Trip Report
Mainland Yemen (aka I didn't get kidnapped)
Thursday January 2, 2014 2:31am
So I am still in Yemen for another 24 hrs, typing this up before my engs classes start up again back in NH. Bear with me for any spelling/grammar issues. And here is the promised TR, enjoy!!!

Sunrise from our roof while listening to the (really loud) prayer call
Sunrise from our roof while listening to the (really loud) prayer call
Credit: chick_on_ice

mountains upon mountains
mountains upon mountains
Credit: chick_on_ice

**DISCLAIMER/A REQUEST:
Please, please, please keep the comments on this TR (if you choose to leave one) respectful and AWAY from political comments about Islam, the pros/cons of anti-terror antics, and everything of this sort. I will gladly answer questions about the topics, but let's NOT make this post a forum for hatred, bigotry and one-upmanship. The Yemeni people are very, very different from the Yemeni military that is USA-supported and is definitely a bit scary. I was greeted by the Yemeni people with friendship and the utmost respect and hospitality. Please show the same in how you choose to respond to this post. **

Qat, the country-wide drug of choice. Most Yemeni spend $15-20/day on ...
Qat, the country-wide drug of choice. Most Yemeni spend $15-20/day on this plant to chew in their cheek for hours. A lot of the time taking money away from the rest of the family that could be used for food and education.
Credit: chick_on_ice

My friend T let me play with his collection of guns. Here's an old one from the 1800s.

Playing with old guns in the gorgeous house
Playing with old guns in the gorgeous house
Credit: chick_on_ice

There was not much roped climbing on this trip. It's hard to explain to the Yemeni why the white girl isn't covered up and veiled, and trying to wear a harness with a skirt on is difficult. So I settled for lots of 4th/low 5th scrambling around.

Khaled shows me how the climbing gets done around here
Khaled shows me how the climbing gets done around here
Credit: chick_on_ice

So you may be asking where all that climbing Mike L. and others have done in Yemen. Where they climbed is primarily not in mainland Yemen. They were climbing on an isolated island called Socotra that is several hundred miles from the mainland and is unaffected by the political situation. It's more remote than Kalymnos, but if you want to go there, it's just a plane ticket and an interpreter away. You can visit here without wearing a veil or worrying about the 'Death to America' graffiti or getting kidnapped. Seriously. Go if you want. It's safe.

'Death to America' graffiti everywhere. Don't take it as 'death to Ame...
'Death to America' graffiti everywhere. Don't take it as 'death to Americans'. They're against US foreign policy and NOT against US citizens.
Credit: chick_on_ice

I decided to focus my trip on the parts of Yemen that I can't go to alone since I had a friend from college that graciously took me under his wing (I can always find time to go to Socotra by myself for a leisure vacation). So I took advantage of his knowledge as we snuck past military checkpoints around the capital city Sana'a and got up to general mischief together.

The house front window was shot a few weeks before we got there
The house front window was shot a few weeks before we got there
Credit: chick_on_ice


T is fluent in Arabic. So fluent that if it wasn't for his whiteness and blondeness, no-one would be able to tell he wasn't native Yemeni. When we would sneak through checkpoints together he would tie a Yemeni scarf over his blonde head and pretend to be Syrian (very effectively with his non-existent accent). I would wear a full veil niqab, and because men are not allowed to speak or stare at a women (it's haram and indecent), I just had to sit and not say a word as the military guys with AK's would search our vehicle and wave us on. We were the perfect disguise.

I'm on the right in my niqab veil disguise.
I'm on the right in my niqab veil disguise.
Credit: chick_on_ice

It is extremely against the Muslim religion to stare at women or to touch them if they don't want to be touched (such as in public), so I felt very comfortable walking around the city in my veil. More safe I would say than walking the streets of New York.

Checking out the view and keeping a watchful eye on the military bases
Checking out the view and keeping a watchful eye on the military bases
Credit: chick_on_ice

We scrambled up this odd formation in about 45 minutes.
We scrambled up this odd formation in about 45 minutes.
Credit: chick_on_ice

picture-taking was not our priority, so I apologize for how half-hazar...
picture-taking was not our priority, so I apologize for how half-hazard most of these look and the lack of photos
Credit: chick_on_ice

Typical Yemeni dress.
Typical Yemeni dress.
Credit: chick_on_ice

I sneaked this photo of a 50 cal. on one of our 'excursions' outside t...
I sneaked this photo of a 50 cal. on one of our 'excursions' outside the city
Credit: chick_on_ice

Lots of American cars that were in natural disasters (Katrina, Sandy, etc...), that can no longer be sold in the US for safety/environmental reasons, are sold to the highest bidder for sky-high prices in Yemen.

