A young Chicagoan's strange erotic journey around the globe
View of Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, as seen from the roof of my hotel.
Sanaa has a population of approximately 2,000,000 people – give or take a couple hundred thousand.
The old city part of Sanaa where my hotel was located is said to have been inhabited for over 2,500 years, is full of buildings that look like this and was declared a World Heritage Site in 1986.
Couple dudes doin’ work to maintain their building with the Yemeni flag wavin’ on the left side of the picture.
Given how old most of the buildings are, the satellites on the roof of every house seem strangely out of place.
Illegal in the United States and most other western nations, qaat – or coke jr. as I like to call it – is a stimulant which causes excitement, loss of appetite and euphoria.
Coming in the form of a spinach-like leaf, qaat chewing has a long history as a social custom which dates back thousands of years and is done by many users on a daily basis.
An “ancient skyscraper” standing tall in the Old City Sanaa.
Most shops in the old city come in the form of holes in the wall like this one where you just point to whatever you need and the guy hands it to you from within.
Yemeni kids chillin’ out with a clean glass of cooler water.
What it looks like to walk through Old City Sanaa.
Fruit vender with a left cheek full of qaat. Qaat is controversial in Yemen because it is much more water-intensive to grow than other crops. It’s believed by many that qaat cultivation is continually exacerbating the already severe water shortage in the country.
Another street scene from the old city.
I asked this couple for a picture and they said “yes” but the wife instinctively stepped back to remove herself from the shot. I guess it was understood by them that I only wanted a photo of the man. That not being the case, I just widened the angle and took one with her in it anyway.
Very fashionable Yemeni biker bros
I enjoyed every part of wandering through the winding streets of the old city.
Camel in front of someone’s house
Back alley feeding frenzy
Dudes laid back in a hole-in-the-wall shop just loakin’ on qaat.
Possible mother and son?
A shop full of hookahs and such
A dude named Mr. Abdul showing off a pair of jambiyas which are the knives typically worn on the belts of Yemeni men.
Old dude takin’ a load off in the old city.
Up there on that building to the left is a guy applying a fresh coat of white paint, renewing the iconic Yemeni gingerbread house look the old city is famous for.
An undershot of the suspended painter doing his thing.
More typical abodes in Sanaa.
A couple non-traditional Yemenis who aren’t dressed in the norm or chewing qaat. The only non-traditionally dressed guy I’m upset I didn’t get a photo of had been wearing a t-shirt that said “LIFE IS FOR LOSERS.”
Three qaat-chewin’ bros not up to much of anything but feelin’ good.
Fat qaat wad. Although all my pictures are of men chewing qaat, my driver said that women use the stuff as well but that it’s nearly impossible to tell because their faces are constantly covered in public.
Bro bolstering his qaat buzz with a smoky-smoke.
Bread-maker gettin’ his chew on
Man rocking a Yemeni scarf
Minaret overlooking some Sanaa street action
Pair of guys workin’ with mouthfuls of qaat
No matter your job or age, if it’s the afternoon in Sanaa and you have a penis, you’re more likely than not chewing qaat.
Young man showing me an antique rifle with a cheek full of qaat.
An even younger man hanging out in the street and getting his chew on.
At the center of old town is the 1000-year-old Bab al Yemen, or The Gate of Yemen.
People just livin’ their lives at Bab al Yemen.
Buildings overlooking the open square right next to Bab al Yemen
Guys selling garments near Bab al Yemen. The guy on the far right is selling bags of qaat.
Dude posing next to political photographs. My favorite is the one of Saddam Hussein surrounded by lions in the top left.
One of the funnier political photos I saw.
A traditionally dressed Sanaa bro showin’ off his jambiya. After asking my driver why he never used his jambiya to cut up his food, he informed me that these days the knives are not even sharp and are worn for fashion purposes, to uphold the traditional look.
Another local yokel
Man selling hats
At the market
Young man selling dried fruits, nuts and candy. Perhaps it was the qaat talking, but this guy was so happy to meet an American that he gave me a bunch of free nuts and raisins before sending me on my way with a hearty handshake.
On the right side of this picture are some of the colorfully pretty dresses that women buy, wear and hide underneath their hijab.
