Saturday, October 20, 2012

Day trip to Thula and Kawkaban

One of my colleagues organised a day trip to Thula, a UNESCO World Heritage nominated site, which is about an hour from Sana'a. It was fantastic to get out and see some of Yemen, and we all lamented that it's shame the security situation isn't conduit to tourists, because the country side is stunning. I was also excited to try out my new camera, and I think the results are pretty good. 

Our first stop before climbing up the mountain in Thula was a look at the cistern, which people use for washing and water for animals, but not for drinking, which I was very glad to hear because the water was pretty gross. 
 Our driver contemplating the gross water, and the walk ahead.
 About half way up we had a great view down over Thula
 As expected, a whole host of men presented themselves as our guides. Khaled, on the left was our chief guide. They've all learnt English (and a host of other languages) from the tourists who used to flock to Thula, but the numbers have trailed down to basically nothing over the past two years.
 Very close to the top of 600-odd steps
 Yea! Made it to the top, and wandered around an old mosque, house and just admired the view.
 There was a lot of agriculture that could be seen from the top, particularly the terraced farming (which my food security and livelihoods colleague was stoked to see)
 On the way down we almost got run over by this man and his donkeys.
 After stopping for lunch in Shebam we drove up another range to see Kawkaban.
 Pretty spectacular no?
 We wandered around for a little while, again admiring the view, when one of the group spotted this place.
 And here's another view of the town on the way down.
 All the green you can see is qat - the legal drug that (mainly) men chew as a stimulant. According to someone's twitter post yesterday, 90% of Yemen's water is used for agriculture, of which 60% of that is qat. I hadn't seen it being cultivated before and had expected it to be more bushy, but qat grows on trees.
I'm so glad I had the chance to get out and do something touristy in Yemen. I'll be stuck in Sana'a over Eid, and don't know if this stage if I'll actually get to Socotra (google it, incredible!) before I leave. My calf muscles were a bit sore this morning, and I think combined with all the squatting and lunging I did at volleyball today I'm going to find it difficult to walk tomorrow!

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