Is Socotra Yemen expensive
Yemen and Socotra (the island of the Phoenix)!
On March 31st, 2009 I flew from FRA with the 2 nice Swiss women Diana and Linda from FRA to Sanaa, the capital of the Yemen, which has almost 2 million inhabitants.
The airline was Yemenia and the first surprise for me were the numerous female stewardesses on board. I was expecting stewards first and foremost from an airline from a strictly Islamic country ..... But I suspect that the flight attendants came more from the North Arabian region, because I actually didn't see blonde Yemeni women during the whole trip .. .. :-) I guess that we 3 were the only tourists among the passengers in Frankfurt.
After only 2 hours of flight there was already ground contact, because the sparsely occupied plane landed in Rome, where a large number of Italian tourists boarded.
After another 5 hours and 10 minutes we landed punctually after 9 pm at the international airport of Sanaa.
Due to the altitude of approx. 2200 m, there are no tropical temperatures here, as one might suspect at a geographical location of 15 degrees north latitude.
There is no automated transport system for luggage here and so it took a good hour for each of our three small groups to receive our backpacks and travel bags.
In the meantime I optimistically changed EUR 200.00 at a branch of a bank.
There was no receipt for this and I received 51,000 Yemeni rials. A whole bundle of at least new notes, because the largest banknote here is the 1000 rial note. The EUR / Rial rate was then more or less stable across the country.
Outside the airport our guide Aziz was waiting for 1 hour and we were transported in about 1/2 hour to the old town of Sanaa to the popular 2-star tourist hotel Arabia Felix.
You climb over high stone steps to the first floor, where the somewhat spartan but clean rooms are located. We forego the offered dinner because we all had to get up very early today and the day was long.
So off to bed. Tomorrow a city tour is on the program.
But then the shock: shortly after 4 a.m. A deafening scream in the already not very quiet Arabia Felix. The muezzin shouts his propaganda into the night, supported by powerful loudspeakers :-(. When the whole thing is done, the same thing again at 5 a.m., apparently from another mosque by another fanatic, and I think a third time before 6 a.m. a shouting .....
Before sunrise, the devout Muslims must be called to prayer. Yes, why do you have to?
Don't you know that anyway? And why does it have to be so loud?
The disadvantage if you stay in a cheap tourist hotel (allegedly price around EUR 22.00).
No matter the sun had already risen and with a rather spartan breakfast, the manager greeted us
Abdulfatah Al-Sharei from the agency of the same name, which specializes in German-speaking tourism in Yemen. Shortly afterwards our guide Aziz arrived, who gave a short briefing about necessary behavior, especially regarding photography.
For now, a visit to the National Museum is on the program, where we can see artefacts of ancient cultures in today's Yemen area. The most common finds are from the Kingdom of Saba, dating back to between 1000 BC. And 400 AD with the capital Marib.
The visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon is mentioned in the Bible. The Queen of Sheba is also important in Ethiopian mythology. Accordingly, she is said to have fathered the son Menelik, the progenitor of the Ethiopian kings, with Solomon.
Photography is not allowed in the museum. The quality cannot be compared with the famous Egyptian Museum in Cairo, but from the upper floors you have a reasonably good view of Sanaa.
The museum visit was followed by a rather mediocre lunch in an extremely hectic and noisy Yemeni restaurant. The background noise was enormous and relaxation was not possible for me here. Then the visit to the Great Mosque of Sanaa. If I remember correctly Aziz's words, the only one that "infidels" are allowed to visit.
And it really doesn't need to hide from other large and beautiful mosques, such as the Alabaster Mosque in Cairo.
Construction began after the death of the Prophet Mohammed. It is therefore one of the oldest and, for me, the most beautiful mosques that I have been able to visit so far
The next item on the program is the old town of Sanaa, which was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1988. The reason for this is the numerous "tower houses" that are several hundred years old.
Unfortunately, the weather is getting worse, rain will soon set in, so we take a tour of the souk. Craftsmen produce all kinds of goods, all kinds of things are sold.
Our guide buys raisins here. The seller with the typical Yemeni curved dagger.
The next day, then bright sunshine, as it should be, and the houses in the old town look twice better.
