Hodeidah: A Historic and Tourist Destination [Archives:2001/27/Reportage]

July 2 2001

In his book ‘Al-Muqtataf’, the eminent historian Mr. Justice Abdullah bin Abdulkarim al-Jurafi, writes “Hodeidah is the biggest and greatest city of Tehama.” Sources indicate that Hodeidah was established in 700 Hijirah. Its name was derived from a lady named Hodeidah who had a cafe in a small village near the sea and where strangers and travelers used to rest and sleep.
Hodeidah’s importance derives from the strategic location the city enjoys on the Red Sea. It extends from al-Makha in the south northward to Midi and the other northern islands. Such a location combines the benefits of a fertile land and richness of marine life that covers about 60% of the local consumption. Large quantities of fruits such as banana, mango, watermelon, papaya, etc. are annually exported to European markets. In addition, there are more than 5 million palm trees in the Tehamah.
Attracted by such features, many different invaders occupied Hodeidah which was the passage to the whole Yemen. Thirty three fortresses that spread around the city and along its coasts. These are a live evidence of the many wars the city has passed through. Kamaran is the oldest among these fortresses. It dates back to the Persian invasion in 620. It contains a secret tunnel that looks like a well leading to Al-Qofl area. The biggest one is Job Al-Zeilaai in Al-Luheiah which dates back to the first Ottoman invasion. It consists of three floors, 14 rooms, a mosque, halls, dancing floors, a water tank, etc. The name is said to derive from the al-Zailaai tribe who were the first people to settle down in al-Luheiah.
Prosperity of Trade
It is believed that the city witnessed a prosperous commercial movement in the 10th century (Hijirah). Some historic sources mention that the Dutch established a commercial center in Al-Shehr, Al-Makha and Hodeidah. In 1986 a British journalist called John arrived in Hodeidah. He made efforts to promote the ship industry, exportation of coffee to Jeddah, Egypt, Europe and other destinations. James Brus, an English traveler highlighted the importance of Jeizan to export Yemeni coffee. He said that Hodeidah and al-Luheiah seaports were becoming more important for exporting coffee. Statistically, in 1886, Yemeni exports of coffee via Hodeidah seaport reached £2 million.
There was initially no seaport in its real sense. There used to be only a deck that the Turks built in 1881 in front of the Old Customs Authority. Only ruins of this building are still there which are in urgent need of renovation.
As mentioned before, the city of Hodeidah lies in the middle of the Tehamah plains. The city is divided into two parts. One is extended along the coast northward until the Midi island. This part is distinguished by the thick line of doums in addition to different kind of plants which make the whole area suitable as tourist resorts. The other part extends southward from Al-Dureihimi until Al-Khokhah and al-Makha. This part is featured by a line of more than 5 million palm trees. The harvest season is celebrated by the native people. But if exploited properly, revenues of this part may not exceed half of that of the first part. Studies and researches indicate that tourism in the city depends heavily on environment. The coral reefs in the Red Sea and forests such as Bora forest are the most important tourist attractions.
Djabal Bora Forest
Djabal Bora lies 50 km to the east of Hodeidah. This area is characterized by difficult relieves and high mountains upto 2200 m above sea level. There are many passages leading to this area, the easiest being through Bajel. After 20kms along the agricultural road, visitors stand face to face with high mountains constituting what is in geographical terms called Yemen Western Heights. Diversity of its climate helps grow diverse kinds of plants here. Djabal Bora Forest is one of the richest Yemeni regions in biodiversity. Down in the Wadi layers of basaltic and granite present magnificent scenery. Floods due to heavy rains and natural springs have added to the beauty of the area. Marvelous slopes have been created by continuous floods. Many local people as well as tourists flock to relax here. A granite column stands like a giant amid the forest surrounded by thick trees.
Tens of plant species and wild animals such as loins, tigers, wolves, reptiles, colorful butterflies, birds, baboons, etc., can be seen here. Many of these species have disappeared in other parts of Yemen.
As far as the coral reefs are concerned they are in need for promotion. According to studies by General Authority for Tourism, there is no oil pollution in the far away island coats. It is added that the region that stretches from Hodeidah to Midi is protected by the islands.
Diving areas are still very primitive. It extends along the al-kateeb area. There is a group of small boats which carry divers to an area called ‘Al-Shi’ab’ (the reefs) for 100 rials for locals and 500 rials for foreigners. Some people believe that this area was earlier part of the city, but was covered by sea.