I couldn't not sneak this photo at a routine checkpoint. Notice the Ca...
I couldn't not sneak this photo at a routine checkpoint. Notice the California plates.
Credit: chick_on_ice

It's haram (against Islam) to take photos of women, but not te...
It's haram (against Islam) to take photos of women, but not technically illegal. Most didn't mind when I asked.
Credit: chick_on_ice

So time for a lesson on Yemen. It is NOT governed by sharia law, which means in the words of T "you could walk down that street right there in a bikini drinking alcohol and eating pig, and they would not arrest you, but you would probably feel uncomfortable. Plus you might get kidnapped."

a local boy in one of the winding alleyways
a local boy in one of the winding alleyways
Credit: chick_on_ice

So about this kidnapping business. Lots of T's white friends have been kidnapped, but honestly, if you are going to be kidnapped anywhere, you'd want it to happen in Yemen. You're fed well, they provide you with alcohol, entertainment, your own space. You're a guest in their house....you just can't leave their supervision. Most of the people that are kidnapped are bigshot ambassadors, embassy people, etc... so I was in no threat of being snatched. Governments pay the ransoms and NOT the families. I'm a nobody. No one wants to kidnap a young white girl with no political affiliation, so I was relatively safe-ish. Sort of. We were still on guard all the time and grew eyes in the back of our heads.

typical newspaper clipping. Apparently it wasn't even a kidnapping att...
typical newspaper clipping. Apparently it wasn't even a kidnapping attempt; they just wanted his super decked out car.
Credit: chick_on_ice

Sana'a the capital city by moonlight.
Sana'a the capital city by moonlight.
Credit: chick_on_ice

There was lots and lots of buildering that we did around the capital city. Mostly by night. I mastered climbing in an abaya (the black fully-covering dress).

On the rooftops of Sana'a
On the rooftops of Sana'a
Credit: chick_on_ice

The old city of Sana'a is one of if not THE oldest still lived-in city in the world. Its dated to 7000-8000 BC and is a gorgeous arrangement of gingerbread-like houses.

More pictures of the city by night because it's so gorgeous.
More pictures of the city by night because it's so gorgeous.
Credit: chick_on_ice

Antiques are prevalent in the city, especially if you know where to look. I saw Phoenician beads being sold that go for $2000-3000/each at one shop.
Lots and lots of old guns. The antiques in some of these stores are UN...
Lots and lots of old guns. The antiques in some of these stores are UNREAL.
Credit: chick_on_ice

The street graffiti here is heartbreaking
The street graffiti here is heartbreaking
Credit: chick_on_ice

Underneath the modest black veils, Yemeni women wear very skimpy cloth...
Underneath the modest black veils, Yemeni women wear very skimpy clothing. The women-only weddings are ridiculous and huge affairs
Credit: chick_on_ice

The capital city is up at 2,500 meters, and the mountains around are quite impressive.

Mountain sunrise outside the city when we went to trap falcons (wi...
Mountain sunrise outside the city when we went to trap falcons (with the hamsters we purchased at the exotic animal market)
Credit: chick_on_ice

My friend T walking along the crumbling city walls
My friend T walking along the crumbling city walls
Credit: chick_on_ice

You have to have a 'looser' definition of climbing when you're out here. It's not all bolts or cracks and ropes and anchors. There's a lot more 'natural' climbing up buildings, jumping on rooftops, evaluating the sketchiness of landings, making sure you don't fall through 7 stories of 5000 year old rubble. Having some climbing skills definitely came in handy.

T showing me around the abandoned city rooftops
T showing me around the abandoned city rooftops
Credit: chick_on_ice

T evaluating the crumbly rock bridges
T evaluating the crumbly rock bridges
Credit: chick_on_ice

the rock monkey
the rock monkey
Credit: chick_on_ice

The rock formations around here are unreal. Any geologists around here? The rock is definitely volcanic with lots of quartz veins, and has the consistency of sandstone, but that's about all I can say about it.

Touring the canyons
Touring the canyons
Credit: chick_on_ice

The abandoned city we ran all over
The abandoned city we ran all over
Credit: chick_on_ice

View of the city from the side with T in the driver's seat
View of the city from the side with T in the driver's seat
Credit: chick_on_ice

I saw maybe 8 other white people the entire time I was in Yemen. People are really curious, and very friendly. Let me make this really clear: the Yemeni people have NOTHING against the American people. They just don't like our government or foreign policy that flies drones around their country and kills wedding convoys. Everywhere I went I was met with greater hospitality than anyone has ever shown me in America. In Yemen, sticking together as a community and as a family unit is paramount to anything. No matter how much you screw up, your family will always help you.

Tank stationed at a checkpoint
Tank stationed at a checkpoint
Credit: chick_on_ice

T fingerboard training Yemeni-style
T fingerboard training Yemeni-style
Credit: chick_on_ice

Highest gun per capita (after the United States of course). Th...
Highest gun per capita (after the United States of course). This is our house guard's son running around with an unloaded Russian navy gun
Credit: chick_on_ice

The Fixer. What would I have done without him?
The Fixer. What would I have done without him?
Credit: chick_on_ice

We had a lot of animal encounters, because of course T has all the connections with every zoo, keeper, wild animal in town.