Today is a trip to the Yemeni mountains north of Sanaa on the program.
The villages along the way offer numerous beautiful photo opportunities
In the meantime, our guide Aziz explains the Yemeni people's drug Qat, which is consumed by 90% of all Yemenis.
You chew the leaves. But they taste exactly like nothing and we Europeans cannot understand the meaning. After hours, a stimulating effect, well-being and / or relaxation is supposed to set in. I didn't notice any of it :-)A special highlight is the Dar al-Hajja building, which sits enthroned on a rock that looks impossible to climb. the summer residence of the Immam
In front of the entrance to the palace there are cacti that seem to thrive in the dry climate, in which visitors apparently have scratched a few sayings
but also serve as sun protection and resting places for a cat
The building serves as a kind of open-air museum and shows the (arduous) life in earlier times. The different perspectives of what has been the most beautiful building for me so far are always impressive
You climb the floors of the building via numerous stone steps and from here you have a good view of the Harraz Mountains and the surrounding settlements.
The building is not only an attraction for European but also for Yemeni visitors
and also gladly booked by wedding parties
We continue to Thula, a 2700, 2800 m high town in Yemen with an old city wall and great houses made of carved natural stone.
But here we were attacked by souvenir sellers like never before. All the way through the place we were urged to go to this and that shop to buy something.
Taking photos in peace is hardly possible here and so I buy a Yemeni crooked dagger with 8000 rials, much too expensive as it turns out afterwards .....
Thula was kind of a nuisance. It was like running the gauntlet because of the souvenir sellers and so I am glad when it goes on, to an even higher altitude in Koukaban, which is more than 2900 m high.
Strangely, there are no annoying vendors here, but breathtaking views of the gorges and down to the administrative town of Shibam
Here we also hike down to Shibam, where the car picks us up and brings us back to Sanaa. A nice day trip comes to an end. Today you have to go to bed early, because tomorrow is already at 5 a.m.! our flight to Socotra is scheduled. What flight times this Yemenia has .....
The next day started very early. The alarm clock rang at 2.30 a.m., or rather the mobile phone.
At least I was spared the muezzin. But I can also do without breakfast at 3 a.m.
The driver was already there and so we went to the airport, near which our guide Aziz also lived.
He had already filled bottles with high-proof liquor into neutral mineral water bottles the day before and gave us tourists one of them, which we should take with us in our main luggage to Socotra.
Apparently proven practice by an experienced tour guide who does not believe in Muslim rules.
We did him a favor, because as a tourist you can bring in up to 1 liter of alcoholic beverages.
Fortunately, the check-in for the flight was less chaotic than feared and the Yemenia plane took off shortly before 5 a.m. Before that, however, I had to change places, because Yemeni women, completely veiled as usual, had been assigned the place at the emergency exit, which is not possible. Women in Yemen are not allowed to sit there. They can't read and understand the instructions on what to do in an emergency ....... The stewardesses, who probably didn't come from Yemen, had their hands full to rearrange seats, so that no local people Women sat next to tourists .....
It landed again after just under an hour, because we had arrived at the southern Yemeni coastal town of Mukalla. Some passengers got off, new ones got on and after another 50 minutes flight time over the Gulf of Aden we finally landed at 7.30 a.m. on our dream island - Socotra.
When you leave the machine, you immediately notice that there is a different tropical, humid and warmer climate here than on the Yemeni highlands.
As I feared, I was not allowed to take a picture of the aircraft and the airport building ("Welcome to Socotra"). Usually I take such recordings wherever possible, but here in Yemen you are a bit paranoid about things like that, espionage, etc ..... :-)
At least from the outside I was able to take pictures of the airport building, which is not worth seeing, after the long baggage claim was done.
Socotra, that is an island that is about 350 km south of the Arabian Peninsula, but only about 100 km east of Somalia. Nevertheless, the island belongs to Yemen.
Socotra is said to have been settled for about 3000 years, was already settled by the ancient Greeks in antiquity,
was a Portuguese, British colony and has belonged to South Yemen since the independence of South Yemen from Great Britain. Since the unification of South Yemen with North Yemen in 1990, Socotra has been Yemeni sovereign territory. The island is 3,579 km2 and is inhabited by people according to a census in 2004. Around 400 people live on two of the islands further to the west.
