After my day of failure yesterday, I decided to wake up super early this morning to catch a cab to Shibam (something that didn't seem like a very hard task). Not only did I hope to catch early morning souk activity, but I'd also be closer to Wadi Da'wan, so maybe someone would be willing to take me there??? The drive to Shibam was very impressive - lots of abadonded mud castles.
But Shibam itself was craziness. They call Shibam the "Manhattan of the desert." 8-9 storey tall buildings made completely out of mudbrick!
Their houses may be made out of mud, but they've still got A/C ya'll!
You enter the city through tall, white gates, which made it feel like stepping back into time. I walked around for a good hour snapping photos and looking for the souk, signs of activity, signs of life - anything!
Only a few antique shops were open and the men inside were already asleep. Lots of other shops were closed up. I wondered what hid behind their doors. I assured myself that after an hour of sipping tea, I'd make another round and perhaps the town would be more alive.
At least they merchandise well!
I went back to the white gates and wandered towards a tea stand. It turned out that this was the only tea stand in Shibam and that the tea stand lie in the middle of the souk. I was still very confused because 1 fruit stand, 1 veggie stand, and 1 pile of dried dates doesn't really constitute a "souk". This was supposed to be the big weekly bazaar. I didn't understand how anyone would be able to eat for more than a day if this was all that was on offer.
I decided not to stress too much about their rotted vegetables and plomped my ass down in the middle of some dudes on a coal-burned rug. They smoked the ancient hose-less sheeshas with unflavored tobacco. There was a real art to rolling tobacco in their hands and preparing the communal pipe before huffing their brains out.
Nobody really seemed to notice me. I was definitely the only tourist in town UNTIL I saw a man in the typical "I'm going to the Middle East" brand-new safari gear. Tool.
Then, about 10 minutes later, before I could even react to their presence, a Japanese camera crew arrived with the tool. A Japanese woman (who I guess is a celebrity in her homeland giving how tangibly annoying she was in only a way that television personalities can be) came in shouting Salaam Alaykum's and plopped HER ass down in the middle of ME and these dudes. She had a camera girl, a boom girl, a random Japanese guy, a translator, and of course the tool. I thought it was totally rude and embarassing, but the men loved it! I refused to move even though they were slowly moving in on my territory. Once the camera girl tripped over me, I got up in a huff hoping they'd realize that they'd ruined MY Shibam experience. But of course I didn't leave without documentation.
She's totally going to suck his pipe:
I strolled around town again. Established that their was nothing else open, nothing else to see, and certainly nothing to eat. I tried to get a taxi to Hajjarayn after the guy's outside the white gates said Da'wan was impossible without a 4WD jeep. Hajjarayn was as deep as I could get that day.
One guy offered to take me to Hajjarayn for 2000 riyals. I'm not sure if that was one-way or round-trip, but at the time, I laughed at the price, KNOWING I could get a better deal if I returned to Sayun and booked taxi from there.
Ha! I was so very wrong. They all wanted 5000-8000 R/T from Sayun.
I retreated to a juice stand and just camped out. I refused to check myself into a hotel room with things so up in the air - I had a feeling something may be coming my way. After all, if you sit somewhere long enough, someone is bound to swing by and chat with you and maybe give you a few pointers.
I ended up booking a car through some guy's friend for 3500 R/T for 3pm that afternoon.
The drive took 90 minutes. The place was spectacular. 17,000 population on mountain and lower-lying communities. People seemed to be more curious than they were friendly. Not the usual gormless stares that the Yemeni's are so famous for; these people were a bit more inquisitive with their eyes.
Young girls kept asking for pictures, but I knew that there could be trouble if I actually did take any. Some of these people believe that a picture steals your soul, so I didn't want to upset anyone. I could only take their chants of "surah! surah!" for so long, and reached for my camera. The oldest one had a look of terror on her face and began screaming NO NO NO. She screamed as she guarded the children. I backed off. I didn't want the child to have a coronary at age 8.
Once I got back to Sayun, I booked a ticket to Sana'a at 6:15 the next morning. But only after I told the guy selling me the ticket that I was American and that I had no religion. (After he asked for this information) I found 2 things weird about this encounter: He asked if I was Muslim. And when I said No, he then offered up, "Are you Buddhist?" Who says Buddhist before Christian? Then, the reaction he gave my answers made me feel like I shouldn't get on the bus in the morning. Could be Bomb Central.
As I walked back to my filthy room at the aptly named Palace Sayun, I talked myself down and attributed my fears to the oppressive heat and exhaust fumes from my taxi ride from Hajjarayn.