July 3, 2008

Not all too different from home.

There is a lot of waiting involved in travel. In Yemen this can be due to a number of things. The driver might be purchasing food and water or khat, or fixing a flat tire. Sometimes it's because there is nothing much else to do but wait. Funnily enough my surroundings were often not so different from those at home. Perhaps the vegetation was a little different but I found myself in a desert once again.

There were some interesting women in the group and boredom really wasn't an issue because there was always something to talk about and even though we were in each others company all day and every day, there was always something to do or discover. Some preferred hiking, while others would walk around in the little villages we encountered along the way learning about how people live in this part of the world. There was time for a extremely sweet cup of tea or to find a pastry shop. Lounging about with a book or soaking your feet when there was a chance were also popular pastimes.

I am sure that I need not explain the role of women in the Muslim world, but normally it is not hard at all to make contact with them if you are a woman too. We didn't see many women in Yemen.

On the other hand I am positive that the men at times did not see us as women at all. How could they when we were unsexily revealed in every way? Nothing left to the imagination, with our short hair, hiking boots, in our pants and shirts and with our independent ways.

One thing bothered me. In the markets, where there were mainly men you would hear a whinny, as if from a stallion. This must be the Yemeni equivalent of a wolf-whistle but knowing you were in a country where the females are kept in seclusion it seemed to be a sign of disrespect rather than admiration to snort and whinny at women.

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