A Yemeni baby chameleon
A Yemeni baby chameleon
Credit: chick_on_ice

aaaand I get to play with lion cubs that are still teething, so you ca...
aaaand I get to play with lion cubs that are still teething, so you can stick your fingers in their mouth and they can't bite you.
Credit: chick_on_ice

We were allowed to name these two guys, so supertopo meet 'koolaid' an...
We were allowed to name these two guys, so supertopo meet 'koolaid' and 'BAMF'
Credit: chick_on_ice

More baby cat photos because the easiest way to woo me is to hand me a...
More baby cat photos because the easiest way to woo me is to hand me a lion cub for the day.
Credit: chick_on_ice

Below is pictured the rock crag that is about 10 min. driving outside the city. To get here we drove through some military checkpoint and then hiked through a local town, where T was stopped by an angry off-duty military guy who started yelling at us. I meekly stood to the side (as always) and said nothing.

T grew up here, so he knows everyone and has all the key people on speed dial. He called up someone high up, who then yelled at the army guy yelling at us over the phone (he turned out to be his uncle. Like I said, family connections are everything around here). The army dude left us alone with a stern warning not to set anything on fire.

T in front of the crag!!!!
T in front of the crag!!!!
Credit: chick_on_ice

There were 6 easy routes at this location that are bolted with anchors at the top.

More cliffs (and military bases on the peaks)
More cliffs (and military bases on the peaks)
Credit: chick_on_ice

Hiking around the mountains here you have to be very careful. There are military bases on a lot of the peaks, and snipers patrol the ridgelines for anyone that's not supposed to be there. The concept of 'hiking around' is pretty foreign to the Yemeni.

The wild chameleon that T spotted and decided to fetch for me.
The wild chameleon that T spotted and decided to fetch for me.
Credit: chick_on_ice


We managed to sneak out about 3 hrs out of the city to a wadi canyon full of greenery, monkeys and running water. T spotted a chameleon and after seeing my pleading puppy-dog eyes, he went to capture it for me. (Don't worry, chameleons are not endangered in Yemen, and we let it go in the end)

T being an expert chameleon-wrangler
T being an expert chameleon-wrangler
Credit: chick_on_ice

A slightly pissed-off wild Yemeni chameleon
A slightly pissed-off wild Yemeni chameleon
Credit: chick_on_ice

Pure happiness
Pure happiness
Credit: chick_on_ice

We go on a Yemeni picnic and enjoy a valley to ourselves.
We go on a Yemeni picnic and enjoy a valley to ourselves.
Credit: chick_on_ice

Yemen is a beautiful country full of bizarre flora and fauna.

Some blue-headed lizard thing that was everywhere tanning on the rocks...
Some blue-headed lizard thing that was everywhere tanning on the rocks.
Credit: chick_on_ice

Weird looking blood-sucking plant
Weird looking blood-sucking plant
Credit: chick_on_ice

Walking in water. A simple pleasure in Yemen
Walking in water. A simple pleasure in Yemen
Credit: chick_on_ice

Yes I found wearing the veil cumbersome, but honestly, I would rather wear it while I was there because otherwise you get stared at. No-one would arrest me, but it's a respectful thing to do and helps you blend in.

A typical Yemeni picnic with great friends.
A typical Yemeni picnic with great friends.
Credit: chick_on_ice

Scrambling and playing around like a child on the spires.
Scrambling and playing around like a child on the spires.
Credit: chick_on_ice

Crumbly rocky spires
Crumbly rocky spires
Credit: chick_on_ice

Climbing in a skirt got old pretty quick.
Climbing in a skirt got old pretty quick.
Credit: chick_on_ice

We walked to some hot springs in the mountains.

Marvelous greenery in the wadi
Marvelous greenery in the wadi
Credit: chick_on_ice

T showing off his 'run and jump' tactics of getting over the hot water...
T showing off his 'run and jump' tactics of getting over the hot water streams
Credit: chick_on_ice

A farmer on his land guarding his flock of goats with his AK
A farmer on his land guarding his flock of goats with his AK
Credit: chick_on_ice

aaaannnnd back to humorous antics when T steals a birds nest from a farmer's tree and the shepherd girl yells and chases him away.

T steals a bird nest and licks bird spit. Am I supposed to be impresse...
T steals a bird nest and licks bird spit. Am I supposed to be impressed?
Credit: chick_on_ice

Big tall walls that are remarkably not crumbly. Great potential for de...
Big tall walls that are remarkably not crumbly. Great potential for development here. No cracks or natural pro that I scouted unfortunately, but there's multipitch potential.
Credit: chick_on_ice

Here are some more scrambling photos from other parts of Yemen.

