Yemen

The Great Roadtrip

Writer

Brownbook Staff

Photographer

Yumna Al-Arashi

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[split]
Tell us a little about the trip you took for this shoot?
We spent one day driving northwest of Sana’a, through mountains and checkpoints towards Kawkaban, and another day driving to the green landscapes of Mahweet. Along the way, we stopped in souks, ate at hole in the wall restaurants and, of course, photographed the beautiful scenery. On the first day, our mission was to find a way into Thula fort, which was built in 110 BC during the Himyaritic period, but has now been abandoned and apparently closed off for the past few years.

Did you manage to get inside?
Three local boys knew a way to sneak us in. I always find that trusting local children helps when travelling in new lands. They’re the most familiar with their homes, and are usually daring enough to take risks, like sneaking into an ancient military fort. So, in a rush of excitement and fear, we climbed to the top of the mountain with the help of our young tour guides, Mohammed, Adnan and Taha. They were completely fascinated by our cameras.

What can you see up there?
Aside from agricultural landscapes, you see entire towns built on the highest points of mountains. The ability to create entire villages without technology is fantastic. These places are completely in tact, have survived the test of time and are still lived in by millions today. It’s hard to think that modern structures have the same qualities to last.

Where did you go on your second day?
The drive to Mahweet was the most beautiful of the trip. Driving through the clouds as we climbed up through the green mountains created the most beautiful scene. Once we reached Mahweet itself we had a spectacular view of the surrounding area, one of greenery, clouds and beautiful villages on the very tips of mountains.

That’s a lot of driving.
We were exhausted, and the drive back to Sana’a that evening was long and dark. I remember people walking back to their villages looking like ghosts as our headlights hit them.

What do you find particularly inspiring about Yemen as a photographer?
As you travel through the country, you feel as though it were the centre of the Earth before all the continents split. You have beautiful beaches, undiscovered islands, mountain ranges, ancient farmlands, great desert landscapes and buzzing cities – all in one small country. It’s incredible how much Yemen’s capable of offering to the outside world, yet the outside world knows so little about it. I believe photographing and writing about Yemen helps to change people’s perceptions.

What did you learn about the wildlife and landscapes you were shooting?
I was amazed at the mountainside agriculture methods that were developed centuries ago with absolutely no technology and passed down through generations. You could see how the people knew their land, understood the environment and maintained it properly in order to survive. Seeing hundreds and hundreds of levels of farmland, perfectly aligned with the sun and angled to receive the proper amount of exposure to moisture in the air, was incredible. It’s as grand as imagining how the pyramids of Giza were built, but maybe even more mind blowing.

Is travel and the great outdoors a recurring theme in your work?
Travel is definitely a huge theme, not just in my work but in my life. I’m always on the go and my excursions are almost always documented. Aside from covering Yemen and other travels though, my subjects tend to be the powerful women in my life.

This article appears in the issue43Buy Now