4 .- Bus to Yemen. حافلة إلى اليمن

After a couple of days wandering around Salalah (Oman),we had already decided to leave this city and to progress to Yemen, so a wet morning, we went back to get into one of these buses, ready for a trip of  14 hours in the desert of Rub al-Khali ( Rub ‘al Khali الربع الخالي).
Soon we arrived at the Yemeni border where, after checking our passports and visas, let us to cross the border. We were of course the only foreigners, and to be honest, we worry a bit. The situation in the country was very unstable, with tribal wars and tensions that announced new problems in the south.
Just 20 years ago, Yemen was divided into two. South Yemen (the only Marxist-Leninist regime in the Arab world) and North Yemen. A civil war devastated the country, and now apart from the constant tribal warfare, war drums sounded. Although the situation we decided to go ahead. Actually I’m not sure why…The fact is that we did it….
Spending 15 hours in a Yemeni bus is an amazing spectacle. The mere fact of crossing the border is crucial. The desert is the same as in Oman, but the scene is beastly different. Everything here is very poor. The first thing that stands out: Thousands of colored plastic bags, everywhere, flying in the desert. Mud huts in the middle of this hell of heat, some almost naked  soldiers carrying ammunition, boots slung over his shoulder and always the ubiquitous assault rifle AK-47,  Soviet symbol of the guerrilla, revolutions, easy to use, extremely effective and cheap when the business interests of the war.
In this vast desert, there is no mobile coverage, even gas stations. A village where the bus makes a stop, with the intention that passengers stretch their legs a bit and go to the toilet. Fighting a brutal heat, 45 degrees in the shade and humidity of 10%, , dry air makes your nose burn. You can hardly breathe, is tremendous. Crappy place, very shabby. Some “wild” children running around us, crying, some men preparing food, and the few women hidden, plugged into their homes. I visit the toilet , which is as always in these places, in two side walls with no roof, a front wall with a “small window “…, and a good view from the empty horizon … as if there were green fields and cows Swiss … . and a door that just closed. A large hole in the ground filled to overflowing with excrement where even look is disgusting …. And there, you need  to go, you can not do anything outdoors. There is no alternative. Course adjacent to this cabin, a hut which they say is the kitchen, that is, where they prepare the food…. mixed smells and stuff.
Chicken and rice served in large trays for eating in community. 6 or 10 men and boys, barefooted, squatting around the huge tray, pinch hitting and grabbing handfuls chicken rice, with the help of unleavened bread in the form of enormous cakes The slowest is the most stupid and least eat … Nobody talks. Everyone eat, quitely and quickly. Not the time to share experiences. It’s time to be nurtured to continue surviving. Of course women have another separate room for women and children. Nobody sees them. There are covered by the “Niqab” (نقاب), the veil, in the case of Yemen, a mask that covers their face in the presence of men. Also known in other parts of the world as “Burka” (برقع burqa) or “Hijab” (حجاب hijab)

  My colleague and I took a walk around  the village despite the heat, to stretch your legs. A battered pick-up truck with two men inside, stopped in front of us. Bad loocking faced, unshaven, brown, with shirts open to the navel, a gold tooth and the other half of the teeth, mouth full of green grass of Qat and each carrying the bloody assault rifle and knife curved “jambiyas (جنبية) belt. Verbally identify themselves as police officers, and ask us for our passports.  After a while at 45 degrees, they gave up and reported to the next patrol our presence. It seems that since we arrived to Yemen, we are already under control  by the authorities. I do not know if this is good or bad ….
We return to the bus. The men accompanied by their families, wife or wives and children, always traveling away from other passengers in the first seat, and have priority. If necessary move all passengers a seat to another. Women of course fully covered. Only you can see sometimes the eyes. 45 degrees, 15 hours without moving in the  bus,  just two or three layers of clothing … and all black. The truth is that it is terrible. The men were escorted out with enough zeal like cattle, and always looking askance if you’re watching them. For us, despite having been several times, it is very confusing. One does not get used to this anachronistic situation and close to slavery, in our Western view. But we are in the lands of Islam (دار الإسلام, Dar al-Islam) and  there will be to respect the traditions. We are visiting their country, and we are “Kafir” (كافر, kafir), it´s means “nonbelievers” ( nonbelieves in islam….of course!)