More scrambling around
More scrambling around
Credit: chick_on_ice

Notice the scarf that I kept on my person in case we accidentally ran ...
Notice the scarf that I kept on my person in case we accidentally ran into someone, so I could quickly do a makeshift coverup.
Credit: chick_on_ice

Overall it was an amazing, beautiful place. The people smile, live their lives, love, have arranged marriages and their life goes on. The unfortunate situation with the Yemeni military and the US terrorism antics is sad and pretty disgusting, but I came to Yemen to visit T and to see the country and not to judge.

More than for anything on this trip, I'm thankful T and I met in the states and that his family opened their doors to me for the past several weeks. I wish everyone had a friend as caring and vigilant and humble as T.

Sunsets are beautiful here with all the minarets spread throughout the...
Sunsets are beautiful here with all the minarets spread throughout the city
Credit: chick_on_ice

REMEMBER: please no derogatory or instigating comments. You know what is appropriate. Don't make this a forum for your grievances please. I'm too tired for that sh#t right now.

EDIT: I forgot to mention that my parents have no idea I was in Yemen (they thought I was in Italy for 4 weeks, which was true for about 4 days at the very beginning when I was in Vicenza with T, so I wasn't technically lying), so if any of my friends on Supertopo (you know who you are) runs into my parents, please don't mention this Yemen trip to them until I figure out how to break the news. Ok, thanks!

EDIT: And almost forgot all of the wonderful one-liner, politically completely incorrect quotes I heard throughout the trip. Here are a couple gems (warning: they are not for everyone. People operate here without any political corrective bullsh#t. Maybe that's why friendship/family bonds are so strong here, because people tell you how it is without sugarcoating. Anyway, if you're going to be offended, I've warned you.)

"Yo, don't point or you'll get sniped"

"They said you were beautiful, I told them you were my wife"

"...and then my crazy f*#kin' friend walks in with two grenades and yells 'if you motherf*#kers don't get out of my f*#king house right now, we're all meeting Allah."

---'If we get kidnapped in Rema, we won't make our flights'
---'no f*#king sh#t sherlock. No-one is getting kidnapped on my watch.'

"Walk faster, we're not paying for these sh#t tennis courts and the Yemeni guards are chasing us."

---'In Yemen we give kids money,'
---'no, no, no, it's usually candy'
---'ya, anyway, and they they fight. It's a Yemeni fight club.'

---'Why are we going the back way?'--me
---'because there was gunfire at the front'

---'These aren't blanks, doesn't the bullet come down?' -me
---'Yeah, hopefully we don't kill anyone on the other side of the bush'

"That was either thousands of dollars of fireworks, or a f*#k ton of people just got killed"

"It all started when the oranges fell off, and then the Somalis started fighting"

Here's another chameleon T just caught in the yard two hours ago before we get on our flights out of Sana'a:

A wild chameleon trying to blend in with my arm.
A wild chameleon trying to blend in with my arm.
Credit: chick_on_ice

  Trip Report Views: 3,553
chick_on_ice
About the Author
chick_on_ice is a trad climber from too many places to name.

Comments
Did you like this Trip Report? Got something to say? Don't hold back...
Comment on this Trip Report
Brandon-

climber
The Granite State.
  Jan 2, 2014 - 03:46am PT
That was a great TR on a place I know nothing about. Thanks for taking the time to put that together!

And, you're in NH? So am I, let's go climbing once the snow melts!
The Call Of K2 Lou

Mountain climber
North Shore, BC
  Jan 2, 2014 - 04:00am PT
Thanks for posting. Very cool!

Does qat help when going for the redpoint, I wonder? ;)
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  Jan 2, 2014 - 04:50am PT
This is a high standard for TRs for the new year.

I applaud your request for no distracting contention.

Having to climb in a long garment is simply a refinement of the challenge of climbing and I like how you dealt.

A very high standard of photography, IMO, as well

Thanks for the extensive tour, I'll bet there is more you could say...
nopantsben

climber
  Jan 2, 2014 - 04:54am PT
very cool TR, thanks!! I just was in Oman to climb, which is also a wonderful place, and really mellow.
perswig

climber
  Jan 2, 2014 - 06:18am PT
What a TR!
Beautiful photos, esp those cityscapes at night.
Many thanks for putting that together.


Oh, if you're the one holding the spent round, stop biting your fingernails.
Dale
chick_on_ice

Trad climber
Author's Reply  Jan 2, 2014 - 06:35am PT
Thanks for the kind words everyone! I'm still new to TR's and wasn't sure if this form of 'entire trip' report was appropriate (instead of just highlighting the days we climbed around), but I thought there might be interest in case anyone wanted beta on getting around the country itself.
TwistedCrank

climber
Released into general population, Idaho
  Jan 2, 2014 - 08:03am PT
More, please.
Sketch

Trad climber
Not FortMental
  Jan 2, 2014 - 09:17am PT
Looks like an amazing trip. Thanks for putting together this excellent TR.
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Jan 2, 2014 - 10:29am PT
Thank you for the great TR! I've travelled extensively and have found that the people in a country are almost always better than their government. I'm thinking of a trip to the large island off the coast of Yemen.
locker

climber
STFU n00b!!!
  Jan 2, 2014 - 10:31am PT


This was a very interesting read...

and glad you had a GOOD time!!!...

