“Could I get a ticket for the night bus to al Mukalla tonite. “Mafi” says the female ticket agent. I asked “finished?” After some discussion an interpreter tells me foreigners are not permitted on night buses in Yemen. So I ask for a ticket for the next morning “Paper?” directs the ticket seller. “No! No!” as she directs me to the manager. I show the manager my permission papers which were dutifully approved in San’a the day before where I was assured all was in order and that I must leave on the day the permission starts.
Several phone calls were made and it was found my papers and permission were in order so I could buy a ticket for the 6am bus from Aden to Al Mukalla. I asked for a for a window seat and was told that was what I was given. The ticket seller took a total dislike to me and attempted to thwart me on every request.
The next morning I found My seat to be aisle and three back from the front. I noticed the seat beside the young man who was sitting in the front seat was empty so when the bus pulled out of the station I asked him if I could sit in it and the request was honored. The ticket gatherer promptly said, “No, No! Man. Woman.” “Why” I asked, between T’aizz and San’a a man sat next to me. I was directed to seat eleven and started to cry and within seconds the man who was sitting in the front seat was shuttled to another seat and a 10 year old boy was put beside me. The next hurdle is the road police check. The military person boarded the bus and I gave him a copy of my permission papers. “Where are you going? What is your profession? What was I going to do there? ” were the questions directed at me by the security person in Arabic. One of the passengers acted as interpreter and when the questions were satisfactorily answered we were able to continue. About four hours later and at the third security check a soldier boarded the bus with gun and qat until near the end of the trip.
The buses are very comfortable,with large windows, soft seats and temperate A/C. The roads are smooth so the entire transit is very easy. the stops are well placed at pleasant well priced restaurants that serve fresh fast and tasty food and that have respectable bathrooms.
No one knows what to do with me. The women and families go to a separate section of the restaurant which has small rooms or sections screened off into smaller areas so the women can lift their veils in order to eat. In the women/family section orders are placed with a waiter. In the front section (male) area you can place an order or point at the items that are being served and in some cases the restaurant is cafeteria style so ordering food without speaking Arabic is more easy.
At least one of the stops is a Qat stop. Qat markets are placed along the road and 20 – 30 minutes is given to the passengers to select and negotiate the price for a quantity of Qat for themselves and any friends or family at the end of the trip. By 1pm the bus driver and passerns are into full qat chewing!
The bus from Aden to Al Mukalah arrived at 2:30 pm. I found out teh bus tickets to Sayun were sold out for the 6pm bus. I asked several people how I could get to Sayun as I knew a shared taxi was available, but I did not know where or how to get there. A man prompts me to follow him and so I jog behind across the street and over the bridge. He flags down a mini bus and tells the driver to drop me off at the share taxi station. I get out to pay and find the fare has already been settled.
By 3:30 the taxi is full with 11 people and we are off to sayun (1000 rials). The scenery along the way is magical. Late afternoon sun on the sandstone cliffs gleam gold. when the sun finally sets the horizon is orange and red forever until the starts peak out and take over the sky from the sun.
After five hours of fast driving we arrive in Sayun and within minutes I am checked into the friendly, cozy, clean Rayboon Hotel (1500 rials)