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Impressions of Sanaa

I did not want to spend time in Sanaa. When Edward told me transiting Sanaa would save us a lot of money, I agreed, but demanded a long connection so that there would be no chance we missed our plane, and said I'd stay in the transit area rather than leave to take a city tour.

Well, we're in limbo in Sanaa until at least Tuesday, and the airline didn't give me any choice about leaving the transit area, but rather, put us on a bus to a hotel in the city.

And I'm really, really pleased.

I'm liking Sanaa. The setting is spectacular: a valley surrounded by high, jagged, dry mountain cliffs and with big rocky points sticking up here and there from the valley floor. A pilot we talked to said flying in can be frightenng. Edward, who had a window seat, said it was stunningly beautiful. It's at 2200 meters and almost equatorial, so the weather is delightful: nights cool enough for a sweater, days warm enough to seek shade but not fiercely hot. The architecture is beautiful: tall buildings with delicate ornamentation on the windows. The cuisine is based on rice and sheep, and more-than-we-could-eat of delicious food at a white table cloth restaurant was about 10 dollars for the two of us. There are fruit juice stalls everywhere, where a big mug of fresh mango and ginger costs about 50 cents. People are incredibly friendly, and very, very helpful.

Not everything is wonderful. Men and boys chew qat everywhere, all the time. Especially in the afternoon, the streets are littered with stupified men sprawled in patches of shade, plastic bags of green leaves at their sides. The drivers are by far the worst I have ever seen, anywhere. No one gives way to anyone for anything. Drivers keep there hand on the horn, and use it constantly. Every major intersection is a left-turn-crash waiting to happen. Watching the cars arrive at the wonderful restaurant was like watching bumper cars. And you can't avoid cars and driving and the roads. This is a big, sprawling city, and the public transportation system consists of millions of mini-vans. Going anywhere involves riding. I have not seen any other uncovered women outside the hotel lobby and the airport. There is very little English, we haven't been able to find a guidebook, and our only map is not much good. (It was unusual, though. Our cab driver hadn't seen it, and as he sat looking at it at a grid-locked traffic light, the boys selling things at the intersection (tissues, sun glasses, water bottles, newspapers, underwear, Groucho nose and glasses) caused a mini-traffic jam of their own as they crowded to stare at the map.)

Tomorrow we go off to explore the old city.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 15, 2008 3:28 PM.

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