Sunday, April 16, 2006

Some Supermarkets and Malls in Sanaa

My first visit to Shumaila Hari supermarket in Hadda, Sanaa Yemen was when we were driving around in the taxi like crazy all day looking for a supermarket that was suppose to be infront of Mata'im al hamra (red rastaurants) My Yemeniyyah friend told me she had visited it after she got married and it was one of the first supermarkets, actually she said it was beside that big red bricked building in Hadda that they had not finished yet, bottom line it was confusing and no one knew where this place was. The taxi driver had no idea neither did we and we were driving around all morning until we reached a sort of nice area with big villas and they were governmental offices and embassies as he explained to us then we turned in a little street and there it was ""Shumaila Hari"" I had no no idea what it was neither did my Yemeni friend (I'll call her Nada)
We told the taxi to stop and that we'd check it out and apologized for the headache we caused him going around town like crazy.

Shumaila Hari: a nice large two floor supermarket and I call it "Sanaa's Wal-Mart" because the top floor has clothing, shoes, blankets, furniture and other. They got electronics, movies, jewellery, houseware, toys, even small appliances and some larger ones downstairs. And of course food!
There is a fenced parking lot infront of it and then a few steps and I think some sort of fast food stand on the right side and popcorn on the exit side. A security guard placed at each door, entrance and exit. As you enter up the steps and past the doors there is an "Information Centre" on the left side and the women at the desk would ask you to leave your extra bags behind if you have any, then she will hand you a card with the number of the box which she placed your things in and you carry on into the store, grab a buggy and off to the right..
Cookies, Chips, Snacks, Chocolate all on the right hand side then on the right left wall is the dairy, milk, cheese, and I noticed they have certain cheeses and things available all the time like SingleSlices, feta, kiri, and so forth. And other things like mozarella, cheddar, Edam with the red wax coating, swiss cheese and other types of cheeses are sometimes available.
Along the right side of the supermarket is the freezers, lots of juice varieties, more so than that I was used to in Canada (so you see, there are some advantages in Yemen!) Middle isle freezers on that side have frozen prepared foods, spinach pies, pizzas, kababs, and so forth. Next is frozen veggies, corn, peas, mixed vegetables, green beans always available. Spinach, broccoli and cauliflower were sometimes available, french butter is easily found at any supermarket in the freezer and frozen puff pastry dough, philo and other.
Ice Cream is at the front in smaller freezers, the saudi ice cream in buckets is quite good, the vanilla and mocha are my favourites. They are available in smaller or larger containers.
I found shumaila hari to be the only supermarket that I know of so far to have fish, (except for a branch of Al Huda that carries shrimp in the San'aa trade centre - or Markaz al-Libi (libyan centre))
They sometimes have large fillet fish, sardines, Jahsh (not sure exactly what it's called in english but it's a really good fish and they roast it in restaurants alot - I'll get to that later inshaa Allaah)
Shrimp is almost always available in large blocks (HUGE actually) or smaller containers for 1000 Y.R (which is like $5 or so) and lobster is sometimes available, I was told last time at the cashier when I was there and after I picked one up and dumped it in my buggy that they sell them by the kilo, and it's for about 3500 ($15)
There is a small counter for bread near the fish, if you are looking for whole wheat bread like myself you may find the whole wheat pita here brought from the lebanese automatic bakery which is near the supermarket I think. You pay for bread right there and then he places it in a bag and you put it in your buggy, don't forget to remember you had already paid because once I paid double for something after placing it on the coveyer belt at the cashier.
Certain things at the supermarket are cheaper than in other places, for example the local foods, milk, yogurt, and so forth are less than if you were to buy them in the corner shops, so it's kind of a balance because some things are pricey and so I find it worth it to buy my yogurt, milk and local ingredients from the supermarket as well while I'm there.
