September 10, 2015

Screaming in Yemen.

Don’t ask me why, but I like Yemen, even though everybody is always screaming at me there.

I landed at Sanaa’s airport to join a ship maybe ten years ago around 5 pm after four days on the 'road' (Hyderabad Delhi Singapore Sanaa with time in Delhi and Singapore only to visit offices for work). No sleep at all. My flight to Aden from Sanaa was early the next morning.

The terminal was all khaki including the construction. Looked like Rommel's Desert Rat headquarters only no desert.

Nobody spoke English except in sentences of two or three words. Maximum. And screamed at high pitch with maximum volume to boot.

On finding out I had a laptop, they took it and my passport away. Somebody indicated those would be returned to me later, I think.

About eight to twelve people, including me, had onward flights the next am. We spent the night in one room with zero water or any other facilities except some tea bags and half a kettle of water and a kind of bathroom. The kettle was not working.

Next morning, the rush at the single open counter reminded me of a market I had visited in Cairo, with huge bunches of locals converging on the single guy behind the counter screaming and apparently fighting. Maybe they thought they were Indians.

When I could, I asked about my laptop bag and passport. The guy picked up my bag from behind the counter and screamed, "Yours??", and gave it to me without waiting for an answer, like Pontius Pilate.

What about my passport, I asked him. "On plane!!" he screamed at me.

I was so tired and fed up I boarded the plane (coming from Saudi Arabia somewhere and going to Aden). At the entrance to the aircraft, I asked a flight attendant for my passport. Sit, he said. Then, when I sat, he brought me some foul smelling juice and said, "Here" and went away.

I was so tired and fed up I went to sleep.

Inside the Aden terminal, before customs, one guy came up to me and shouted, "You Captain?" When I said yes, he pointed to my suitcase lying nearby, and screamed "Yours?" When I said yes, he screamed at somebody who took my suitcase away.

Ok this guy knows stuff, I thought. So I asked him, where is my passport? His English was good, so he shouted, "You no have passport????" in a shocked tone an Indian rural patriarch would use if his daughter eloped and married outside the community, caste, religion and country all at once.

Suddenly, about twenty feet away, I saw somebody in uniform carrying a passport that looked like it was Indian. This time I screamed, Passport!! Whereupon everybody and everything froze, the uniform smiled, and gave it to me.

Turned out my suitcase had been sent to the hotel; the guy with the good English had come to pick me up.

At Sanaa, intermittently in the night, I thought I heard small bursts of gunfire, like somebody was celebrating. Fortunately, this was not my first trip to places like Yemen so I knew I would probably be ok.

I had still to get into that cab in Mukalla, see Osama Bin Laden's picture stuck on the dashboard like Indians stick their Gods, and have the cab driver scream at me, "You Muslim?" That was a few weeks later. 


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