Socotra: Part I

Discussion in 'International reports' started by Pope, Jan 2, 2014.

  1. Pope

    Pope Senior Member

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    The trip started at an unexpected time and place. Rather than making my way directly to Socotra, I had a deviation in the tour, so to speak. I landed in Sana’a at 12am on Monday the 23rd and made my way through customs. Initially, I was a bit nervous landing in a country known for conflict, kidnappings and terrorist attacks. The airport was shabby, complete with a shattered window I used exchange the paperwork needed to gain the hard copy of my visa.
    I moved through customs with relative ease. I had been asked to open my bags for inspection as poppers and jigs alerted custom workers, but a quick response of “Socotra” elicited the dismissal of anxiety on their part. I was a bit confused by the layout of the airport, but after some investigation found I needed to exit the airport to make my way to terminals. I did so, in a fashion befitting Yemen. We stuffed bags through a doorway to be X-rayed and I watched in amazement as they were somehow discerned by a woman watching a monitor. I eventually made it through by pushing into a crowd, through a doorway into the terminal and asked the staff at the counter of Yemenia Airways if I could obtain my boarding pass. I was instructed that I needed to wait, so I found a seat and waited.
    Around 2am I saw the airport go from crowded to nearly empty with only military at doors and a smattering of staff behind counters. This stuck me as odd and I asked one of the two potential passengers who remained with me in the airport if this seemed odd. An Indian who was familiar with the Sana’a airport said it was, but not to worry. “Sana’a is different, “he explained. “It is different.”
    At 4am the calls to prayers could be heard and at 5am workers came inside the airport and used a large carpet in the adjacent room to pray. I thought this may have been the way the airport opened and regained some hope only to have it dashed. As soon as the prayers had concluded, I watched staff and government officials steam into the terminal and begin to argue. Dozens upon dozens entered and elevated the volume as tones deepened and pitches reach fevered paces. Apparently, airport staff were on strike! This excited my pulse, but it wasn’t until one official grabbed and beat the hell out of one ramp worker that I thought I might be “done.” With blood dripping from the man’s face, a member of the military escorted him out of the airport. This infuriated the remaining workers and tempers flared further. I could also see people outside wanting to enter to catch flights and others on the tarmac wanting to make connections becoming frustrated. I was caught in between the fiasco and was thinking, “oh shit, I am in real trouble.”
    I called my wife and told her what was happening and then called the embassy. The embassy was closed, but the Marines posted at the embassy answered the phone just to explain they were closed and would pass along the information to the deck officer. I then called Socotra-Eco-Tours to explain I wouldn’t be landing and they sent someone to pick me up later in the morning. Two hours later and I was in a cab headed into a city unlike any other I had witnessed. Air pollution irritated my throat and poverty ravaged my eyes. People were so densely packed into the city that hardly a meter was land wasn’t occupied by someone or trash of some sort.
    I checked into a hotel and unpacked for an indeterminate amount of time. I sent an email to Socotra and Yemenia Airways. I waited to hear how I would make either an exit to Socotra or home. As it turned out there was another flight on Wednesday, but it was booked and nobody knew if the airport would be functioning. There was an additional flight to Socotra on Friday with another airline. I asked the driver, Jameel, sent by Socotra-Eco-Tours to take me to the office to see if I could manage to get another ticket. Together, with the driver, we were able to get a ticket. It was only a piece of paper with a few sentences written in Arabic, but I was assured it would serve as a ticket when presented on Friday. Now, it was up to me to see what I could do to make the most of the next 4 days, but first I needed to sleep as I hadn’t slept since leaving the U.S.
    The next morning I went to get some clothes worthy of tourist attempting to blend into a city where remaining relatively unnoticed could be important. Jameel showed me how to wrap a turban in Yemeni fashion and I bought a scarf from a clothing store. From this point forward, I would move through the city as Ahkmed from Turkey.
    Here are some shots from Sana’a.
    Saleh Mosque
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  2. Pope

    Pope Senior Member

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    [SIZE=medium]Christmas dinner with fellow airport refugees[/SIZE]
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    [SIZE=medium]Recyclers collecting plastic[/SIZE]
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    [SIZE=medium]All of these building date 2,000-4,000 years. It funny to walk through them and consider how many people time has forgotten who've passed through them, peered through the ancient glass in the windows or darkened their doorways. Shem, son of Noah, is rumored to have settled this city and lived in these buildings. [/SIZE]
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    [SIZE=medium]Rear gate to the 3rd mosque ever built. Date 705AD. Ironically, one of the newer buildings in the old city.[/SIZE]

