doors, the windows. As an out-of-towner, all these things facinate.
Approaching Bani Atiah town
Approaching Bani Atiah town
We are bound for this town, but must climb and traverse quite a ways to reach it.
Bani Atiah, Telephoto
Bani Atiah, Telephoto
As we draw closer to our destination we stop to shoot a few images. While many villages have coffee drying on the roofs, I notice blankets drying here in this town. They value cleanliness over coffee, I can see!
Not so old...
Not so old...
Many of the doors are time-worn wooden structures, but even these new metal doors and the unusually colorful pain (given the earthen tones of their surrounds) are so interesting.
Qat Tree
Qat Tree
The Qat trees were all around. They are really quite nice, between 1 meter and 4 meters (rarely). I guess the older ones are better. Qat can be harvested 3 times a year, and the prices are nearly 10 x coffee. You can see why it is such a popular crop.
Qat Qat Qat
Qat Qat Qat
Everywhere is qat. It has been grown in Yemen for hundreds of years, but for some reason it did not compete with coffee for space and resources until lately. It might be that qat chewing has taken on a less formal role, and thus consumption has increased even more than population (which is definitely higher too, in Sana'a).
Coffee and Qat
Coffee and Qat
It's easy to see where qat and coffee meet in this frame. Qat seems to be grown on the higher terraces than the coffee, and it might have to do with the water availability. I understand that qat requires more water than coffee.
Mayan Town
Mayan Town
So when we reached our halfway point, we could see the Mayan village we were headed too. The way they live in Ismaili, in many parts of the Yemeni mountains, one thinks of ancient American cultures, so the name Mayan was interesting. (I don't think there are any pyramids in Yemen!)
Beyond Bani Atiah
Beyond Bani Atiah
So we started off on a walk, which I thought would be a brief tour of the coffee plots, a return to the car and a trip back to Sana'a. Nomatter, the trail was steeper than anything we had encountered. Don't trip!
Steep Coffee Terraces
Steep Coffee Terraces
Along the way, we passed incredibly steep coffee terraces.
Past ruined homes
Past ruined homes
Duane looks back, as we walk past the ruins of former homes. Ancient, probably ... but unlike such ruins in the US, they were probably occupied 20 years ago too.
Another View of Ismaili Ruins
Another View of Ismaili Ruins
Another View of Ruins
Where I thought we were going...
Where I thought we were going...
So I spotted these houses and we seemed to be headed there. As it turns out when we got there, it was just half way to where we were actually going, a cluster of homes called Mayan village. Mayan?
Coffee Terraces in the shade, Ismaili Yemen
Coffee Terraces in the shade, Ismaili Yemen
This terraced coffee, in a shaded nook on our path to Mayan town in Ismaili, had a much better appearance than the coffee with more sun exposure. This is likely due to the fact that shade conserves water, and water is so scarce in Ismaili
Water Holding Pond, Mayan, Ismaili
Water Holding Pond, Mayan, Ismaili
Water Holding Pond, Mayan, Ismaili. Water is life here, and they have a spring source that feeds their village. But their water resources are largely unprotected and unconserved, losing so much to evaporation and absorption into the soil.
Dawari Coffee Cherry, Ismaili, Yemen
Dawari Coffee Cherry, Ismaili, Yemen
This image represents actual production of a healthy Mokha coffee tree much better...
Dawari Coffee Cherry, Ismaili, Yemen
Dawari Coffee Cherry, Ismaili, Yemen
Dawari Coffee Cherry, Ismaili, Yemen. All coffee we saw in Ismaili appeared to be Dawari cultivar, a small round bean heirloom Moka plant with green tips (new leaves);. Both Shibriqi and Tufahi have bronze-colored new leaves.
Coffee Farmers House, Ismaili
Coffee Farmers House, Ismaili
House and coffee terraces below, between the towns of Mayan and Bani Atiah, Ismaili
Mayan town, Ismaili, Yemen
Mayan town, Ismaili, Yemen
Admittedly, I took too many photos of the same thing. If you saw all my unedited 900+ images, you would agree. But with this kind of informal architecture, you see something new from every angle.
Yet more ruins
Yet more ruins
Old tower house between Bani Atiah and Mayan village
Facade Picture No. 283
Facade Picture No. 283
On the pathway to Mayan from Bani Atiah. The facade of a coffee farmers house.
Ismaili Portraits
Ismaili Portraits
One of the many people who accompanied us on our hike in Ismaili

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