The following are some paintings I came across in an old city art gallery…
Yemeni woman, hijab-free
I think I saw that guy in the market
Bab al Yemen
Hijab woman and a jambiya
One of my favorites
Mr. Abdul looking out over the city from atop the art gallery.
The Yemeni flags down at the bottom of the photo provide shelter at the markets.
“Qaat-ing it up in the back of my pick-up truck.” Potential country song theme?
The roof of the building next to the art gallery which came complete with a garden and…
…a bunch of rooftop goats.
Out in the distance in the southern outskirts of the city lies Al Saleh Mosque.
Costing nearly $60 million USD to construct, Al Saleh Mosque is the largest and most modern mosque in Sanaa.
This mosque is named after ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh who stepped down in 2012.
With an occupancy capacity of 44,000, Al Saleh Mosque is absolutely monstrous.
Any mosque I go to, birds seem to love hovering around the minarets.
Courtyard with the floor being polished
Along the courtyard
Same deal, different angle
On the right is the entrance to the mosque’s interior
Basically what this article says is that “Allah is the Only One God” because a dog once peed on a false idol that some dude had been worshipping.
A gated KFC. VIP only?
Muslims don’t booze. Non-alcoholic beer? Rather drink my own piss.
The Yemeni Rial. 1USD=approximately 215YER
I would see a lot of these doorless vans driving around the capital. Think they served as a bus-like shared taxi system to get around.
Busy street running next to the old city which also serves as an aqueduct to divert floodwater during times of heavy rain
Traffic jam caused by a goat crossing
Passing picture of faces painted on a wall. My driver’s English was limited and couldn’t fully explain to me who they were but what I got out of the exchange was that these dudes disappeared some years back and although nobody knows for sure where they went, it’s widely believed they were killed by the government.
Armored vehicles parked in front of a government building.
I think this is the other side of the same building as in the photo previous – not sure though because I took them on separate days.
Traffic outside the National Museum of Yemen
Old time car in front of the Yemeni flag at the National Museum of Yemen.
Couple last rooftop shots of the old city for good measure…
Tallest “ancient skyscraper” in the old city
Sanaa Day Trip to Surrounding Areas
Small town of Wadi Dhahr about 15km NW of Sanaa. Fat house, skinny house, house that’s built on rocks…
Dar al Hajar in Wadi Dhahr
Looks like this dude, who’d been working on Dar al Hajar, has got a little henna on his chin pubes which, to my understanding, signifies a recent return from Hajj.
To travel outside of Sanaa, it’s necessary for everybody to stop at police checkpoints every hundred kilometers or so as a precautionary measure against terrorism. As a foreigner, in order for me to pass these checkpoints, my driver had to produce pre-registered governmental permission forms at each and every one.
Thula, Yemen was a nice little town, however…
…I don’t know why all they had all these appliances just sitting out in the street.
The two guys in the picture here were rival local guides in Thula. Since no tourists are visiting Yemen because of regional instability, these dudes were desperate for business and decided to fight over me, constantly bickering and one-upping each other with “interesting facts” which they spat at me while walking at my sides.
Mosque in Thula
Thula girl from the photo previous
Don’t quote me on this one, but I’m pretty sure this town is called Hababa
Zakati, Yemen. Yes, people actually live there…
Couple traditionally dressed kids. Once again, not exactly sure the name of the town, but I think the following few photos are from a small town called Bukur.
Cliff where the kid in the picture led my driver to.
Probably the most amazing view I’ll ever see. The driver said that the whole valley down there turns green during the summer time.
Kid looking out over the canyon
View of the ground below – like I’m on a fuckin’ airplane
So, after taking a few photos from the vantage point in the photos previous, my driver told me to walk about fifty yards away from him and then turn back and look where I’d been standing. Here’s a shot of my driver and a local kid on the edge of the earth.
I didn’t think that overhanging cliffs like this existed beyond Road Runner and Coyote Looney Tunes but god damn, I guess they do. Hard to see, but there’s me doing a “SUCK IT” next to a local kid.
Town in a valley which supposedly turns green during the summer
Houses built into a rock face
Town built on the edge of a cliff
It blows my mind how close to the edge they can build these houses.