The main town is Hadibu, which has a population of around 8,500.
And that's where it went. Aziz immediately spotted our Socotrian chauffeur Said.
Oh one more thing, Socotra is also called the island of the phoenix in mythology.
Phoenix, a bird whose size and shape resembles that of an eagle and whose dress is made of purple feathers, should, according to Greek mythology, build a nest of cinnamon and incense branches on the island when it feels its end near, so that, surrounded by fragrances, burn yourself. From its ashes, however, a young bird is said to rise in full splendor and glory.
After only 15 minutes, the main town was reached on a paved road that runs along the coast around almost the entire island. Here then a culture shock. In the "capital" there is no more asphalt, goats on the streets, stone houses, shacks and shops that are more reminiscent of shacks.
The best place to check-in in Hadibu is here. The Summerland Hotel is hiding behind this construction site
The best there is in the hotel industry on Socotra. A *** (3 star) hotel. The rooms are really great.
Bath, shower, toilet, air conditioning, comfortable beds, satellite TV. Who would have expected that in Hadibu?
The rooms are much better than the Arabia Felix in Sanaa.
However, the restaurant is not quite ready in Summerland. You should eat your breakfast outdoors, protected from the sun by a tarpaulin, when it comes, i.e. when you can communicate with the "staff".
Our guide Aziz decides that we will move to another quaint restaurant and he orders an "egg mirror" = fried eggs with bread and tea. This "restaurant" is only frequented by locals, but you can eat here when the whole thing is a bit loud and hectic ... Aziz also orders lunch here, i.e. fish in advance.
Then we go on our first excursion with the Toyota Landcruiser, steered by our Socotrian driver, into the interior of the island.
And after a short time you can see them, those succulents that is why Socotra was awarded the UNESCO World Heritage List
We hike in a dry river bed to a small wadi. The water here is a stagnant body of water and there is therefore a risk of schistosomiasis, so we don't take a bath and hike back to the car, which brings us back to Hadibu for lunch, where the fish we have ordered has already been prepared in the noisy restaurant. Afterwards there is lunch in the air-conditioned Summerland Hotel and around 3 a.m. we drive to the beach of Delisha on the north coast of Socotra.
Here you can not only swim wonderfully in the calm surf, but also watch the Socotrian youth playing beach soccer.
It doesn't take long for the tourists to join in :-)
After the game it's back "home" to the Summerland Hotel. Dinner is in Hadibu's best restaurant. At the Taj Hotel. Sliced meat with bread is on the menu.
The next day our camping adventure finally begins. After a hearty breakfast in Summerland, which was not that easy to organize, Aziz told us in frustration that there was no gas to cook on the island. The supply ship from the mainland had not called at Socotra for a long time due to the pirate attacks in the Gulf, and gas was not allowed to be transported by plane.
So for better or worse you have to make a fire with wood for cooking. Aziz seems to be the most frustrated by this and mumbles something like "I hate this job ...". He runs from shop to shop and somehow he still finds gas (probably he pays a multiple ...).
The SUV is already loaded and the
Drive inland could begin. We are still turning around in Hadibu. Aziz still has to get food and water for camping. We use the time to get cans of pineapple, pear and fruit salad for the desert in the numerous shops, which Aziz doesn't really like. Apparently he thinks that we don't trust his food .....
For the time being, the journey leads along the well-developed paved coastal road
then we turn off the coastal road and drive inland on a stony track.
Along the way there are always smaller towns, all of which have a mosque. In the background the up to 1500 m high central mountains
The further we penetrate into the highlands, the more trees we see typical of Socotra.
Here Aziz is climbing an incense tree
The high plateau is littered with stones, the earth is brownish-red from iron-containing minerals, the sun burns up to 40 degrees in April and the Socotrian indigenous people live in stone houses.
The children in this village are very friendly here and like to be photographed (which is not the case everywhere)
On the Diksum plateau - almost exactly in the center of the island, we see them, those plants for which Socotra is so famous and which are endemic here: Dracaena cinnabari - the dragon blood tree
According to Aziz, it's way too hot here for our picnic and so we drive back down to a small wadi to take a lunch break in the shade.
