Agony at the airport [Archives:2005/822/Letters to the Editor]

March 7 2005

Zubair Desai
[email protected]

I am a South African Muslim who was on a flight to Sana'a, which happened to be my transit stop. I write this letter with great disappointment and concern. I still ask how could this really be happening to me in the country I heard so highly about? Is this the Yemen that was famous for its hospitality? Are these the people of Yemen that I read about – as gentle, polite, and hospitable – in the Yemenia in-flight magazine?

Here is what happened to me.

I was entitled to a one night complimentary accommodation in one of the hotels in your country for the transit night. My plane landed at 6:00 p.m., and the connecting plane was to depart at 9:40 a.m. the next morning. Being tired after the long journey, I realized that my horror had just begun. I was refused accommodation by security officers at the airport and was given no explanation.

I was handed a letter stating that I have being denied accommodation for the night, without being given the name of official I was talking to. I was bundled up like a prisoner and herded into a transit cell. I then realized that it was because of my looks that they did this action.

Has it now officially become a crime to wear Islamic apparel and grow a beard? 'Come on guys! Don't be ridiculous' I said. I was only in transit and going to be out of there tomorrow. Is this what Arab hospitality is all about? I am afraid that this has made me change my mind about Yemen, and unfortunately forces me to pursue this matter at the consular level.