Along the back right side following the fish is the meat on the right and the deli perhaps, cheeses are also available behind the counter, olives, pickled mixes, dips, hummus, labneh and so forth.
The veggies are around that area facing the man who sells nuts and seeds, and that whole area mostly, fish, meat, deli, nuts, veggies and bread you would pay right there for whatever you select.
Isles along that side include the pet foods (they have a pretty good variety), teas, cereals, then on the back sides baking goods, some canned goods, sauces, oils, and spices, facing those shelves are the instant noodle soups, canned foods, pickles, dips, jars, mayonnaise, and some canned fruits, shelved cheeses are on the opposite side at the front, then towards the back behind the staircases are more shelving for pastas, baby needs, papertowels kleenex, and along the wall are the oils, and then airfreshners and al the way to the opposite side is a large section for cleaning supplies, shampoo (TOO MANY VARIETIES!) soaps, and lots more.. coming down from that area back to the front is the house supplies, things from dishes, to decorative items for homes, toys, electronics and at the front left side of the store is the electronics and house and kitchen appliances.
Back to the middle and around the staircases below are some beauty supplies, cameras, and other personal items.
Going up the stairs towards the left you'll find the perfumes straight ahead, towards your left the furniture and a small sports store all the way at the end near the window and towards your right all the way along to the other side of the store is mostly clothing (either smaller stores or a section belonging to the supermarket where you would pay for the items downstairs at the cashier.) There is also a tailor who sells and tailors womens abayahs, hijabs, khimars, and face veils.
The childrens section is towards the right along with a more younger womens (maybe teens) section facing the undergarments section and then shoes and mens clothing and shoes, blankets and slippers fill the remaining side.
As you come down the stairs and reach the small platform there are socks along the wall as well.
The cashiers are a the front, I think about five and once you finish shopping and check out you can leave your buggy for a few seconds and check out the mini shops running along the front of the store. There is a baskin robbins facing you as you check out and then a mobile store I believe and an Iranian who sells jewellery (some really nice things for unbelievable prices) I highly recommend anyone to check him out, he's got these cute little metal boxes with designs and stones molded into them, he sells them for 300 Y.R and they make great gifts (I sent some back home to my family and they just loved them)I also bought a lovely silver and turquoise necklace that is now one of my favourite pieces of jewellery. Also has nice middle eastern jewellery boxes with mother of pearl and wood engraved into them (beautiful!)
Two more jewellery stores are located on the opposite side but I haven't checked them out really, some of the pieces they have look very Indian as I've noticed. As you leave the supermarket you'll be asked for the bill and the security will stamp it then you can leave down the steps and if you are a women without any help they will carry the bags down for you to your car after they have bagged them at the cashier (very kind hehe)
You can find taxis waiting outside along the street and they will help you to put everything in the car, but settle on the price first as I've learned and make sure they are familiar with the area you live in or else you'll be going in circles again. A fair amount for me was about 300-400 Y.R to get me home.
I bought my stove from Shumaila Hari, it's tiny but it has a sort of temperature timer for the oven that you can monitor at least, I believe it was about 55,000 Y.R. And at the time I had no idea if that was good or not but I was told it was a good price and similar to the one I found here in Shumaila near Taiz Road though this one was much better of course.
My closet is also from shumaila Hari, it's one of those IKEA sort of pieces that you have to put together (well they did have prepared ones) and well ... being impatient I bought it in boxes and set it up at home, also bought a cabinet sort of piece and another closet for Nada's step daughter which I put together also.
For all those reasons above they gave me a 15% discount card on all products (discluding those personal stores inside) and 10% of the clothing from shumaila hari above.
Now you know why Shumaila Hari is my favourite supermarket! hehe