We only enjoy the picnic under the shady palm trees
But you can also observe the next specialty of Socotra - the guardian vultures that are attracted by our food
After the picnic, we go back up to the Diksum plateau, the tents are set up and the dragon blood trees are photographed in the lower sun
While we are photographing trees, Said and Aziz are now setting up the tents
The next morning, of course, bright weather again. Camping is very comfortable. Breakfast at a table with camping chairs. Unfortunately there are no shadows here.
so that I will soon be on my way again to take photos in the morning light - trees .....
My friends the Egyptian vultures also visit us here on the Diksum Plateau
The young Egyptian vultures are darker than the adults
for me, Socotra is not the island of the phoenix, but the island of the Egyptian vulture :-). I kind of like these nice birds.
It's getting serious. Said is already loading his vehicle
But before we leave, a few quick photos of the trees and "my" vultures
On the way down into the valley we often see deep gorges that dissect the central plateau of Socotra
Further down we see beautiful examples of the bottle trees
The next point to visit is the Dhi Jab grotto, which is up to 15 m high and has often served as an apartment for the people here in the highlands. Today at least the goats are kept here.
There is a picnic again at a beautiful wadi, where the water level is just too low for a bath, as was usual up to now
At least in the shade you can rest and picnic quite well
How good that Aziz was so clever to buy the following delicacy from the locals
Watermelon !!!! For me the culinary highlight and the best you can eat in the heat.
We continue to the dunes of Nojad and the great white sandy beach.
However, right here there is a flat tire and this is certainly not the best place to change tires .....
However, the beach here is breathtakingly beautiful
but the waves are so strong and high here on the south coast of Socotra that unfortunately regular bathing or swimming is out of the question. Every incoming wave washes you back to the starting point on the beach. It's more of a wave jumping, a fight against the waves .... :-).
Nevertheless, the landscape here is very beautiful early in the morning
And the beach is ideal as a campsite
Because it's so beautiful, we stay here one day longer.
Finally, on the following day, we continue over the mountains to the Homhil nature reserve. It goes into the interior of the island over steep and stony slopes
past blooming bottle trees
on the way we also pass the simplest and smallest settlements of the highland inhabitants
Another picnic lunch in a shady spot. Naan bread is filled with peppers, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes and tuna filsch.
These picnics are always eagerly watched by these comrades ...
We reach our campsite in the early afternoon. The distances are quite small on Socotra and while Aziz and Said are setting up the tents, he "orders" us to conquer this "lookout rock".
On the way - blooming bottle trees
Even the most beautiful at the top. A member of the Dragon Blood Tree genus
Up here a vertical rock wall blocks our way up.
Linda the Reckless wants to go further up here, but I say that this would be an incalculable risk for us tourists with low shoes and rather push down, which we also decide :-)
So from this almost ascent we only have a view from top to bottom of the Homhil plateau, where our camp is currently being prepared.
The next morning we are driving through a breathtaking scenery of dragon blood trees, we meet children of the highland inhabitants, the boys riding donkeys, the girls veiled. Unfortunately they are very cautious and categorically reject a "Sora" or a photo
This slope near Homhil could also be called the Dragon Blood Tree Drive :-)
Perhaps the most beautiful and funniest bottle trees are (there are :-)) here in Homhil
but the dragon's blood trees also bloom here
From Homhil we hike down to the coast in about 1 1/2 hours and enjoy breathtaking views
When we reach the coast, the journey continues to the fantastic dune landscape of Irsil
where we camp. We want to stay here for another two days
This is the first time that we have discovered something like "mass tourism" on Socotra.
The best campsites were occupied by a relatively large number of Italians.
So far we haven't seen any German tourists, but a lot of Italians.
No idea why this is so, Aziz doesn't know either which agency in Italy advertises Socotra so massively.
The campsite is not exactly ideal. To get to the beach you have to cross a slope and climb down a small rocky slope. There is a small freshwater pool next to the slope.
But there is no shade on the beach and the sunshades are all mercilessly tilted by the wind.
