Monday, 7 January 2013

Yemen, ...  Living Museum, but spoiled by problems!

Yemen, ...  Living Museum, but spoiled by problems!

By Hesham Hussain, Yemen Times,07/01/2013

The clouds are hugging the mountain cliffs. The streets are jammed and crowded with people. Each town has a number of old buildings. Within each modern city lies an ancient, gated city. The historic sites are enormous. Villages and homes are erected at high altitudes without any roads leading to them. Reminisce of ancient kingdoms and civilizations are discovered in many areas. Natural springs and rare plants are plentiful. 

Many people are suffering from poverty, illiteracy, malnutrition and hunger. Yet they are generous, intelligent, hospitable, kind and always smiling! Drive your car and travel hundreds of kilometers for several hours through tiny, curvy and high altitude roads. The drive may take a whole day, yet it feels like a couple of hours. Where is this place, where does it exist, and why is it unknown? 

Beautiful mountains, open valleys, green fields, sandy deserts and gorgeous coastlines all exist abundantly in one place. Yemen. It is a complete museum by all means. Foreigners who have had the chance to visit Yemen and tour its amazing cities will tell you all about it. 

Yemen is not just a complete museum, it is a living museum in the sense that everywhere you look and visit there is uniqueness and variety. People are still residing in ancient cities and in cliffs of mountains that vehicles cannot reach. This is the living museum most people in the world are unaware of. 

Whenever Yemen is mentioned, the ideas that come to one’s mind are chaos, instability and poverty. The most one can expect is for others to have knowledge of Yemen’s climate and location. While Yemen could be one of the top tourist attractions in the world, it is a little-known place for tourism. 

Let’s assume that there isn't a security concern. What will make Yemen a point of attraction for tourists? If Yemen has the natural scenery and the historic landmarks, what is lacking? 

On a road trip from Taiz to Sana’a, passing through the green valley of Ibb, and taking the curvy road up the Sumarah Mountain, one cannot help but contemplate and reflect upon the natural beauty of Yemen. If this mountain or scenery were to be in another region like America or Europe, it would be declared a national park or a natural habitat. 

This is only a sample of what can be found in Yemen. It is a fact that no one can falsify; Yemen has the potential to be a major universal hub for tourism. From the white, sandy beaches of the Red Sea to the historic sites of Al-Jawf and all the way to the exceptional island of Socotra. This island is full of wonders with its unique plants and creatures that aren’t found anywhere else. To this extent, it has been called “the most alien-looking place on earth.” 

It saddens every Yemeni and every person who has managed to visit Yemen to see the country still is not a tourists’ hub. Yemen is definitely not listed in the lists of top countries to be visited by tourists! 

Perhaps it’s the humble tourism promotion campaign that is making Yemen an unpopular place to visit. However this problem can be easily fixed as sincere and dedicated people take ownership of this task and fulfill their responsibility as employees of the Tourism Ministry. When generating revenues from tourism becomes an objective and part of Yemen’s budget, more resources will be allocated for the promotion campaign. 

More importantly, Yemen will need to assess its tourist sites and enumerate them (though they will be too many to count). A full assessment of tourism in Yemen will need to be carried out by professionals to identify the major key sites, the obstacles to reaching those sites and how to overcome those challenges. 

Having the logistical support for tourism in Yemen is a key aspect in succeeding. Constructing the right infrastructure for tourism is also very important. Travelling from one city to another on a long, tiny or defective road does not appeal to any traveler, let alone a person who wants to enjoy and explore a foreign country. 

The infrastructure to support tourism must be established and focused to assure its success in making tourists happy and at ease. Having sufficient and effective services for tourists such as rest areas with decent facilities and directories is extremely important. 

There are a number of small tools and features that can be implemented to make tourists feel comfortable during their travel. Experts in tourism and tourists’ behavior should be consulted to identify all aspects. 

Simple leaflets that contain geographical maps to identify roads and landmarks must be abundantly available for tourists. Guidebooks that are professional and artistically made can make a big difference. When a number of travelers enjoy their trip, experience good services and logistical support in Yemen, they will surely re-visit. Most importantly, they will share such experiences with their families, friends and colleagues. They will basically promote tourism in Yemen. After all, “word of mouth is the best advertisement,” as many people say.

 When will the time come for tourism to prosper in Yemen? Unfortunately, many Yemenis themselves have not had the chance to explore their homeland. There are many obstacles that any traveler will have to consider in advance. The hardship of transportation makes a person think twice before travelling for pleasure. Yemen has many challenges. 

Even though the enhancement of tourism might not seem a priority at this point to many people, it will play a role in the future of Yemen. After all, it is unfortunate for people across the globe to be deprived of visiting one of the most natural and historic places in the world. It is a living museum that should be explored and experienced at least once in the life time.

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