Sunday, April 23, 2006

Playing Catch-Up

As always, please forgive my typos...

Thursday, April 23, 2006

My goodness how time flies when you’re in a third world country desperately trying to master a foreign language! Let me see if I can get everybody up-to-date.

The trip to Abdul Rahman’s village never happened. When Evan and I went to our director to get a letter to take to the tourist police, he told us that it wasn’t any problem to get permission to go, but the trip would have to be coordinated through a tourist agency and involve a police escort. We decided this would end up costing too much so we decided not to go. It also turned out that the wedding wasn’t at the village after all but here in Sana’a; although, I swear Abdul Rahman said it would take place at his village.

The wedding itself was big. Really big. It was held in a building across from the Sheraton which is rented out for such occasions. According to Abdul Rahman, the building is owned by the husband of his sister (If I remember correctly) but then, according to Abdul Rahman, he is related to half of the people in Sana’a, so I’m never quite certain if he is telling the truth or just trying to impress me. Regardless, it was definitely a big wedding. Unfortunately, I completely forgot to take my camera with me, so you’ll have to settle for a verbal description of the events.

Yemeni weddings, to my untrained eye, appear to consist of a lot of men (the women's party is at a separate location) sitting around drinking cold water and chewing qat – for a long time. There is a lot of singing (this wedding had several musicians that I thought were rather good) and cheek kissing. Then there is some more singing and some more cheek kissing. There are also tons of photos taken and (at least at this wedding) a gentleman with a professional-looking video camera walking around. I think I managed to make it into enough footage to pretty much ruin any wedding memories ;)~

Sheikh Al-Ahmar was not in attendance as he was in Saudi Arabia for medical treatment but one of his sons was there, accompanied by several thuggish looking guards brandishing Kalashnikovs. Fortunately, since I didn’t bring my camera I didn’t tempt fate by asking for a photo. The former Prime Minister, Abdul Aziz Abdul Gani, was also there, in addition to several prominent judges whose names I didn’t bother writing down.

True to the spirit of Yemen, the power went out during part of the wedding for about thirty minutes. In case I didn’t mention it, the power goes off for anywhere from thirty minutes to a couple of hours, several times a week.

Which reminds me, last week, when I was taking my laundry to the cleaners, I heard somebody behind me ask if I spoke English. It was a European family (husband, wife, and two young children) trying to find their way out of Old Sana’a. Since it would have been too hard to explain, I offered to walk them out and on the way the husband was telling me that he was working in Yemen on upgrading the power infrastructure in Yemen. I found that to be amusing as about twenty minutes before I met him the power had gone out and was still out after I got back to my room.

Somebody left the following post, so I’ll try to touch upon that a bit:

“Gary-can you write a little about women in Yemen? Do you have much interaction with the local women? Are they a big presence on the streets, markets, restaurants?”

As to interaction with the local women in Yemen, well, it just doesn’t happen (at least not to me). The most contact I’ve had has been when I’m going through the checkout stand at the Shumaila Hari Supermarket. From what I can tell, Yemeni women go under the veil around twelve or thirteen years of age. Even when I go to Abdul Rahman’s house or when I went to the new student luncheon at the house of one of the instructors, I never saw their wives. I suppose one could try and talk to a random woman on the street but I don’t really think that would be a very good idea.

You may see a Yemeni woman at a restaurant that has taken her veil off to eat, but most restaurants reserve a section for women to eat separately. There are plenty of Yemeni women out and about in the streets but again, they are all veiled. Your best bet would be to find a blog written by a female student and ask them.

Stay tuned for a regaling tale of my trip to Aden!