But the surf here in the east of the island is low and so in contrast to the beach of Nojad you can swim here pleasantly.
The good Aziz rewards us with
fresh fish, which he prepared deliciously for us for lunch.
We want to know which fish it is. Aziz: "That's the No. 2 variety!" :-)
Whoever can contribute something and can tell me the name of this fish, please mail to [email protected]
In the afternoon we take the off-road vehicle to the tip of the small peninsula which extends east into the Indian Ocean near Irsil - to the eastern tip of Socotra.
And experience the following landscapes
Not far from the last fishing village we see rusting Russian tanks, which after a maneuver in 1980 that the Russians were still communist here when South Yemen was still communist, they no longer took them with them.
When I want to take pictures, Said immediately explains to me that this is strictly forbidden .....
When we return to the campsite from this little excursion, the fishermen are already waiting in front of our tents, because Aziz has already promised to buy fish beforehand. In other countries our tents would have been cleared out. Nothing here. People wait hours for us to return so we can buy some fish from you!
which is considered the best place for snorkeling and diving on Socotra. Numerous fish of all colors and types cavort among the corals. Unfortunately, the corals are also very sharp-edged and so I cut my thumb and a finger on them. It is bleeding profusely and the cuts can be seen for days, but salt water also closes the wound very quickly. Another drawback is that you almost inevitably get sunburn while snorkeling .... You have to overcome the large stones without shoes until you are in the water .... :-)
But people have built a cozy, shady place to relax and have a picnic here.
And my favorite bird also visits me here :-)
1 week has now passed since we arrived in Socotra and we are going back to Hadibu to stay at the Summerland Hotel. To shower off with salt and lick our (mine :-)) wounds to treat the sunburn. As soon as we reach the capital, Aziz orders grilled chicken for dinner in the best restaurant. So at 7 o'clock we march into Taj Restaurant and get nicely burnt chicken, almost black on the outside, but delicious on the inside. Which we call from now on as flamethrower chickens :-)
The next day big shopping is announced again, Aziz buys ice for his cool box at the fishing port of Hadibu!
We buy a few more soft drinks in the "well-stocked" shops in Hadibu and off we go to the far west to Qalansiya.
Qalansyia is about 70 km west of Hadibu and offers the most beautiful beaches and lagoons, the clearest and calmest water and an incredible emerald green sea
The picnic area and campsite was unfortunately a bit away from this dream beach. There wouldn't have been any shade anywhere here either.
but you could wade through the various lagoons in knee-deep water if it hadn't been for a few small stingrays that scared the two of them .... :-)
Dinner there was, as usual, a huge portion of spaghetti with tuna and afterwards a somewhat ambitious socotric dance with the same kind of music.
The next day a boat trip from Qalansiya to Shoab should be on the program. A fishing village that cannot be reached by road, in the far west of the island.
But unfortunately this night the nausea hit me badly and I have to go outside the tent 5 times.
I don't know what it was, I guess I couldn't stand the tuna.
At breakfast I couldn't touch anything, just drink tea, so I canceled the boat trip, which might be a swing, and instead took a rest in the mornings in the rooms shown above.
Around noon, when Linda and Diana returned from the very nice boat tour, I then half enjoyed the last remaining can of pineapple and I was halfway recovered.
The return trip to Hadibu was via a salt lake, where, as the name suggests, salt is extracted :-)
and about a place where hardly explored prehistoric footprints and drawings can be seen in the rocky ground.
In Hadibu I got myself fit for the first time with biscuits and stimulants Gewadal for dinner in the Taj Restaurant - yes, there was flame throwing chicken again.
A proper farewell party had to be canceled due to the lack of a bar in Hadibu.
With that, our trip to Socotra was basically over.
The next morning I had another nice breakfast in Summerland (egg dish + cheese + Nutella), which I might have better omitted, because this nausea came back in the afternoon ?!
From 1 p.m. the flight from Socotra via Mukalla to Aden and after some back and forth from Aden to Sanaa and from there at midnight with Yemenia again via Rome to Frankfurt in about 8 hours.
A beautiful journey came to an end here on April 14, 2009.
Much more pictures in total 557 are in the photo album.
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