;-)
climbski2

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
  Jan 2, 2014 - 10:42am PT
Very cool adventure. It seems so valuable to have these kind of things to read and see about a place where all we get is the bad news over here.

Fascinating.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
Maestro, Ecosystem Ministry, Fatcrackistan
  Jan 2, 2014 - 10:44am PT
Beautiful!

DMT
Roxy

Trad climber
CA Central Coast
  Jan 2, 2014 - 11:00am PT
awesome TR, great write up, great pictures!

and scrambling in a skirt...

very GNAR!!
tioga

Mountain climber
pac northwest
  Jan 2, 2014 - 12:20pm PT
I believe you can wear pants under a skirt just fine under sharia law--this is considered hijab--and many do just that. Helps with modest climbing.
rincon

Trad climber
Coarsegold
  Jan 2, 2014 - 11:06am PT
Thanks for sharing your trip with us. The lion cubs are adorable...lucky you to get to play with them!
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Jan 2, 2014 - 11:18am PT
Natalie, awesome TR! I almost believed you were in Yemen. Those CA plates give away your true destination! :) Seriously though, hope you get out here for a bit in near future!
MikeL

Social climber
Seattle, WA
  Jan 2, 2014 - 11:26am PT
One of the most interesting TRs posted. Thanks for making the time and effort. A buddy of mine in Afghanistan has been sending me some climbing pictures there, amid combat environments. Usually, combat and climbing as we know it are not put together.

For all the supposed friendliness and kindness among the people in your TR, you spoke a great deal about some not-so-friendly practices and events in-country. It's difficult to resolve the comments sometimes. It must be a complex place.

People everywhere are good.
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
  Jan 2, 2014 - 12:00pm PT
Nicely done! But you've really ruined it for the I-told-you-so crowd.

Is 'T' related to Alexander Godunov?
stevep

Boulder climber
Salt Lake, UT
  Jan 2, 2014 - 12:05pm PT
Very cool. If not for the security risk issues, would certainly be high on my list of places to visit.
Years ago I had a Yemeni programmer that worked for me. He had many cool photos and antiques.
Bruce Kay

Gym climber
BC
  Jan 2, 2014 - 12:10pm PT
Thanks for that! Best 2014 TR so far and it may win out a year from now!

Were you actually climbing in a burka? Somebody mentioned that possibility. In Morrocco I tried working / climbing in a Jellabah and eventually I had to whip out the knife and shorten it a bit.... much to the horror of my berber co workers!
mooser

Trad climber
seattle
  Jan 2, 2014 - 12:13pm PT
Unique and engaging TR! Thank you for bringing us along. As you experienced, the people in lands we hear so much about (through "news" sources) so often surprise when we're on-site. I've found that in (almost) every country I've ever visited.

Looking forward to your next TR!
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Jan 2, 2014 - 12:21pm PT
Great TR!
As a guy who lived in the Middle East for four years (A long time ago)
I always appreciate it when someone speaks about the places and people over there with a positive twist.
Thanks.
tioga

Mountain climber
pac northwest
  Jan 2, 2014 - 12:22pm PT
I like the balcony pictures over the city, amazing light..
jahil

Social climber
London, Paris, WV & CA
  Jan 2, 2014 - 12:27pm PT
This is rad. I'm putting it on the list of places to go to. You rock. Best thing posted on Supertopo ever. السلام عليكم
John M

climber
  Jan 2, 2014 - 01:28pm PT
Thanks for the kind words everyone! I'm still new to TR's and wasn't sure if this form of 'entire trip' report was appropriate (instead of just highlighting the days we climbed around), but I thought there might be interest in case anyone wanted beta on getting around the country itself.

I like all the additions. The color is part of the trip and makes life more interesting. Thanks for taking us along.
Guernica

climber
dark places
  Jan 2, 2014 - 01:34pm PT
Awesome! Being a bit of an amateur herpetologist, the first thing I thought of when I saw the word "Yemen" was all the chameleons native to there. Thanks for the great shots, especially of the chams! Probably my favorite lizards.
Tami

Social climber
Canada
  Jan 2, 2014 - 01:39pm PT

Thanks for this most exemplary trip report.

I remember well the thread when you asked about traveling in Yemen. Sounds like traveling with T kept you safe; so very nice to have friends in the right places.

That was definitely the trip of a lifetime; the one you'll tell the grandkids about in decades to come.

Now my daughter wants an introduction to T :-D hahaha ( she's about your age......... )

Good luck in tellin' the 'rents about your trip. I suggest you do it in 10 years from now. :-D

HighTraverse

Trad climber
Bay Area
  Jan 2, 2014 - 02:15pm PT
Wonderful, excellent TR!
In my limited travel in the Arab/Muslim world, (knot including Yemen) having a friend with local knowledge makes all the difference.
I'm wondering if Yemen wouldn't be a much less safe place without T.
And THANKS.

