Life in Yemen [Archives:2001/35/Focus]

August 27 2001

Faith Hamburg
I was offered the opportunity of a lifetime to live and experience the Middle-Eastern culture. Having lived in Yemen for the past year and a half, I have experienced many cultural changes. Despite of what you might hear in the news, Yemen is not as what it is depicted in the papers. Speaking for myself, not once have I been harassed or bothered; I get some stares now and then which makes me feel uncomfortable at times, but generally speaking, the Yemeni people are very friendly and extremely accommodating.
The unfortunate incident in the past may not have strengthened American-Yemeni relations, but hopefully this will be resolved and life will be back to normal again. Actually, most people do not realize that the crime rate in Yemen is lower than some of the large cities in America. What has happened in the past of course is not acceptable such as kidnappings, etc. This hurts the country’s reputation and to make things worse, the international media may even intensify the situation out of proportion. However, I feel that in order to have a booming economy in any society, a secure environment must be provided. This is the platform to prosperity along with investment and a healthy economy. If this were achieved, I will never hesitate to invest in the Yemen. Traffic violations, noisy honking, or breaking the law in any way must also be dealt with. It is very comforting to see that traffic and other authorities are beginning to enforce punishments on violators to make the streets safer. This will pave the way to encourage more foreign visitors to see this beautiful country.
I believe Tourism is paramount in a country such as Yemen and would strengthen the economy tremendously. Yemen’s moderate weather and wonderful scenery are excellent examples. Having gone to the Red Sea, I felt that the country has a lot to offer in terms of history and its varied landscapes. I can see that Yemen’s future is bright with the new discoveries of oil and the development of the existing oil fields. Fruits, vegetables, and coffee in Yemen are amazingly of superior quality. It is also important to mention that educated people, like natural resources, have a lot to offer to this country when given the chance. Especially in this age of technology and globalism where Yemen cannot be left behind while the world is experiencing amazing changes!
Life in Yemen is definitely different from which I have grown accustomed to. The changes have made me respect the culture and made me more aware of the religion. However, I find that many of the women overly dress compared to other Arab countries. I myself have chosen to wear a scarf to blend in. I have observed that Qat chewing may seem like a waste of time. I think that it can disrupt family and finances to the point where it is sometimes a shame to see children, with big potential, begging in the streets because some parents cannot provide an adequate growing environment for their children.
I am glad that I made the decision to travel with my husband (who happens to be a Yemeni) and be given the chance to learn Arabic. The experience in Yemen has made me appreciative the few simple things in life, such as hearing the birds singing in the early morning. Where else can you walk down the street and see a herd of sheep or goats that you would not normally see in the heart of a western city? It will always brings a smile to my face.