Body LanguageBus route gestures: Al-Hasabah Street [Archives:2006/1008/Culture]

December 18 2006
This hand gesture means Al-Hasabah Street.
This hand gesture means Al-Hasabah Street.
Driving a Yemeni bus and calling riders to get on is slightly problematic because buses have numerous routes, but often use the same departure point.

In order for riders to communicate with bus drivers, Yemenis created gestures and signs that easily refer to where buses are going. In the past, illiterate men dominated as bus drivers, so both drivers and riders needed a way to communicate with each other. Once citizens became more educated, the bus's direction was written on its front, as well as coloring certain routes red, yellow or green.

This week's issue will discuss the two types of hand gestures for Al-Hasabah Street, whose bus route is yellow. The first is used when going from Al-Hasabah Street to the new university and then to Hayel Street. Both the bus driver and the passenger move their forefinger forward (as if pointing to something ahead of them while wagging the finger downward). Bus driver Hussein Ahmed explains that this hand gesture means they're going immediately to Hayel Street, which other bus drivers also confirmed.

When traveling from the final point – Hadda (Al-Sakaniyya), Baghdad Street or Hayel Street – to Al-Hasabah, passengers use another gesture, which is making a fist while sticking out the thumb and pointing to one side (a sideways thumbs-up sign). “We move the thumb sideways to indicate that we're taking the opposite way now and then returning to the departure point,” says Hameed Al-Barari.

Many bus drivers and passengers used to use such hand motions, but they have no idea about their meaning.

“Though such gestures have begun to disappear, they're very important for us, especially at night because we can't see the bus sign so I try to make the hand motion to get the bus driver's attention,” says Fatima Mohammed.