(way knot too many pics!)

I'll bet a chick on ice felt like a duck outta water in Yemen!
Charlie D.

Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra
  Jan 2, 2014 - 01:46pm PT
Thanks for taking the time to post, awesome on many levels!!!
roy

Social climber
NZ -> SB,CA -> Zurich
  Jan 2, 2014 - 01:51pm PT
This is a great TR. The non climbing parts are definitely of high interest. Thanks, Roy
gf

climber
  Jan 2, 2014 - 01:55pm PT
Superb TR
Jaybro

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Jan 2, 2014 - 02:05pm PT
Fascinating! What a cool report of a different sort of trip!
David D.

Trad climber
California
  Jan 2, 2014 - 02:09pm PT
Awesome TR. I was an Arabic translator in the Air Force and fell in love with the Middle East. Yemen is high on my list of places to travel.
ncrockclimber

climber
The Desert Oven
  Jan 2, 2014 - 02:12pm PT
What a great TR! Thank you very much for sharing your trip with us!
Jebus H Bomz

climber
Peavine Basecamp
  Jan 2, 2014 - 02:13pm PT
Way to live life!
speelyei

Trad climber
Mohave County Arizona
  Jan 2, 2014 - 02:19pm PT
One of the best trip reports, ever.
pplachta

Trad climber
san jose, ca
  Jan 3, 2014 - 03:02am PT
Wonderful post and writing about a rare part of the world.

I wouldn't brave going there & I'm a 6 ft 2 (white) male! What made you go ?
froodish

Social climber
Portland, Oregon
  Jan 3, 2014 - 03:09am PT
Most excellent trip report. Thanks, and goodonya for getting after it!
RyanD

climber
Squamish
  Jan 3, 2014 - 03:42am PT
Never seen anything like this before here. Very cool, thanks!
Spider Savage

Mountain climber
The shaggy fringe of Los Angeles
  Jan 3, 2014 - 08:02am PT
What fun. My niece and her girlfriend, while on a visit to Spain, drifted into Morroco, met some young men and wound up on a camel trip into the back country, much to the horror of her parents. It all worked out fine.

Hopefully trips like yours will blossom into a bigger tourism thing and the people there enjoy the prosperity as a result.
BBA

climber
OF
  Jan 3, 2014 - 09:50am PT
Should be called an adventure report - it was more than a trip. Reminds me of Richard Halliburton's visit to arab lands long ago.
chick_on_ice

Trad climber
Author's Reply  Jan 5, 2014 - 09:45am PT
what made you go?
Storytime Supertopo:
I met T in the dining hall of my college for the first time about 4 weeks before we set off for Yemen together. I was remarking to a friend that he looked like the quintessential dirtbag (that hair gave him away). T overheard, didn't take offense, and instead told me about his home country, ending his story half-jokingly with 'want to come with me?' I told him not to joke around with me and making offers like that, because I will take him up on it. So long story short, T was going back for a visit home and I thought that I wouldn't have another chance to go and see Yemen with a local for a long time. Got the visa ten days before I was supposed to leave and bought my plane tickets 5 days pre-departure. I'm a total penny-pincher unless it comes to travel, experiences and essential gear. Going to Yemen was a no-brainer in my mind. Danger is always relative. It's all about mitigating risks. I grew up in a village near Chechnya, so I knew how to keep my head low. And I'm writing this from the plane on my way back to the states (yay for free wifi on Turkish airlines). Hopefully TSA back on the eastern seaboard doesn't give me too much trouble :)
justthemaid

climber
Jim Henson's Basement
  Jan 3, 2014 - 10:08am PT
Well, it's an amazing TR. I'm happy you posted. Great photos. Yemen is an incredible country. I've always been fascinated just from a geological and ancient historical standpoint. For years I had a remarkable eerie photo of the Yemeni coastline pinned on my wall that I'd clipped out of some ancient National Graphic . The island seems amazing. Sounds like it's on Donini's bucket list now. I look forward to that follow up TR ;)

That being said.. my first impression was similar to MikeL's. This is not a negative comment on the situation over there or the culture at all... just an observation about your report. For all the comments about it being "safe"... your TR was quite heavy on comments regarding your utter reliance on a friend with connections who feared having his photo taken. You also describe a lot of sneaking with disguises and a variety of other slightly sketchy situations. You admit you had to lie to your parents about where you were going. People may disagree with you on what constitutes "safe" and you'll likely have to defend your opinion. Again.. just an observation. Nothing wrong with keeping it real girl.

To end on a positive note...

Yup...There are always good people everywhere.

You had the adventure of a lifetime. Good for you.

