A beautiful country called Yemen [Archives:2006/988/Viewpoint]

October 9 2006

As Yemenis, our perception about Yemen is so different from non-Yemenis, whether Arabs or foreign. We know our country and its potentials and to a great extent we are used to what it looks like and that is taken for granted. However, when tourists visit Yemen, they have so much to say and in a way their experience is an eye opener for us. I am saying this because recently my mother in law, who is a Jordanian, came visiting for four weeks. During her stay, we took her to shops, malls, and to tourist places.

All the time she was amazed our country has reached “this” extent of development. We kept hearing comments like: “I never thought you had such good stuff in Yemen” or “This is so interesting” or “Why did we never hear about this place before.”

At first I was a little angry thinking why do foreigners have such a negative impression about my country? Do they think Yemen is a desert where there is nothing interesting? Then it occurred to me that maybe it is not their fault. Maybe it is because we as Yemenis have not done our job in promoting our country.

Lately the Ministry of Tourism placed a series of commercials on international TV channels about Yemen. Also there are attempts to hold conferences, exhibitions and fairs inside Yemen to attract attention towards our beautiful country. It seems this is not good enough, because Yemen is still severally underestimated. Many Yemenis who go abroad, especially for medical treatment do not pay attention to the way they dress and behave do not create a positive image of our country. So many times they are taken as a representation of Yemen as if since they are Yemenis then this is what Yemen is all about. Another problem is our embassies and delegations abroad – including students, businessmen and activists who keep travelling outside Yemen. They have a huge responsibility in correcting the false image and promoting Yemen.

Interestingly enough, there is another dimension to the issue. The general manager of Raha Taxi Company was complaining a few days ago in a friendly conversation that some Yemenis especially in tribal areas cannot accept foreigners. He said that two of their cars were kidnapped in Marib simply because the tribes thought there were foreigners in the taxis. It seems some of us wouldn't allow tourism to prosper in Yemen. Although when tourism flourishes in a country everyone benefits including the simple people in tourist attractions who work as guides or in food business or those sell traditional items to tourists.

There are many factors influencing our country's reputation and image abroad. Yemen deserves more attention from the outside world. Only those who have been here know that. This is an invitation to let those who have not yet visited Yemen to give this beautiful country a chance.