Tips to promote tourism in Yemen [Archives:2004/793/Letters to the Editor]

November 25 2004

A. Scholze
[email protected]

I have been to Yemen for two months now for studying Arabic in Sana'a. Every single weekend I have traveled around and I can only agree with all those articles in divers newspapers that Yemen is an amazing country that has lots to offer to tourists.
There are certainly plenty of measurements that could be undertaken to increase tourism which cannot be influenced by the average Yemeni. However, there are also things that can be done by everyone to make visitors enjoy Yemen even more.
One point is definitely the cleanliness of towns and villages. While Sana'a is one of the cleanest towns on earth, there are lots of appalling examples of really filthy places. According to what I read, cleanliness is considered an Islamic duty. So how is it possible that places like Manakha (just to name one) are covered with thrown away plastic bags and bottles? How can people live in such a dirt? Sure, I have not seen a single thrash can but I do not consider that as an excuse to simply throw garbage on the street. If it wasn't for the beautiful surroundings, I would discourage any tourist from visiting these dirty places. It is not that difficult to keep a neighborhood clean – and every single Yemeni can easily contribute to that.
Another point is education of kids. I am sure that most parents teach their children manners . However, there are too kids many who seem to go crazy without their parents watching over them. So far it happened to me three times that kids threw stones at me. I can only assume that the reason was my refusal to give them money. When I started to explain my problems to the tourist police, they immediately asked me if somebody threw stones at me. So it seems that this problem is rather common.
Furthermore, these days plastic guns are sold all over. I did not even know that those actually function until I felt this sharp pain on my leg. Meanwhile almost daily. Even when other adults watched the scene, I have never experienced their disapproval. On the contrary, I was explained that those are kids happily playing. I am very sorry, I don't share this view. I got hurt and no matter if it is stones or plastic gun ammunition, it may be quite dangerous if one gets hit in the face for example.
Although I have been traveling in about 30 countries in Europe, Asia and Africa, things like that have never ever happened to me. So how come, foreigners are treated this way in Yemen? How come parents do not punish their kids for such behavior? Why don't other adults stop those kids from shooting with ammunition? How come that Yemeni kids even get the idea that throwing stones or shooting people is somehow acceptable behavior? Also this is some issue every single Yemeni can influence.
I am very sorry to say that the dirt of some places but especially the behavior of those Yemeni kids affect my enjoyment of traveling in Yemen considerably. And both are completely unnecessary. Yemen is such a beautiful country that certainly deserves lots of visitors. So I hope that more and more Yemenis become aware of those problems and stand up to solve them, insha'allah.