The Stuff Nightmares are Made of

Dawood Hotel in Sanaa, Yemen

Sanaa’s lights could be seen twinkling from above. The plane was about to land. I was very excited about returning home.

After picking up our luggage, we hailed a taxi and told the driver to take us to the Dawood Hotel, which is a historic hotel lying in the old city center. Upon arrival, I was pleasantly surprised to find that its sign was written in three different languages. That told me our choice of accommodation was a happy one. My German friend and I had booked two adjacent rooms. He had read a lot about the old walled city and was eagerly looking forward to discovering it.

Hence, the next day we started our visit to the city early in the morning. At noon, the call to prayer started blaring from the mosques’ minarets, all the shops closed down and everyone trooped to the nearest mosque.

At some point, my friend pointed at one of the small rectangular containers that could be seen attached to the building walls and asked me if I knew what purpose they served. ...Read more

I Can Calm Down Now, There Are No Two Suns in Sight

Kuud AlNamer Beach in Aden, Yemen

The heat is unbearable. The power has been down for hours. The air is stale and smells foul. Indolence seems to be contagious in this worn-out city.

“What are we having for lunch?” my brother asks, sticking his head out into the kitchen, which has turned into a Turkish bath ever since he became the city’s most eligible bachelor. I don’t reply; I just go check the furnace. My head is throbbing and every activity I undertake demands extra effort. I am stressed out. I have had the feeling of running late since I have woken up this morning.

My hand is shaking. I grab a match and try to light the stove with it. I fail dismally. I try again, once more, to no avail. I think that perhaps I can manage without resorting to actual cooking, so I go take a look at the pantry. Unfortunately, we have nothing that can be eaten raw. My brother’s raised voice is suddenly behind me:

“Lunch still not ready? You are fricking useless!”

“There’s no gas!”

“Don’t ...Read more

In the Clouds

Jabal Yafuz, Yemen

I stuck my head out the window and looked up to the mountains. Their height and intense green color had us all filled with awe.

At some point, the road we had been following all the way from the city of al-Hudayda ended. My father parked the car and instructed us to leave the vehicle. We were going on a hike to the top of the mountain called Jebel Yafuz, which belongs to the range of the Raymah Mountains and is the one my parent’s village, which can only be reached by foot, is perched on. Before setting out on our excursion, we rented a donkey to help us carry our baggage and a few bikes for our parents to haul us children up the slopes with.

On our way up, I couldn’t help but notice the agricultural machinery the locals seemed to have built with their own two hands to work the fields. It spoke volumes to their resolve in making a living under harsh conditions.

A gentle breeze swept through the trees, whose top branches spread up to where the roots of the next line of trees started to ...Read more

The Suit Jacket

Aden, Yemen

Back when I went to high school, I liked to envision myself as a dandy who would go to work every day decked out in a stylish business jacket, wearing dark designer sunglasses, carrying a leather briefcase and perhaps also sporting an edgy haircut. If someone would have asked me where exactly it was that I pictured myself heading to dressed like that, I wouldn’t have known what to reply, for all I had cared to imagine was the image I wanted to project one day.

After high school, I still hadn’t found my vocation and decided to take the same major most of my classmates went for. I wasn’t passionate about what I was studying, so I focused on saving the money needed to purchase the suit jacket that I had always fantasized about. As soon as I graduated from university, I rushed to the chicest boutique in town and bought the jacket of my dreams. It felt like entering a new phase of life, the one where I would gain public recognition and become ...Read more

Impossible Love

Girl's Profile in Aden, Yemen

Suad distractedly looked out the window of her room. She had loud music playing in the background, but she wasn’t paying attention to the songs’ lyrics. She absent-mindedly wound a lock of her black hair around her finger and ran the other hand over her face. Suddenly, a memory made her bronze cheeks redden.

Today was her little sister’s wedding day. Her soon-to-be husband had been sending her so many gifts from the Emirates over the past few months that both Suad’s and her sister’s room had wound up piled with them. The warm winds that swept through the city at that time of year had just started blowing. Suad wondered whether she was destined to find happiness in life.

She lived at home with her parents. Her father worked at Aden’s water purification plant and her mother had retired recently after spending 25 years teaching at a high school in Crater. She was proud of her forward-thinking parents, who had instilled confidence in her and allowed her and her sister to have a lot of freedom while growing up.

The aroma of black henna wafted toward ...Read more

Stairway to Heaven


I walk down crowded alleys trying to dodge the fireballs the sun flings at us humans as soon as it has made itself comfortable in the canopy of heaven. The pungent aroma of incense that wafts toward me smacks of the past. I take my time climbing up the seemingly never-ending stairs. The stone steps have been worn smooth by all the people who have traced this route before me. I stop to look around. The views during the ascent never cease to amaze me. The buildings’ facades are adorned with stucco arabesques that crown the wooden windows. Their bright whiteness resembles that of the jilbabs kids wear. They stand in stark contrast to the rest of the colors of the facades, and to me, they look like the halos of stars. They definitely invite observers to sneak a peek at building interiors.

There is a stunning girl leaning out of one of the windows of a building opposite me. She has big almond eyes and scarlet cheeks. She is wearing a dreamy expression as her gaze drifts down the streets and ...Read more