Al Jundool Supermarket: I found this one another time when we were again going in circles in search for more markets, It is located very near Shumaila Hari but up the main street located along the right side of Shumaila Hari (I think it's up the street not down??) Anyway there are some hotels in that area, Regency Hotel and Sky (something, can't remember).. anyway I think the street you hit is Iran street or something and you'll see the supermarket at the end of the left side of the street.
It is smaller than shumaila hari, one floor only and also has a parking lot infront of it surrounded by a low wall and fence.
I like al Jundool for several reasons, the prices are good, unlike al Huda which I find quite expensive, for some reason I spend a little too much there and don't get quite enough stuff.
Al Jundool also has a nice bakery section within, and a small cafe/juice bar towards the right, a cellphone, electronics and makeup counter along the left.
Clothes, toys are on the left and along that whole left side then there is a small section for some furniture, house items, stationary, kids supplies, bags and things.. etc.
Towels, blankets, robes and more.
Cleaning supplies and shampoo are in the isles near there and the shelves are along the middle of the store with foods in the middle, and towards the opposite end of the clothing are house and kichen supplies, and I think they have a nice variety.
Towards the back it's more open, juice on the right side and cheeses and so forth. A counter along the back with the deli, meat and no fish though.
Veggies which you must bag yourself then hand to the man to weigh and he places a sticker with the price on it then you pay at the cashier and nuts and bagged grains and spices along the wall near the left side.
The breads in the front bakery section are from the Jundool Bakery (owned by the same people) on zubeiri street located next to Al Huda supermarket.
They used to sell nice mini whole wheat loaves but after awhile I had difficulty finding it again and they stopped supplying it, everytime I went and asked they didn't have, finally they ordered some and promised it would be there and after weeks of checking in with them I found some but it wasn't like the first time, rather it was more like a long whole wheat bun that they had sliced for me since they knew I wanted sliced whole wheat toast.
Al jundool is a nice organized, small, fairly priced supermarket in Hadda and I would recommend it to anyone.

Al Huda: Located on Zubeiri Street facing Sanaa spices, and beside Al Jundool bakery. Al Huda is a well stocked supermarket, medium sized, a bit on the expensive side but alright.
I found it more crowded than any of the others since it's small and on a main crowded street.
As you enter you will find house appliances and suppiles towards the far right.. the pastas, dry goods, candies and cereals on the shelves on the right and along the wall.
Then on the left the freezers run along the right wall of that section and another smaller freezer for cheese faxing those, smaller shelves in that section, a nice dry goods section where they package products under their name Al-Huda.
Cleanind supplies towards the left side of that section and then deli and meat and veggies on the opposite walls and in the middle open freezers with butter, refrigerated deli meats, sausages, hotdogs and other, ice cream, prepared frozen foods, frozen veggies.
Both Al-Huda and Shumaila Hari give you a bill but al Jundool does not (therefore it's kind of hard to keep track of the prices just for your own information)

Any other interesting supermarkets and stores that you know of? Let me know by email or comment, thanks.


The three malls that I know of so far are Sanaa Trade Center, Yemen Mall and al Komaim centre.

Sanaa Trade Centre (Libyan Centre): By far the best of all and most elegant and sophisticated.
I visited it several times, in fact it's one of my favourite places to hang out.

NOTE: You may notice stores close at dhuhur time, a little after the noon and they open in the Asr afternoon again so don't get caught going around those times or you'll be sitting around in the lounge area bored to death (unless you like sitting).

Al Huda stays open I think, it's a mini supermarket and branch of the al Huda on Zubeiri street.
Located in the far right corner from the main entrance it's a two floor with foods on the first and appliances, stationary, and personal care products on the second level.
The vegetables at this place aren't very good, the freezers have some products that weren't easily found in other supermarkets (frozen spinach, baby cooked shrimp) and so forth.
They have a large section for chips, snacks, chocolate and pop. Juice in the middle wall freezer, cheeses on the right side and a deli and shelves for canned goods, cereal adn other foods with grains and dry goods along the back wall on the left.
Back to the Mall: When I'm looking for certain things, people often refer me to jamaal street but honestly I prefer this mall, I've heard it said that the Sanaa trade centre is very expensive also and some stores are but I found it alright and as long as you look for quality.
If you are looking for shoes, I recommed ecco, I bought some shoes there and they are fairly good priced, Bally is quite expensive and they didn't have my size, if you are size 8 or 9 you may have more problems finding your size (wonder why?)

