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

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