Pollution and A Thousand and A Night in one

al_souk_itr“Most students learn the Arabic alphabet in three days!” our teacher told us sharply this morning, “You have to do your home work better!”

We three students in the beginners group looked down on the floor with shame and felt stupid.  One was Ignacio from Spain, a mathematics professor, another, Greg, a Scot studying commercial law and then me, an author of 7 books, which could be considered as slightly intellectual. And I am by far the slowest of us all. Learning Arabic at 47 isn´t easy, but fun! We all study four hours a day, very intensive, good teachers, and on top of that we spend, or should, at least 3-4 hours a day on homework.

The house and school where I live....
The house and school where I live....

However, we´re all in Yemen to experience this unique culture, which in many ways is like passing through the books of A Thousand and A Night, and therefore there has to be ample time to enjoy, appreciate  and understand this fabulous atmosphere!

I have to say, once again, I wasn´t prepared for this! That is what I love with my choice of life, you never know what to expect around the next corner….Take Sanaa for example…In one way it is like kind of living in a positive medieval setting, dominated by the Old City of Sanaa, where, whilst wandering amongst the winding alleys towered by mud skyscrapers looking like a Ginger Cake City, you feel like being part of the time Sanaa was created by one of Noah’s son, Shem, and a bird. Most of the people, like the men, are either dressed in traditional Yemeni clothes, a skirt topped with the big dagger -jambiya- tucked down in the belt or like the women, almost totally covered by a black dress –baltu– where you´ll be lucky to spot their eyes. Every hole in the mud walls are dominated by an almost amazing amount of laid back and kind vendors selling everything from myrrh and frankincense to digital HD-cameras. the hours just run away and you forget your Arabic homework…

Hadda Street Sanaa
Hadda Street Sanaa

On the other hand, it is the worst of a chaotic third world city, around 1.7 million inhabitants, with heavy pollution, uncontrolled traffic, a continuous blaring of horns, people yelling, cats fighting and an unnumbered amount of muezzins calling at least 5 times a day, garbage in every street corner and far too many poor people begging for help. I try to walk an hour per day until the local gym at the Officers Club open another 5 days, but pollution is so bad I am covered with dirt, throat thick, problems of breath and chest heavy, heavy…but what to do?

All these things considered, well, it knocked me out completely for the first week, with a sore throat, joint pains, fever and a unrelenting gut rot….as it always is, it seems for me, when I fall in love with a place….

I just have to get back to the new nouns picked up today. In shallah, the will stick this time and make the teacher happy! By the way, there´s a lot of reports written at http://preparingforthenextexpedition.blogspot.com/

On top of that, reading the local media is interesting, provocative and my favorite right now is this fella, but beware, he is very anti-Israeli, which I don´t agree with at all, of course, seeing the issue from both sides, but entertaining and informative:

Hassan Al-Haifi

I will talk more about media in the next report.