WOW has shoes too but I wouldn't really recommend it because they bring their products from China and I had to return the boots I bought because the heel feel off the first day I wore them and they were so hard and tough that I had blisters on the back of my feet after I wore them only one day.
The purses they have there are ok, and if you find something to suite your taste then you're in luck and just grab it because the prices are pretty good.
As for the clothing, I bought a skirt and blouse and they have a nice variety, but a friend of mine bought a knit top and it had holes in it after she wore it only 2 days.. so we returned that too along with the boots (Umm. I mean exchanged as they don't refund)
There is a bed and bath shop which is kind of elegant, their towels looked good quality and so if I need any I'm heading over there, also they carried sheets and blankets, robes ...etc.

Basically they have appliance stores, luggage stores, many clothing stores moslty for women, some mens clothing, shoes, teen clothes, optical shop, small cafe and sandwhich place, book store, mobile shop, childrens clothing, electronics and computers, movies and music, jewellery, designer watches, perfume, makeup, crystal, a natural beauty shop, and baskin robbins. (either you can sit inside or there is a small sitting area opposite of it in the mall area near the information desk and stairs going up. Oh, and a Masjid (mosque) on the roof top which is just great! )


Not as elegant as the Sanaa Trade Center but pretty good, the first floor has some interesting stores, check out the silver guy at the back left side, he sells some really neat things and well priced also a cream and natural beauty supplies carries some vitamins and supplements as I've noticed.
There is a cafe located on a platform in the middle of the mall and towards the back are the stairs to go up along with elevators in the front and more stairs and elevators in another section.
If your looking for some good quality socks there is one store, not sure which floor but it's a small store that sells nice black womens socks, perfect for going out with the abayah.
Also there is an italian purse and shoe store on the third floor that has some pretty elegant designs. Other than the malls you won't find very nice purses and some of the designs they sell elsewhere and on Jamal street are just really strange.
The abayah stores at the Yemen Mall are alright, I would suggest you look for a khaleeji Abayah as they are better quality than those sewn in Yemen and I really notifed the difference after I bought some from Dubai and then saw whats available in Yemen.
The face veils in Yemen though are pretty good, and some of the best and most comfortable I've seen (I know you may think the interfacing is a little too stiff and you're not gonna try it, but once you do you'll realize it's really quite nice, just don't wash it or if you do make sure you place something heavy on top to keep it flat and have it dry that way)
The shaylah scarves are nice, the emirate ones I brought are really tiny and so I really prefer the Yemeni ones (plain please without any flashy stickers, embroidery, beads or rhinestones)

Komaim Centre: Ok, Last and indeed least is the Komain Centre, the oldest mall and as I was told when they opened it was something rather "Fancy" but now it's overshadowed by Yemen mall and the Sanaa Trade Centre though it seems many people still prefer to shop there. I found it a little like Shumaila and so it wasn't anything special really. Don't have much to comment about it.
Again if anyone has any details about shopping centres or interesting places in Sanaa please let me know by email or comment, thanks.
And as for the old city of Sanaa, yes I've been there twice, details to come......... Inshaa Allaah

Saturday, April 15, 2006


After seeing the apartment and condition of that side of Sanaa I was expecting living here would be a bit of a challenge until things are organized. And I must admit it was depressing even for someone like myself who has lived for some years in Pakistan and Iraq and Kurdistan wasn't in such a good situation at the time either.

The following day I went out to buy a cellphone SIM card to use in my new Nokia N70 which I had brought with me from Dubai. When I reached the store near our house which was a medium sized studio I was kind of relieved that I brought my phone with me, because the phones they had offered seemed a little "old" and knowing hardly anything about Yemen assuming that's all that is available.