Edit to add: come to think of it.. I totally would have lied to my parents too.. mine freaked out when I went to Thailand. :)
chick_on_ice

Trad climber
Author's Reply  Jan 5, 2014 - 09:47am PT
Haha yeah. I'm in NO WAY advocating that other people go to mainland Yemen right now. You will probably get kidnapped. Go to Socotra all you want, but not Sana'a. Disguises were more precautions, and being fully-veiled helps with that, and is respectful of the local people's culture. Good points for sure. Oh and lying to my parents was not because they wouldn't let me go. I'm a grownup, so they would never prohibit me from going somewhere or doing something. They would just be worried out of their minds. I'll tell them all about it the next time I talk to them. They're crazy like me, so they'll understand.
kaholatingtong

Trad climber
Nevada City
  Jan 3, 2014 - 10:20am PT
cheers, thanks for sharing this adventure of yours.
Prod

Trad climber
  Jan 3, 2014 - 10:37am PT
That is an adventure for sure! Loved it.

Prod.
pc

climber
  Jan 3, 2014 - 11:45am PT
Great TR! Thank you very much for sharing with us.

pc
crunch

Social climber
CO
  Jan 3, 2014 - 11:55am PT
Fantastic photos, great stories!

Visited Morocco a couple years ago, and appreciate many of the observations about keeping a low profile as a way to make the visit smoother and safer. Wearing local clothes and speaking arabic is a mark of respect for the local culture that can open a lot of doors. Though Yemen sounds more uptight than Morocco with all the security and military.

Love the golden desert light in the photos.

And, yes, those chameleons are so cute!
Timid TopRope

Social climber
the land of Pale Ale
  Jan 3, 2014 - 12:14pm PT
Great TR and photos. I like the quotes also. Thanks for sharing with us.
ionlyski

Trad climber
Kalispell, Montana
  Jan 3, 2014 - 12:14pm PT
Pretty cool. Very cool.

Not to be a negative Naheem but I found your terrorism jokes at the end of the report in conflict with your own request for keeping it reserved. Just seems to invite what you claimed you didn't want.

But nobody else seems to care so let's hear some more good AK47 one liners.

Arne
tioga

Mountain climber
pac northwest
  Jan 3, 2014 - 01:15pm PT
^ these jokes reminded me why my next big adventure trip will be around...Sierra Nevada...despite grave dangers of being eaten by black bears.
StahlBro

Trad climber
San Diego, CA
  Jan 3, 2014 - 05:14pm PT
Really well done TR. Beautiful place.
Darwin

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  Jan 3, 2014 - 01:30pm PT

Fantastic trip report, thanks so much.

skcreidc

Social climber
SD, CA
  Jan 3, 2014 - 02:53pm PT
Fascinating TR!!! Thanks for posting it.
Studly

Trad climber
WA
  Jan 3, 2014 - 03:42pm PT
Fabulous! Great TR and story as well.
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Jan 3, 2014 - 04:41pm PT
wow, brave and wonderful tr! tfpu
little Z

Trad climber
un cafetal en Naranjo
  Jan 3, 2014 - 07:46pm PT
very interestig and educational trip report, glad you thought to share it here. we are so lucky to have folks like you on ST.

so, what did you eat? you can always take pictures of food, it won't get upset.

...in case anyone wanted beta on getting around the country...

my take away on the beta: don't go without one of those "T" dudes
Erik

Trad climber
  Jan 3, 2014 - 09:44pm PT
Nice photos, good to see Yemen again. I was there in the year 2000, working with local (and heavily armed, and extremely fundamentalist Islamic) Bedouin tribesmen at the Mahram Bilquis on the edge of the Empty Quarter desert.
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
  Jan 3, 2014 - 11:24pm PT
Braver than climbing rocks (which are more predictable)

Great TR. Thanks for taking the time

Peace

Karl
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
  Jan 4, 2014 - 12:11am PT
You should try climbing in the Wadi Rum of Jordan

A lot safer traveling, a lot better climbing, you can climb what you want, and you can wear your normal clothes, and you can hang in the desert with the Bedouins
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Jan 4, 2014 - 08:03am PT
Awesome trip, thanks for sharing!!!
Looks like an experience you will remember for ever!!!
Gregory Crouch

Social climber
Walnut Creek, California
  Jan 4, 2014 - 05:52pm PT
Marvelous. That's some serious adventure, right there. Color me impressed.
Prezwoodz

climber
Anchorage
  Jan 4, 2014 - 06:20pm PT
Excellent TR. Thats really amazing that your friend was able to get you in and out of so many situations. Growing up with a pretty easy life I find that I have no idea how to act that "hard" and its a natural toughness and ability that they grew up with. Awesome.