I can’t even imagine taking a glance out my bedroom window and looking out over a two-thousand foot drop-off. Hope none of ’em are sleepwalkers…shit…
Manakha & Al Hajarah
As mentioned in the Socotra pics, one of my favorite things about Yemen were the truckloads of unsecured Arabs speeding down the highways at dangerous speeds. For your enjoyment, here’s another…
Furthermore, if there’s no room in the truck bed, Yemeni bros have no qualms about standing on the bumper and hanging onto whatever they can as long as they get to where they need to get to. Oh, and pretty much every truck in the country is a Toyota.
The road from Sanaa to Al Hajarah wound through all sorts of mountainous terrain.
Man making his way along the side of the road
All over the country, shells of dead automobiles like this one sit on the side of the highway. Guess they were just left where they stopped working and removing them isn’t anyone’s priority.
On the way to Al Hajarah, we drove through some sort of tribal militia weapons camp
Here’s a shitty through-the-windshield photo of a few guys with their AK’s and if you look real hard near the bottom left corner, there’s a dude with a rocket launcher down on one knee looking out over a canyon.
To get to Al Hajarah from Sanaa, we needed to pass through a town called Manakha. Although I didn’t get out of the car, here are a few photos…
The market in Manakha was very crowded, thus resulting in a traffic jam which we couldn’t immediately pass through.
Because of this traffic jam, cars couldn’t get past either way and everybody started yelling at each other in Arabic about it.
Meanwhile, I just stuck my camera out the window and took pictures of some local people like this guy selling hats and shirts…
…and this kid in the back of a truck…
…and this old man who walks with a cane showing off his Kalashnikov.
Once we finally got through Manakha, I could immediately see Al Hajarah across the valley.
While driving up and over to Al Hajarah, we were stuck behind this dude trying to operate his motorcycle while balancing a lamb on his lap.
Getting closer to Al Hajarah…
…and we’re there. Upon arrival, a local guide suggested that I follow him through the cactus patch in the bottom right half of the photo.
Here I am walking behind my man.
Once through the patch, the local guide and my driver enjoyed the view from the base of Al Hajarah.
Here’s the view to the right and…
…here’s Al Hajarah to my left.
I could be wrong, but to my understanding, the flight of stairs pictured was the only way to get into this part of the village.
Kids standing at the base of their hometown
The stairs leading up to Al Hajarah
View of the surrounding area from the top
Same deal, different angle
I feel like one heavy rainstorm would wash this house right off the edge of that cliff
After exploring the town, the local guide invited me back to his house for lunch.
Inside the house
A lot of houses in Hajarah had these external window boxes which served a refrigerators where families would set their milk and stuff to cool at night.
Lunchtime with the locals! No women allowed! It’s uncommon for men and women to interact in social situations. Dudes hang with dudes, hos hang with hos.
There wasn’t much to do in Hodeidah besides eat fresh fish and visit this here fish market…
By the look on this kid’s face, I could tell he’d rather be somewhere else doing something different
“C’mon honey, I saw a nice fish over there I’d like to try to stick up your ass.”
A loner fisherman enjoying the smell of his massive fish pile as it starts to stink in the sun.
Unloading some fresh fish off the boat in the Red Sea
A lot of motorcycles I saw in Yemen were decorated quite extravagantly. As in the picture, fur was not uncommon.
Dudes gearing up for a fish auction
Devil ray in a barrow?
Witchyo sharkin’ ass
The outside of the fish market
Another dude with a ridiculous motorcycle. Kind of hard to see, but balanced on the front wheel is a Saddam Hussein tin lunchbox which this guy had been keeping his tools in.
It turns out that the fish market doubles as a home for some of these dudes…
…and triples as a ship graveyard.
A happy dude posing in front of a shed painted the colors of the Yemeni flag
Down the road from the fish market, a bunch of camels had been posted up along the side of the road.
The camel “manager,” if you will
A necrophiliac camel about to put on some Barry White tracks and bang the dead one on the ground there.
It turns out that this pack of camels had served as a “drive-thru” area for camel milk. You just pull up in your car and tell one of the guys there that you want camel milk and they run and get it for you. Here’s one dude warming up the nipples while a young one sucks them before…
…the guy shoves the young one out of the way and full-on milks the shit out of it for an awaiting customer.
Aw shit! Don’t fuck with these dudes!
Desert, desert and more desert on the road to Zabid
A couple huts we passed by in the desert got me quite fascinated about the lifestyle.