They have some mobile companies like Sabafon, Space tel, Yemen Mobile and their cards vary in prices.
My phone took a Sabafon SIM card and I bought some scratch cards to use which costed about 800 Y.R for a card with 80 points and 3400 Y.R for a 300 point card (which lasted me one day with all the phone calls I made long distance to my family - but I've come a long way now and learn to conserve abit and hey the 80 point card lasts me quite some time!!)

Western Unions are almost all over the city, and it wasn't really hard finding one. At first we were walking to another cellphone studio when I noticed the first one in my area, and I thought wow, it's close to my place and that wasn't too much trouble finding it, then I realized that basically they are everywhere, sometimes 5 locations on one street!!
The service at all of them isn't that great, I tried to recieve money at the one near my apartment and they said the transfer hasn't arrived yet and that I should go to the one across the street, when I got there this other one was really unorganized and the man kept asking for a yemeni "Bitaqa" (citizenship card) and I told him I'm Canadian and don't have one, but he kept asking, it was a real headache and finally we decided to go to the Bank ad-Dawali on Zubeiri street (I think) .. it's the large national bank and beside it resides the Bank of Yemen and Kuwait, both of them have Western Union branches inside.

The money was there and finally I recieved it after showing my passport and filling out the form, that was easy and they seem more professional in these places rather than the small branches (thats just what I felt personally)

As we drove back home a taxi it as interesting seeing the more modern side of the city, Zubeiri street and I was beginning to relax as opposed to seeing the more traditional side of the city where I lived in.

Since my apartment wasn't furnished yet the family had mentioned to me that they looked into appliances and so we headed off to Shumaila (NOT Shumaila Hari!).
There infront of a large spice store and beside it what they called a shoe Ma'radh (show room) were some furniture, bedding, mafarish and appliance stores, we went in and I stood around while they bargained for about an hour until I assumed things were settled when he told us they would deliver it either the same day or following day. We bought a fridge, gas stove, washing machine, vacuum cleaner (which I insisted on having though they thought it was unnecessary) and then I asked about cupboards or some kind of buffet where dishes and foods can be stored and he said he had a variety at his other store (or branch), we headed over there and it was an even bigger store, more closets and furniture this time, I asked them how much the prices were and they kept conveying them to me in the Yemeni currency which I had no idea about and I kept asking them to translate it into dollars so I could understand more easily.
We settled on a cabinet and then I bought 2 lovely turkish center rugs and though they insisted on carpetting all the rooms wall-to-wall I wasn't happy with covering the stone floor which I just loved so we ordered the full carpet for her room and the rest of the house would remain as it is with the red center carpet in my room and the blue one in the middle bed room which was to be our majlis (sitting room) because I had taken the front majlis as my bedroom.

In the following days everything was delivered and daily we would go out to shop for dishes, and basically things we needed for the home and kitchen, the more we bought the more relieved I was because we could get cooking which I needed to do as soon as possible, because unlike the Yemenis; eggs, fava beans, tuna with bread or rice and meat were not suitable for me daily and veggies were a high priority for me.

I made a list of some things shortly after the fridge arrived and was set up along with the stove.
Lettuce, green beans, carrots, onions, potatoes (other veggies and fruits in season) and some whole wheat flour, and fresh fish. It seemed difficult finding whole wheat bread but I would make my own if none was available and as to pasta I had brought some whole wheat spaghetti and macaroni with me from Dubai.

One of the boys in the family went out to fetch the groceries so I headed to the kitchen to check things out, first thing I noticed were the veggies, they were small and unlike Canada quite dirty, everything went into the drawer at the bottom of the fridge anyway and fish was divided into individual portions and placed in the freezer, also no wheat flour was to be found in that area.

Anyway things didn't seem like they were going to be that easy and most of the vegetables wilted before I knew it, the lettuce was FULL of little bugs (every leaf needs to be washed indivudually and sometimes washed twice, three times or four) and the green beans were very black that most parts had to be cut off leaving hardly anything behind.