Also I think its really great you followed the traditions to show respect. I've had to do the same travelling with my girlfriend and I always felt better because I knew that I was going to their house and treating them with respect.
BMcC

Trad climber
Livermore
  Jan 4, 2014 - 11:37pm PT
Great TR, pics, and adventure!
Michael Hjorth

Trad climber
Copenhagen, Denmark
  Jan 5, 2014 - 03:44am PT
What a nice report. Made me happy!

rgds
Michael
patrick compton

Trad climber
van
  Jan 5, 2014 - 09:11am PT
huevos grandes. bravo!
Stewart Johnson

climber
lake forest
  Jan 5, 2014 - 10:06am PT
Exellent what a great trip thank you
chick_on_ice

Trad climber
Author's Reply  Jan 5, 2014 - 10:21am PT
Phew. Finally made it back to Hanover 55 hrs after leaving Sana'a. F*#k there's a lot of snow over here! I guess I better start catching up on the ice season.

Is 'T' related to Alexander Godunov?- Reilly
He looks it, but it's all that Italian blood that's responsible for the blonde bird's nest on his head.

In Morocco I tried working / climbing in a Jellabah and eventually I had to whip out the knife and shorten it a bit- Bruce Kay
I made good use of some safety pins for my skirt when it was prudent.

You didn't toy with his emotions, did you? ;)-Burchey

Sigh. Adam: don't listen to my friend Mark's comments. It was his first day climbing outside ever when we met you and Casey, so he didn't know what he was saying.

Now my daughter wants an introduction to T :-D( she's about your age) -Tami

haha tell her I'd be glad to make the introduction. I have it on good authority that he's still on the market ;)


Glad you guys liked the TR and that I could provide some reading material over the New Year! Have a safe ice season everyone.
LAhiker

Social climber
Los Angeles
  Jan 5, 2014 - 12:00pm PT
Great TR! I learned a lot from it. First there was Lawrence of Arabia, now there's T of Yemen. It sounds like he was essential to the trip, not to mention cute.

I thought the jokes at the end were funny... every difficult situation has its gallows humor. If I'm planning to get kidnapped, I'll be sure to let it happen in Yemen.
'
nita

Social climber
chica de chico, I don't claim to be a daisy.
  Jan 5, 2014 - 12:15pm PT

Chick_on_ice,...

Thanks for posting this up this most Excellent trip report.
I just read and looked at it for the second time....

Cheers..

Rhodo-Router

Gym climber
sawatch choss
  Jan 5, 2014 - 12:49pm PT
You are lucky to have a friend like this T, and to have the good sense to take advantage of such an opportunity. Thanks for sharing.
lars johansen

Trad climber
West Marin, CA
  Jan 5, 2014 - 01:36pm PT
Very interesting, Thanks.

lars
Chiloe

Trad climber
Lee, NH
  Jan 5, 2014 - 01:40pm PT
Fascinating and way, way out of the ordinary.
BBA

climber
OF
  Jan 6, 2014 - 10:52am PT
You should publish your experience in a for profit venue. Your story has broad appeal - way beyond climbers (and broken down ones like me).
Bruce Kay

Gym climber
BC
  Jan 6, 2014 - 12:05pm PT
Is there an off shore Yemen?
Michelle

Social climber
1187 Hunterwasser
  Jan 6, 2014 - 03:19pm PT
Awesome!
chick_on_ice

Trad climber
Author's Reply  Jan 6, 2014 - 09:08pm PT
Bruce, there is mainland Yemen and then there's Socotra, which is an isolated beautiful island off the coast of Yemen and is close to Ethiopia (so I guess it could be called 'off-shore'). It's politically stable and doesn't have the same problems as the rest of Yemen, which is why I made the distinction between the two.
Irene

climber
  Mar 10, 2014 - 01:54pm PT
I'm so proud of you Natasha! Your dad and I always love reading about your adventures after you come home.
Jaysen

Big Wall climber
NYC
  Mar 11, 2014 - 02:00am PT
Wow a really great perspective into a place I would otherwise have little interest in visiting. So you said there were a few bolted routes in an area, is climbing out there an actual thing? Id be interested to see the kind of hardware they put together!

Well said TR, hope to hear more soon
Dirka

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Mar 11, 2014 - 02:47am PT
Thanks for sharing a most excellent adventure
chick_on_ice

Trad climber
Author's Reply  Mar 11, 2014 - 11:50am PT
I can't believe my mom actually commented on this haha.

Jaysen, there are 6 bolted sport routes with new hangers and chain anchors 15 min. outside Sana'a. Here is a photo from a friend of mine (from the now disbanded Yemen Adventure Club), where if you zoom in, you can see the shiny bolts. The rock most other places is chossy sketch stuff, but these 6 routes aren't bad at all. Ranging from 5.8-5.10+, with the potential for some finagled 5.11s if you were to go back to bolt more.
Credit: chick_on_ice
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
  Mar 11, 2014 - 12:08pm PT
Wow...what a fantastic and unique trip.

Thanks for sharing!!
graniteclimber

Trad climber
The Illuminati -- S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Division
  Apr 17, 2014 - 01:41am PT
Why those drones you don't like are there.

http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/15/world/al-qaeda-meeting-video/
Did you like this Trip Report? Got something to say? Don't hold back...
Comment on this Trip Report
Go