Marib Modern: Part I, Yemen Diaries (1997-2000)

This is the first of a number of posts, culled from an unpublished memoir of three years spent in Yemen and the countries of the Red Sea.   The intent is to give a sense of what life was like for an American (in my case, an American student), living in and traveling through parts of Arabia, Africa and the Middle East, that are no longer ‘acccessible’ — or one might even say, even enjoyable– to the degree they were, even 10, 20 years ago.  Many of the entries are on one of my favorite places in the region, Yemen, and my favorite city, Aden.  At this point, it’s a mix of diary entries, local news clippings I found amusing, telling, or downright prescient.   The period is the few years just before the Cole Bombing, 1997-2000; locations include Yemen, Eritrea, Jordan, Israel, Mauritius, Reunion and the Gulf States.



From “The Paramount Sheikhs of Yemen: They have their own Courts and Armies”, Al Majallah, March 16, 1997

“Looking for Sheikh Bin XXXX, Marib Sheikh of Sheikhs,” reads the caption under a picture (shot from a very low angle, looking up) of a wizened sheikh wearing a long white beard and a powder-blue ghalabiyya, standing on a rock:

Age: 60 years

Term as sheikh: 15 years

Marital status: married, 7 wives

Family: 27 children, 167 grandchildren

Preference/hobbies: loves the desert, is proud of his Bedouin origins, and hates big cities.

Military status: a Colonel in the reserves, he doesn’t much like the thought of a political career. He maintains cordial relations with many prominent government officials.

Foreign travel: has visited France, Germany and the former USSR.

Quote:  “God loves you, People of France, as he gives you rain all year long– but I think perhaps, you deserve it.”