Al-Sukhnah: The disease terminator [Archives:2006/950/Culture]

May 29 2006

Mazen Al-Saqqaf
Hodeidah Bureau

Despite advances in medical science and its rapid development in probing and curing a variety of diseases, traditional medicine's importance has remained high. Citizens have not abandoned the prescriptions of folk medical practitioners, nor have they stopped visiting natural spas, at which they find comfort and cure.

Al-Sukhnah spas and alternative medicine

Many head for this destination seeking a cure for their diseases, which in most cases, are chronic. This comes after having failed to find a cure at clinics or hospitals providing contemporary medical services. They usually hear about benefits received by patients frequenting therapeutic spas across the country, such as Al-Sukhnah in Hodeidah province, Damt in Al-Dhale' province and Ali spas in Dhamar province.

Al-Sukhnah spas' reputation drew us to visit to learn more about its ancient history and its healing properties.

Enjoyment and cure

Al-Sukhnah is an area lying west of Bara' Mountains, 75 km. from Hodeidah city on the eastern side. It has been famed for its natural spas, historical attractions, picturesque environment and simple people. Traveling toward it, one becomes joyous at seeing the rows of trees alongside the 15-km. road from Al-Mansoura area. They seem as though they have prepared themselves to receive visitors from around the nation and make them happy.

An old military base

Approaching Al-Sukhnah, one's sight is attracted toward a castle erected in the foreground, welcoming visitors with dignity and pride and protecting the area from any dangers. It dates back to the era of Imam Ahmed bin Yahya Hamid Al-Din, who ordered it built in 1952 as a military base to reinforce local security and calmness.

Reaching the castle is difficult due to the ruggedness of the path leading to it. Small openings pierce the castle walls for surveillance. Below the castle is a water tank and ditch used to contain rainwater and provide water for locals.

Imam's palace a healing house

Imam Ahmed frequently visited Al-Sukhnah in winter for bathing and recreational purposes, staying in the palace he ordered built as a housing campus. Consisting of two floors, it has several annexes for reception, housing, offices and barracks.

The palace has three main gates and Al-Sukhnah spas lie below the palace. The spas pour into three basins within the palace area and three outside – three for men and three for women. This triple division is due to differences in water temperatures: one reaches 30 degrees Celsius, the second reaches 40 degrees Celsius, while the third reaches as high as 57 degrees Celsius. Temperatures remain stable throughout the year.

Individuals visit the spas to cure illnesses like rheumatism, skin diseases, etc. Therefore, Al-Sukhnah became a tourist and historical area and the Imam's palace was turned into a healing house. Simple old-style dwellings can be found near the spas and are used as hotels for cure-seekers.

Legendary healing capacity

Many citizens suffering various diseases hear about Al-Sukhnah spas' magical capacity to cure illnesses, so they cherish hope and head there.

One such patient was 55-year-old No'man Mansour Al-Ward, who suffered a clot blocking blood in his left hand and leg, thereby paralyzing them. He also suffered a neurological disorder that made his head and lower jaw involuntarily and continuously move. This condition had continued for five years, wherein he visited various hospitals seeking a cure, which seemed nearly impossible to him.

Hearing about Al-Sukhnah and its healing properties, Al-Ward decided to visit, whereupon he was received by an individual providing massage and medical services. After two weeks of massage and bathing, his jaw stopped trembling and his body became almost normal. He now uses a stick to walk easily, whereas he never could walk before.

Another individual is 65-year-old Haj Fayiz Abdul-Khaleq Al-Shar'abi, who suffered 12 years with gout (as physicians told him during his treatment), which is a swelling at the knees and extending to the feet. As he grew older, the illness intensified. He consulted many hospitals and found nothing but painkillers, whose effects suddenly disappear.

According to his relatives' advice, Al-Shar'abi planned to visit Al-Sukhnah, although he had visited spas in other areas. Following regular one-week bathings in Al-Sukhnah spas, he felt relieved, the swelling shrank and his legs became nearly painless.

Haj Ahmed Al-Dhamari experienced the same interesting cure trip. His son Abdullah took him to many hospitals in the country and consulted several physicians about his half-paralysis. Finding no improvement, he accompanied his father to Egypt, where he was told that Al-Dhamari's cure was in natural spas.

They then returned to Yemen and went to Al-Sukhnah, hoping Al-Dhamari would be cured. In half a month's time, his condition improved and he was getting better day by day. He could move, talk and walk on his feet, which he previously could not.

Local massager and medic Ahmed Ali, 30, said Al-Sukhnah has a legendary healing capacity characterized by the presence of highly salty sulfur water, which is used to treat the most complicated diseases. He described the medical method he uses with each case.

“I learned it from my ancestors who were like me,” he said, “They passed this profession from one generation to another. In the past, there were no medical references to consult in treating cases, so they depended totally on their experience.”

Despite its limited resources, Al-Sukhnah has become a center of interest for patients who resort to it and find what they cannot find in modern medical facilities – it restores their smiles and laughter from the mouth of illness. With God's will, it recovers hope for the hopeless.