I would have cried at that point for some frozen veggies. I thought to myself however the supermarket must be better than this, so I suggested we have a look.
Not knowing where they were we had some trouble finding them, but a few days later when we were in Zubeiri street for some other reason (can't remember exactly) we were told there is a supermarket on the same street, so we walked for quite some time, passed a car lot, and as lovely as Sanaa is the dust really is a problem, it's unlike any other place I've been.. the sand and dirt just sticks to the clothing and my new $90 Naturalizer walking shoes that I had purchased in Canada before coming were just ruined in less than a week of wear!!

Finally we could see AL-HUDA in the distance and so we crossed the road and headed inside mostly to have a look around. They were explaining to me that in these kinds of stores bargaining is now allowed, you simply pick up the product and place it into your cart and and at the cashier the charge will be added and you pay exactly whats on the bill. And if you can not handle the fact that you can't bargain over a product then you simply leave it behind.

**No disrespect to anyone, but at that point I knew they were probably not familiar with shopping at a supermarket, and that what they explained to me was exactly what I intended to do as I wouldn't dream of bargaining here and I hardly do so anywhere else, in the regular stores they would mostly do it for me**

Most of the things in the supermarket they weren't familiar with [this was my territory now] and so I spent a fair amount of time explaining each product they pointed at and wondered what it was for or how to go about prepairing or eating it.

I noticed many foreigners, indian, east asian, european, american, middle eastern, we met a Russian lady who asked if we could take her picture, she wanted a good view of the supermarket behind her I assume to show her family back home.

My hands were full, no buggy or basket so I asked my friend to get me a buggy and then before I knew it it was loaded and we sort of needed another one. Hehe

Cereal, dates, olive oil, kraft cheese, feta cheese, oriental style instant noodles (ok thats a treat only) peanut butter, brown sugar, spices and more........... and finally the best of all, FROZEN VEGGIES!! Frozen spinach, peas, corn, carrots, broccoli (yay!), cauliflower. (how exciting!)

I walked out of there spending $200 I think, but it was worth every dollar and I did buy a lot of stuff mostly for them try and get used to western tastes, even though it wasn't suited for my personal diet. I thought the kids would have fun also checking out something new as opposed to the turkish chocolates and yemeni ice cream they sell at the corner stores.

Ok, I was planning on making a budget and it was only the first time so I guess it was ok - no guilt.

At that point I was thinking that if that was the only supermarket in Sanaa then I was just fine with it. Alhamdulillaah!

The water in the apartment was bad, the hot water ran out quickly and taking a shower was just horror for me especially when I found this bug in the bathtub (and No, I was not thinking of filling up the tub and soaking it it, I wanted nothing more than just a light shower - Which I got because the water wouldn't come down!!)
Shower heads here are strange, either there isn't enough water pressure or I don't know, pipes are clogged?
Anyway, I got through it with a few chills but it was alright - wasn't really looking forward to the next though.

The kitchen had no hot water at all, washing greasy dishes was a real challange and I resorted to boiling the water in pots just to wash dishes, for some reason the dishwashing liquid wasn't doing such a great job either and honestly being part german (grandma is German) I wasn't used to the yemeni ways of cooked, cleaning, washed dishes, laundry or anything.

The stove was a problem because there were no temperatures for the oven and I just couldn't prepare certain recipes with a large flame of fire in the bottom and a smaller one on top. Also the flame was either high or low, even the low stove top flame burned half my foods (either I just wasn't used to it or I don't know but the oven was a real problem) I requested we go back and ask the salesman and then return it if he agreed.
Surprisingly he did agree and gave us back 90% of the money (which I was satisfied with) and then we headed off to some places where they sell stoves. There was a nice place behind the Porche dealer (not sure what it's called, but it's like a show room) and a kind taxi driver suggested that place. They sold fridges, stoves, small kitchen appliances and even digital cameras.
I was looking for an electric stove and I didnt care much about the electricity bill because that was what I was used to and the gas cylinder thingy is just a real pain (even though we had used it before in Iraq, but the ones there were different and they had a sort of pump that attacked to the needle on the top and this one in Yemen was always leaking and we had daily problems with it) Also my mom back in Canada was really worried about safety.