Accordingly, I had my driver stop the car at this next hut village where I got out and fearlessly began approaching until…
…this angry dog burst from the village and ran me all the way back to the car.
Here, the residents are laughing at me as their dog continues to stand at the side of the car demanding that we leave with his bark. My driver, Khalid, was also immensely enjoying this embarrassing event.
Oh well, perhaps I’ll get to witness this crazy, secluded desert lifestyle firsthand some other time.
Women walking along the side of the road with bags balanced on their heads.
This camel rides round and round grinding up some sort of seeds to create some sort of oil that the Yemeni guys made me drink a shot of. Although it wasn’t bad, it didn’t help my diarrhea which I’d still been dealing with since Bangladesh.
Ice cream paint job
Lookin’ good dere, chief!
Old, old mosque
Arabic writing on the inside wall
Dudes facing Mecca and gettin’ they prayer on
Khalid, my driver, the guy on the right, talking to some locals at the mosque.
Another old-ass Zabid structure
A Tom and Jerry painting on an external wall
Lil’ Zabid chick
The standard Arabic house comes with a couple chill rooms to hang out in – one for the bros and another for the hoz. Here is a door leading to the chill room in a Zabid house I was privileged to check out.
Inside the chill spot
Khalid just kickin’ it
Ceiling of the chill room
Hookahs on hookahs in this chill room
A Zabidian? Is that how you’d refer to a resident of Zabid?
A pair of bros just soakin’ up that magnificent view on the way to Jibbla
At the military checkpoint near Jibbla, I decided to get a little ballsy and ask the guys for a photo. They obliged…
I know it’s customary for friends to hold hands in Muslim countries, but it strikes me as especially odd when they’re armed and wearing military fatigues…
…or police uniforms.
Getting into town
Jibbla closer up
A super close-up of Jibbla
Jibbla fruit vender
More old writing on old-ass walls
Studying the Quran
I love when women in hijab wear baseball caps. It looks so strange.
I’m surprised that this woman and the one in the photo previous allowed me to take pictures of them. Thank you!
A little more Jibbla?
“THERE IS NO GOD WORTHY OF WORSHIP EXCEPT ALLAH”
Spray paint bros
“THERE IS NO GOD WORTHY OF WORSHIP EXCEPT ALLAH & MOHAMMED IS HIS MESSINGER”
On the road to Taiz
Another sidelined car shell
My driver told me that since Taiz is so close to Africa, many Somali people cross into Yemen illegally on their way to Saudi Arabia for work. “Is there work for all these people In Saudi Arabia,” I asked my driver. “They seem to think there is,” he replied doubtfully.
It’s a long, hot fuckin’ walk through the desert from the south of Yemen into Saudi Arabia. Guess it beats living in Somalia?
Keep on truckin’
In my opinion, these chicks looked too light-skinned to be Somali. Perhaps they were just local migrants – who knows?
Little black dude beggin’ for cash at a red light
Taiz street scene. When out to dinner, I saw a dude purposely hit a woman who’d been crossing the street with his car and then laugh about it. Thankfully, she was okay and everybody in the vicinity scorned the asshole for his vile act.
This is Taiz from above
The Big Show on Smackdown with Arabic subtitles being watched in the lobby by the manager of my Taiz hotel
Sign of a business in Taiz
Henna hand tattoo kit for sale
Taiz family minus an old man
Close-up of the Taiz kids from the photo previous
Taiz street art
More art calling for a Yemeni disarmament
It’s amazing how many kids this young you’ll see riding donkeys along the highway unaccompanied
Dudes just hangin’ out, not workin’, not doin’ anything but enjoying an afternoon mouthful of qaat.
Respect the qaat!!!
In the rearview is how I took most of my out-the-window photographs
Kids selling water
Another lone child making his way across the country along the side of the highway on a donkey.
This mosque is quite possibly the ONLY decent building in Mokha – a.k.a. the asshole of Yemen
So fucked up
The fifteen minutes I spent in Mokha, I spent wishing I wasn’t in Mokha
Kids who ran up to the car begging for money
Kids running after the car as we drove away. Although the majority of my experiences in the country were overwhelmingly positive, a town like Mokha was an unsettling reminder that Yemen remains the poorest country in the Middle East.