The tourism police approved my 6 day circuit to the Haraz mountains and to the Red Sea (Hodeida) and then south to Zabid and Al Makha and then to T’aiz and back to Sana.
At 6am I went to Bab Al-Yemen to catch mini bus to the bus station but was directed to a share taxi outside the gate which left at 7am when it was full for a mere 600 rial. I arrived at Manakha and selected the family run Manakha Askari Tourist Hotel for 2500 rial with breakfast and dinner.
My room had endless views of the mountains. Since the hotel is popular with the tour groups in the evening the serving personnel double as entertainers with music and dancing. Guests are invited to join and after a couple of hours of dancing with handsome young Yemeni men I retired as the next day I had arranged for a guide to take me from village to village along the steep paths with endless panoramas for the fortified stone villages.
After two nights of relaxation, trekking, endless views, great food and entertainment i took a shared taxi to Maghraba to catch transport to Hodeyda (500 rial).
When traveling alone in Yemen everyone wants to know where you are from and also your impressions of Yemen. And everyone wants to help you. I was invited to stay with a teacher and his family, but declined, but he insisted he see me safely to my hotel.
I checked into the recommended Al Ikhwa hotel and within 5 minutes checked out to the clean Darcum Hotel (2500 rial for a double) with A/C. Al Ikhawa was dirty and smelly and expensive for a room with a shared bathroom with cold water.
As I was looking for the Souq I passed a restaurant (sign with a cow and sheep) and was invited to join a couple of young men for the best food I have eaten in Yemen and the food here is great! (bread, grilled fill, cheese sauce (onion, tomatoes, chili pepers and white cheese). I am quickly getting fat after loosing so much weight in Sudan and Ethiopia.
The only complaint is the coffee in the coffee houses is horrible. Fine ground coffee is put in the bottom of a cup and hot water is added. It tastes like nothing…and I missing machettos which I so freely indulged in Ethiopia…