26 Aug - 11 Sep 2007 Aden

Indian Ocean
Gulf of Aden
Republic of Yemen
Aden City
Aden Harbour - Prince of Wales Pier
SY "Kamu II" at anchor, off the Prince of Wales Pier, at 6 m depth, on mud (good holding).

Click below for an interactive satellite view of our safe and protected mud anchorage in Aden:

Motoring into the very scenic Aden Harbour, passing a few uncharted semi-submerged ship wrecks, dropping our anchor half a cable north of the Prince of Wales Pier, which commemorates King Edward VII who called at Aden on his way to India to celebrate Queen Victoria’s appointment as Empress of India in 1875 CE, clearing the friendly but chaotic and permanently qat chewing Yemeni immigration and customs for the grand total of US$ 53.60 for skipper and crew (customs: free of charge; quarantine: free of charge; harbourmaster: free of charge; immigration: YER 5,300.- or US$ 26.80.- per person for a 30-day single-entry tourist visa, only necessary for our overland tour to the capital city of Sana’a and beyond), and reading thereafter in the ship's library about HRH's landfall with pomp and splendor 132 years ago:
“Anchored off Aden. The only man-of-war in harbour, the Vulture, was dressed for the occasion. The Prince and suite went on shore at 9.30 and remained till the cool of the evening as the guests of brigadier-general Schneider, the political resident. Salutes were fired from the guns at Steamer Point, and a guard of honour from the 25th Regiment (2nd battalion) was drawn up at the ‘bunder’ or landing-place. His Royal Highness obtained his first glimpse of the native infantry of India while on shore here. Other troops, natives of Aden and its neighbourhood, mounted on horses and camels, escorted HRH to the European camp. The gallant King’s Own Borderers entertained the Prince at breakfast, and he was afterwards taken to see the far-famed freshwater tanks, and the fortifications, which latter are built on the land side of Aden, with the view of repelling attacks of Arabs. Several Arab chiefs, including the Sultan of Lahej, whom the Prince presented with a silver medal, and all the officers political and military at the station, were received at a levee held within the residency in the afternoon. As the Serapis steamed away in the evening, Aden was illuminated with Indian lamps, and bonfires blazed forth from her promontories...”
(George Wheeler, Central News, 1st of November 1875)

Exploring the sprawling and noisy seaport city of Aden, which spreads from Tawahi aka Steamer Point all the way to Fisherman's Bay around the base of an extinct 551-m high volcano and is joined to the mainland by a distinctive isthmus where, according to legend, Noah’s Ark was built and launched (...and wondering how housing, watering and feeding for all these animal couples in a self-made wooden ship of about the size of our SY "Kamu II", or perhaps a few feet longer, could ever be achieved).

Topping up with 80 litres of diesel fuel for YER 125.- or US$ 0.63 per litre at the grimy and oil-polluted fuel jetty of the Aden Refinery Company's bunkering department, using our inflatable dinghy and our own plastic jerry cans.

Laundering our dirty linnen for US$ 0.25 per piece, washed and dried, with the help of laundryman and reliable yottie factotum Ayrish who can be found on the jetty if he doesn't find you first.

Matt: Doing boat projects in exotic places: (i) rebuilding the bronze Jabsco raw-water pump for our Perkins 4.236M diesel engine (new bearings, new oil and water seals, new impeller) and (ii) by-passing a clogged segment of SY “Kamu II’s” double-walled dry-exhaust steel pipes with a one-metre piece of 32-mm radiator hose pipe from the ship's store, thus healing our progressively overheating engine and keeping thereafter the water temperature at a steady 85°C.

Travelling almost uneventfully by means of a brand-new Mercedes a/c coach to Yemen's capital city Sana’a, one of the first sites of human settlement and allegedly founded by Noah’s son Shem, blundering en route into impressive riots south of Qa’taba (the road being blocked with car tyres set ablaze, big rocks and razor wire; car windows and windscreens being smashed by an incited and aggressive mob), but still agreeing with Douglas Coupland that "adventure without risk is Disneyland", and, only a few hours later, after our safe and sound arrival in Sana’a, exploring the ancient alleyways of Old Sana’a and its Souq al-Milh (literally meaning Salt Market, arguably the best souk in the Arabian Peninsula, where salt is only one out of a myriad of items sold here, traditional and modern products alike, cloth, spice, dates, frankincense and myrrh, coffee, copper, plastic buckets, jambiyas [traditional daggers] and plenty of 7.62-mm ammo for all those lovely AK 47s) and admiring the peculiar architecture of this truly exotic UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Climbing the narrow stairs, five to nine flights up, to the roof of quite a few of the multi-storey storybook tower houses made from stone, brick and mud, where the ground floor houses a pigless animal life, the second floor, the diwan, does serve as a reception area for guests, and "the room with a view", the lavishly carpeted top floor, is called the mafraj where the man of the house holds his regular all-male qat parties; later learning (i) that the houses' origin lies in the remote villages where farmland was scarce and verticality was the only means of accommodating the settlement of people with efficient use of the land, (ii) that height also provides the necessary overview to protect a settlement and its crops from marauding tribes, and (iii) that the Yemeni believe that the rays of the setting sun are particularly harmful and, for this reason, all these tower houses have no ordinary glass windows facing west, but round or oval apertures with panes of thin alabaster (called qamar, Arabic for moon, on account of the moonlight effect they give).

Setting at naught a whole chorus of overcautious travel warnings from Western office sitters and touring the awe-inspiring countryside north of Sana’a with a hired chauffeur-driven Toyota 4x4 Land Cruiser 80 Series, thus visiting (i) the famous rock palace Dar al-Hajar, well known for its spectacular position atop a rock pinnacle at the famous Wadi Dhahr Valley, and (ii) the traditional walled and fortified villages Kawkaban, Thula and Hababah, the latter being remarkable for its large multi-purpose water cistern where local people still come to collect water, drive their animals to drink and kids learn how to swim.

Matt: Joining the daily qat (Catha edulis) chow-downs, spontaneous afternoon house-and-street parties when almost all business life comes to a total stand still and where Yemeni men and their guests gather to chew the leaves of the edible-qat plant - a flowering bush which in leaf shape, colour and size looks very much like a laurel hedge and produces a drug guaranteed not to provoke argument or improper conduct of any kind - in order to exchange a bit of gossip about other men and their pet goats.
DM Konni: Donning my scuba gear in order to clean up the bottom of SY "Kamu II" for our run out of the Gulf of Aden, scraping off thousands of little shrimp from our hull, as well as the barnacles we had collected during the two months of our trip down the Red Sea; afterwards getting rid of the collection of Krill hiding in my swimsuit, yuck!

Teaming up with fellow Rhodesian/Seffrican yotties Shirley & Bill from SY “K’lai”, unflinching and trustworthy companions in arms, and diesailing along the infamous Hadhramaut coast aka Pirate Alley through the Gulf of Aden between Aden and a classified position south of Mukallah, thus motoring at high revs on a course "zero-niner-zero-true" into both the rising sun and light easterlies, non-stop for about 100 hours, thereby burning c. 450 litres of expensive diesel fuel but saving most of our cheap ammo.

“Second star to the right ... and straight on 'til morning.” 

Click below for more blog posts about interesting traditional dwellings

Click below for a summary of this year's travels
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