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  3. Pope

    Pope Senior Member

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    [SIZE=medium][​IMG][/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]Think of how long ago those sticks were gathered to frame this building. [/SIZE]
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    [SIZE=medium]Modern toy in ancient doorway[/SIZE]
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    [SIZE=medium]4' doorway leading into home with 5' ceilings. A testament to how humans evolved in terms of height.[/SIZE]
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    [SIZE=medium]Treats in the streets[/SIZE]
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    [SIZE=medium]Coomunity garden. I especially like the antennaes and satellite receiver affixed to the roofs of buildings dating BC.[/SIZE]
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    [SIZE=medium]Guess what this is.[/SIZE]
     
  4. Pope

    Pope Senior Member

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    [SIZE=medium][​IMG][/SIZE]
    [SIZE=medium]I went to get coffee from a coffee grinder. He wanted to weigh me (I tend to be larger than the average person here). 87kg![/SIZE]
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    [SIZE=medium]A soldier loaned me his Kalashnikov and used my phone to take a photo of me. That is crazy. I could have taken out everyone around me. [/SIZE]
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    [SIZE=medium]The Rock Palace. Carved from the stone 400 years ago. This was where the former kings lived.[/SIZE]
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    [SIZE=medium]Up close[/SIZE]
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    [SIZE=medium]I'm framing this for my son. Never complain about school. [/SIZE]
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    [SIZE=medium]There were 7 women in the back of this truck.[/SIZE]
     
  5. Pope

    Pope Senior Member

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    Part II and Socotra to come manana.
     
  6. elsyd

    elsyd Senior Member

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    Top stuff pope,
    Pics where great, even better than looking at fish, can't wait till you get to the water.
    Safe travels bloke.
     
    semipro likes this.
  7. lite-liner

    lite-liner troll enforcement Staff Member

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    fantastic, Brandon!

    love the beard, quite a good idea!
     
    fillet2release likes this.
  8. Ripplefisher

    Ripplefisher Member

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    Wonderful report thus far - I hope the fishing gods smile down upon you and consider the 'difficulties thus far' on the trip, and reward you appropriately...! Tightest of lines...
     
  9. AaronD

    AaronD Moderator

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    incredible.. completely captivated with the story and pics keep them coming.
     
  10. cabosandinh

    cabosandinh Moderator

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    I don't like the drama getting there but I love the pics and reports
     
    fillet2release likes this.
  11. t-astragal

    t-astragal Senior Member

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    I'd be freaking the freak out! You posed as Akhmed from Turkey, I'd pose as fat dead white guy from who cares!

    Tip of my turban to ya Brandon! You da man.
     
    Osage and [email protected] like this.
  12. fmb72@hotmail.com

    [email protected] Junior member

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    Lol the graffiti in green and red reads "boycot American and Israeli goods" that is so Yemen............weapons in Yemen is very common, it's well known that Yemen has more guns than people.

    On another note the beard was a great idea......you actually look like a Turkish tourist..........

    Yemen really is a forgotten jewel since it has been populated and mentioned by all the monolithic religious books the Torah, bible, and the Quran.........you most probably walked on the same streets that Solomon, and Sheba walked on
     
    semipro likes this.
  13. egluck

    egluck Senior Member

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    Ha man, I love the beard and clothes. A few of the South African guys we fished with visited Sana'a for one night and after hearing that they had no problems I would have liked to have checked it out. Thanks for the photographs. ;)
     
  14. fathom

    fathom Lifetime Supporting Members

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    adapt and improvise, good job!
     
  15. etan

    etan Senior Member

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    Great report, keep it coming.
     
  16. max drag

    max drag Senior Member

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    One of the best reports on 360, great job. I am waiting with baited breath for part 2. Lets just hope CIA doesn't mistake you for someone else carrying an AK. As long as you didn't have to use it, then it was a good day.
     
  17. Osage

    Osage Member

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    Pope...!!

    WOW!! Awesome pictures!! What an adventure!!

    Was that building the American Embassy?

    Be safe, friend..........
     
    Gonefishings likes this.
  18. t-astragal

    t-astragal Senior Member

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    Ok Akhmed. I've waited long enough. Part 2 should be coming along. Assuming you aren't imprisoned. :)

    I showed my son (you tried to help him get hooked up a year ago) the pic of you and the turbin, beard, and AK and asked if he knew who it was. He was lost as a ball in high weeds. I told him it was you and that he needed to read the post. At first he's like, " I can't read this, it's too long". I assured him it was really only a few paragraphs. He read it and I could tell that he was getting sucked into the story. He was quite amazed in the end at your adventure. Thanks for posting it and letting us live vicariously through you.

    And btw J-mo got a nice yft on a maguroni last month on the scat cat after spending the first 28 hrs in the rack seasick. He said, "Dad I really thought to myself that this cast is the one. And it was."
     
    oilpatch likes this.
  19. oilpatch

    oilpatch Senior Member

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    Wow. Pope when you was decking on crew boats back in the day did you ever imagine you would be in the middle east chasing overgrown jacks? Unreal brother and a great report anxiously waiting on updates!
     
  20. RedAg

    RedAg Member

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    Dripping with anticipation, Thanks for sharing.