As I sat at Dubai’s Terminal 2 waiting to board my flight to Sana’a, I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a nervous jiggle in my feet and butterflies in my stomach. Even after months of research and reassurances talking to journalists and embassies, I thought what if just what it something did go wrong.
And then I started to see different nationalities arrive at our boarding gate at the Emirates Terminal 2. A majority were Yemenis’ – smart-looking businessmen, students, and professionals. Among them, surprisingly, were a few Europeans, a British national, and three Americans. I’d like to think they were here for work, since its unlikely anyone would visit for tourism given the recent embassy warnings and unstable political situation.
And slowly as we drew closer to departure 15 – 20 men arrived, starting to look slightly unfamiliar, all donned in traditional Yemeni dress or ‘thoobs’ as they call it here. The ‘Jambiyyas’ or daggers were absent. Could they be tribesmen? Could my journey end before it has even started? In my state of panic, I had several questions racing through my mind.
And when I got to my seat, a friendly Yemeni businessman travelling with his family, now running his oil business in Sana’a, helped me tuck away my luggage.
First time to Yemen,” he asked. “Yes” I replied.
“You will love it,” he said.
I’m sure”, even if I felt slightly confused by now after looking at the group of men donning frighteningly long beards.
The business man said that he was quite surprised to see a few western-looking people on the flight despite the severe travel warnings issued by the foreign embassies.
By now, I started to get cold feet again.
It was early morning. I hadn’t slept for more than 24 hours, and so I rest my weary head against a pillow and fell asleep no sooner the flight took off. I stared outside the window and looked into the clouds, and when I woke I had forgotten where I was.
‘Mushroom omelette’ or ‘scrambled eggs’ the air-hostess asked. “Water,” I replied. And she dropped me a tray of breakfast that was surprisingly healthy.
To my right, was an Indian-looking woman to my right. I was curious to find out if she was Yemeni or Indian. The relationship between Yemen and India dates back to a few centuries ago because of the flourishing trade. But more on that later.
I asked her about kidnapping. And she smiled reassuring me “its not as bad as it seems”. So I wanted to know how long was she in the capital? “18 years” and my jaw dropped. She was a Professor at the University of Santa.
By now we had landed. And she said, If in six months, if you dont have a different opinion, I will be very surprised.”