New stove details in the next post in shaa Allaah.

Also in the following days we were basically exploring around, and I'll list some of the places I've visited and my opinions and so forth in the following post..

To be continued .. inshaa Allaah

Arriving in Sanaa

My journey to Yemen: I arrived on the 27th of Jan. 2006 in Sanaa Yemen after passing through Dubai for about 10 days visiting my dad. Dubai is one of the most beautiful cities I've seen, we stayed in at my dad's apartment which is on Shaykh Zayd Road - buildings there are so modern, sophisticated and beautiful, the weather was also amazing!

I arrived at Sanaa Internations Airport at about 9 O'Clock in the morning, the flight was smooth and mostly over the desert of Saudi Arabia and then into Yemen therefore the view was mostly all the same, I must admit I was shocked when they mentioned that we are passing over Sanaa now and all I saw was basically the SAME VIEW I've been watching for little under 3 hours!!

I was excited, anxious, nervous, a little scared but above all curious .. As soon as we landed I was prayng that things would just go smooth with my entrance and I would be able to spot the family to guide me out of the airport.

The airport is well.. modest.. All the passengers lined up to have our passports checked, some were taking longer than others but I had my Visa prepared from the Embassy in Canada so my turn was quick and I passed through the gate as the officer welcomed me to Yemen reminded that I had 3 months.

Fortunately I had friends waiting for me, a yemeni family whom I had become familiar with and they arranged all my papers and Visa for entrance into Yemen. I spotted the driver at the glass window holding up a sign with their names written in marker, at that point I was relieved and felt I can enjoy myself in Yemen.

We gathered my 2 pieces of luggage and Alhamdulillaah (All Praises to Allaah) there was no baggage check that day, so we hurried off down the steps and outside where the van was waiting. I met more members of the family and we all got into the van and drove off.... it was interesting seeing the city for the first time and I could not believe I was finally in Yemen, in fact I think I was pinching myself along the way.

The drive was lovely, and the family explained to me many areas of the city as we drove to my apartment in the district of Bir Ubayd. I loved most of all the mountains, and we got fairly close to them, it reminded me of Northern Iraq where I lived for some years.

The smoking was a problem, three individuals in the car were smoking, and with the heat and the women all veiled (including myself) it was very difficult to breath (for me I guess, because I assume they are used to it) If you give me heat I can take it but heat and smoke is just unbearable. Later I discovered that like Iraq smoking is very common here, and being away from the middle east for many years and living in Canada one is not so exposed to it but in these countries sometimes you just don't have a choice and you got to put up with it.

I was prepared for alot of things though (and that was one reason they mostly joked about how much stuff I brought).. one of my suitcases was full of my books, waterproof solar and crank power flashlight, a mosquito net canope for my bed, zip lock bags, pliars, herbal tea bags, lots of soup stock cubes, and I even brought a spoon and fork along since I heard yemenis don't use them (and i'ts a good thing I did because the first days in the apartment I really needed it!)

Before I knew it we were home! Everyone was getting out of the car and I was asked what I wanted for breakfast (We were served breakfast on the plane but I was too nervous to eat and being a veiled vegetarian on a special acid/alkaline balanced diet it wasn't very easy eating on a plane or anywhere infact) Eggs were a safe suggestion, and I agreed.. The woman sent her brother away for eggs and juice I assume though I insisted water was just fine.

My baggage was taken up and I approached the building door which was actually on a very busy street, we walked up several floors (which was kind of tiring) and finally we arrived. I heard so much while I was back in Canada about this apartment, and the woman described it to me as being really lovely compaired to Yemeni standards but I had to see it for myself and finally I was just about to do so.

