Sunday, May 04, 2008

Ibb Taizz

On Sunday I had asked the bus guy 5 times when the bus left for Ibb, and five times he had said 9 o'clock. So I should have known that when I got there at 8:15 the bus would have left at 8.

Not to worry. Just roll the ol' case another few block over to the share taxi area. Except that right before I got there, there was a minibus that was almost filled up. So I impulsively hopped on board.

And got to sit in the back with my legs and knees all mushed up. Not to worry, because after 15 minutes the driver pulled over and tugged the guy out of the front seat and put me there. Ah, comfortable seat and restfull legs.

But there was a price to pay, since now the driver wanted to have a perpetual conversation with me, with him not speaking a word of English and me not speaking a word of Arabic. And then after the first police check, (I would never have a problem with one, he started pestering me to give him 1000 rials.

The scenery for the first couple of hours was mostly flattish and brown. Except that we kept stopping in it. First, 20 minutes for qat buying. Then another 20 minutes for more qat buying. Then he kept pestering me to chew qat. Then another 30minutes for 'lunch'.

Arab men are always getting pissed off at each other, and then calming down. So now I decided to try a little creative anger. I started roundly cursing him out in English, threatening to take my backpack off the roof and finding another ride. He got the message and got real conciliatory. Being hungry now, I went in to eat. And he didn't bother me for the rest of the trip.

A little further down the road, and we started going up into the mountains. Big dramatic dry mountains with huge vistas beneath. Now, however, on top of the mountains there were giant dark threatening clouds. After 104 degrees in Kuwait, a little rain would be refreshing. Soon a little rain started.

And then a lot. The driver pulled over and took all the stuff off of the roof, and squooshed it in with the passengers in the back. Now the clouds were even darker and the crashing rain was mixed with hail. And there we were on a winding mountain road with a fogged up windshield and a driver high on qat, hurtling towards Ibb.

The reason I was going to Ibb is that I was going to Jibla, which is another medieval cragtop tourist town. But when we got to the medium sized, poor, ugly city of Ibb, the lowering skies and lack of taxis meant that Jibla was going to have to be called on account of rain. I paid the extra minibus fare to Ta'izz and we continued, arriving at about 3:30.

Ta'izz is another Yemeni city of at least 2 million, but, again, even the 'downtown' is poor and dirty and pathetic. With only a few mistakes I was able to find the hotel I was looking for, which turned out to be poor and dirty and pathetic.

Thus refreshed, I set out at about 5 to explore Ta'izz. Unsurprisingly, there was not much to explore. The city is supposed to have an Old Town of renown, but it didn't have one twentieth the charm of Sa'na's. Oh well.

At 6:20 I found an internet place, but it was closing in ten minutes because this was Thursday night, which in the Moslem world is Saturday night, which is, oh, forget it.


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