This is a throw WAY back story, well before ever starting Desk to Dirtbag and having the glimmer in my eye of becoming a travel blogger. This is a Yemen travel story about the time we rode into a sandstorm by motorbike in Mocha, Yemen. Not many people get the chance to travel to Yemen, so I thought it might be interesting to share a little bit more about what Yemen travel was like.
Note: This was from a time during the Iraq war but before the Yemen civil war and war with Saudi Arabia. Times were different then and I would not by any stretch of the imagination recommend traveling there today. Hopefully, in the future, this country will open up again for travelers. It is an interesting, incredible, welcoming, friendly country. It is also among the poorest countries in the world and has seen a lot of suffering.
I was living in Sana’a, Yemen, the capital, studying the Arabic language for six months, when me and my buddy Matt headed out along the Red Sea to get away for the weekend and do a bit of Yemen travel.
We arrived to the sleepy little fishing village of Al Khawkhah, Yemen where we would spend the night. There really wasn’t much here beyond a few shacks, business, and friendly locals. We didn’t really come here to do anything specific though, it was mostly just to travel somewhere new in Yemen and to get out of town.
We had heard that this was a beautiful beach but were somewhat disappointed to see a fairly unattractive beach filled with algae and strewn with garbage, unfortunately.
The next day we hired a few moto-taxis to drive us two hours down the beach, through the sand, with waves lapping at the tires, to go to the world’s original coffee port, Mocha (also where the name of the beverage comes from).
Because, why not? We didn’t have anything else to do that day, so why not visit the original home of coffee, one of my favorite drinks!
The journey was long but quite scenic as we were literally driving down the sandy beach, with no road even insight.
I made the below video 7+ years ago (so don’t judge–the song is meant to be a parody!) to tell the tale of our mototaxi journey along the Red Sea between Al Khawkhah and Mocha, Yemen.
Only to arrive in the midst of a huge sandstorm… Our drivers dutifully kept on going, just pulling the bottoms of their shirts up over the tops of their heads to keep the sand at bay.
Sand got absolutely everywhere. My camera never quite worked again the same after that, either, it would randomly switch modes and the lens would go in and out.
After a quick lunch of fresh fish, we quickly hightailed it out of there and headed back inland to the city of Taizz.
Still, one of the most amazing memories from an amazing six months of traveling in Yemen. It was truly a special trip to experience the hospitality of the locals, the beautiful architecture, the storied history, and learn the intricacies of the language. And who can forget the daily shouts of “Welcome to Yemen!” in English from locals whenever I walked down the street. People were genuinely happy that I was here visiting their country.
Yemen and the Middle East, in general, is a deeply misunderstood region. If you would like to learn more about this country, culture, and amazing people, I highly recommend you check out the following books and movies:
- Motoring with Muhammad by Eric Hansen, a classic travel tale about a man who shipwrecked off the coast of Yemen, buries his travel journals, and then returns ten years later to try and retrieve them…
- Yemen: The Unknown Arabia by Tim Mackintosh-Smith, a long time expat in Yemen. The Yemenis would ask me if I knew him–you know, all us foreigners must know each other, right?
- The English Sheik and the Yemeni Gentleman, an insightful documentary about a Yemeni living in the UK that returns and gets to know his motherland with the help of the above mentioned British author.
In the Unlikely Event That You’re Traveling to Yemen: Book your lodging on Booking.com now to save. And don’t forget to purchase international travel insurance that will help protect you against illness, injury, and theft. I use and recommend World Nomads for its combination of coverage and affordability.
Read Next: Budget Travel Tips & Tricks
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