She opened the door and ohh, the first thing I noticed was the LOVELY colourful yemeni designs carved into the walls!! And those little stain glass windows above the bedroom and kitchen door inside the apartment, I was excited and enchanted by the beauty of the traditional decor.
She told me that was nothing compaired to the rooms, so I followed her as she opened the Majlis (sitting room) and indeed it was a million times more beautiful as the whole ceiling had decorative carved designs and straight ahead opposite to the door was the window and above a large stained glass window (Qamariyyah as they called it)

All the rooms had Qamariyyahs except the kitchen and bathrooms, I was disappointed actually regarding the bathrooms, they looked old and the tile job was very messy giving it an awful appearance but as long as there was running water, especially hot (so I thought) I would not complain.

Breakfast was brought, and I was told to sit down or relax on the sponge mattress that they bought, nothing else was in the apartment because I requested that I buy things myself when I arrive.

Scrambled eggs, lemon milkshake (I think, which I did not drink) and yummy flat bread was placed infront of me, I ate Alhamdulillaah then headed to the bathroom to make wudu (ablution) as I had missed the dawn prayer waiting in the lounge for departure at the Dubai Airport. To my surprise no soap, no water jug, no toilet paper (which I expected but not regarding the others!)
At that point even a shower was something I wasn't looking forward to. I placed some soap that I had brought with me in the bathroom then headed off to pray and tidy up my luggage.

The rest of the day we sat around talking, getting to know each other and learning about the city as I watched people outside my window.

Lunch time approached and knowing ahead of time that I'm a vegetarian (only eating fish) they ordered fish and rice (I don't eat much rice due to my acid alkaline diet but it wasn't really the time to be picky) I heard the fish in Yemen is quite good and something to look forward to and so I was . They placed the food infront of me and unlike breakfast which I could eat with my hand I went over to my purse and took out my fork, spoon and napkin then headed back to my mattress , said Bismillaah (In the name of Allaah I begin... ) and started eating, the rice was good and the fish was whitish and it appeared to be fried perhaps due to the dark outside colouring on the pieces and very closely resembling meat actually that I thought maybe they brought me meat, but the fish scales gave it away.

As sunset approached we prayed and I wasn't very hungry for dinner, it was getting chilly and as I was told Sanaa can be cool at night. They brought food from the restaurant and ate, it was my first experience of watching yemenis eat and though I've seen pakistanis eat with their hands and Iraqis mostly use their bread to even scoop up rice and not really messing their hands up too much, spoons are also commonly used there but it was nothing like the yemeni experience... even the little 3 year old child could do it quite well but that didn't mean no mess would be left behind. And if you have a problem with sharing a large platter and group eating then this isn't for you (nor me)
*** No Offence to anyone regarding their ways of eating, everyone knows what they are used to and what they grew up doing, and I find it very interesting to learn about other people's culture, and don't have anything against eating with hands if it is done neatly***

Bed time: Something I was looking forward to after the long day and being up since 4 OClock in the morning to catch my flight to Yemen from the Dubai airport. It wasn't so very pleasant after I woke up the next morning and found that I had been bitten almost ALL OVER by some BUG!! [I regret not putting my net up, because shortly after I arrived and noticed the screen on the top window I felt safe and thought there was really no need for it - soon to discover I was WRONG]

The kitchen had a fan, and the hole in the wall was totally open to the outside and so any bugs could enter easily, we had some fruit flies in the kitchen and some house flies in the apartment because the kids kept opening the bottom windows. (Anyone coming to Yemen I would strongly suggest you bring a mosquito net along, it can be easily hung from one of the curtain rod holders drilled into the wall on each side of the window)

To be continued.....

Ahlan - Welcome

Assalaamu Alaikum wa Rahmatu Allaahi wa Barakaatu

Welcome to my daily ramblings about life in Yemen blog...