Sweet Maria's Home Coffee Roasting

An Introduction to Yemen

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More coffee n' cactus
More coffee n' cactus
Yet another view of the dry desert plants and the coffee on terraces.
Somethings Cookin' in Gart
Somethings Cookin' in Gart
Looks like somebodies fireplace went a little out of control.
Drama Town
Drama Town
I just couldn't stop taking images as we approached ... it's just mind-boggling that these ancient towns
Rare Sighting
Rare Sighting
This was a good example of how it is in the rural towns: I snapped this picture of the women in their traditional dress, and by the time I reached the village not one of them was seen.
Ripe Coffee Cherry
Ripe Coffee Cherry
And in fact, this is what they were doing ... the women had just picked the coffee cherry and were showing it to Nasser.
Great Red Cherry
Great Red Cherry
This is a great example of coffee cherry, very well picked, just an occasional underripe that can easily be removed when it is laid out on the roof. Again, notice the small sack size.
A Boy and His Donkey.
A Boy and His Donkey.
A Boy and His Donkey, Gart, Harasi, Yemen.
Tube Top
Tube Top
Incredibly, this is what they use to old coffee cherry as the pick, a tire tiube fashioned into a sort of shoulder bag. What's more remarkable, who uses tire tubes anymore? That's a hard item to salvage.
Coffee Schlepper
Coffee Schlepper
Yet another "boy and his mule" hauling a load of coffee up the hill.
Little Girl and Wall.
Little Girl and Wall.
Take a close look at the stonework on the wall. No mortar, just fitted stones, waving and weaving. I have no idea how old these villages are, when the first stones were cut and hauled to make this wall. There's rock all around, but it ain't square.
Young men of Gart
Young men of Gart
The two in the olive shirts are in their school outfits. While there are schools in every village, and you can see electric and other conveniences, this is still a rough rural life. Roads and water; those are the two things that need improving, we heard it over and over.
Don't fall...
Don't fall...
I think I photographed this at a slight angle that makes it look scarey, but the fact is ... it IS scarey! I wonder how many mules (and people) slip and fall down cliffs in Yemen each year.
Coffee Terraces
Coffee Terraces
From the spot where the people were standing in the last photo, I took this image of the coffee terraces across the valley. Look for the house in this picture!
Drying Cherry
Drying Cherry
Coffee drying on the rooftop. The drying period is usually 2 weeks.
Close-up of coffee drying.
Close-up of coffee drying.
Close-up of coffee drying.
Rooftop Photo, Gart, Harasi
Rooftop Photo, Gart, Harasi
The whole gang, at least those who made it down to lower Gart.
Me and the Gartians
Me and the Gartians
I gave the older teen my camera and told him to take a few shots. He must have thought I only wanted a picture of myself, because he cropped out most of the group...
Loaded up...
Loaded up...
The By and his mule, now loaded with coffee... coming up from the town of Gart on the footpath back to the road.
On the way to up, my bro'
On the way to up, my bro'
Someone who works here at SM thought this might be my long lost Yemeni brother...
Al Muhakri - Yemeni Coffee Collector
Al Muhakri - Yemeni Coffee Collector
On the way back up, a picture of Al Muhakri, who traveled with us to all the origins, and seemed to have one of the best collection warehouses and mills in Sana'a
Hauling coffee up the hill
Hauling coffee up the hill
An old man and his mule.
Slow but steady...
Slow but steady...
Both the old man and his mule were slow, but made progress up the steep cliff in his own time. In fact, he seemed to be following a better path than we were on.
So Steep ...
So Steep ...
As we approach upper Gart again, I can see just how these houses are built on the edge of the precipice. Can you imagine what would happen here if there was an earthquake?!?
Textures and Shapes in Stone
Textures and Shapes in Stone
Dramatic variations of color, shape and texture.
Old mill stone
Old mill stone
Cast off mill stone.
Sowaid Bros & Friend
Sowaid Bros & Friend
Amar Sowaid, on the left, is the youngest of the 3 Sowaid boys. In the center is Ali, and an unknown Gart boy.
Tough Guys.
Tough Guys.
Older Gart man with Ali
Portrait
Portrait
It is remarkable how stern Yemeni men look in photos, and how amicable they are in person. They definitely "get a serious look" on their face for pictures.
Amar and Thompson
Amar and Thompson
I had these goofy sunglasses and a thrift store hat from the midwest. I think Amar and Ali thought they must be cool US rapper gear or something.
MC Ali
MC Ali
So Ali wanted to borrow my stuff for a picture. Ali loves hip hop and wants to visit Compton. I told him Compton would probably be a disappointment ... it's not like rappers are walking around Compton and you will see them there...
Al Hajirah
Al Hajirah
Al Hagrah, Al Hagarah, etc. approached from the other side as we leave the Gart area to go lunch at Nasser Hussin's abode.
Awesome Art
Awesome Art
At Mr. Nasser's house, great art.
IMG_0667.JPG
IMG_0667.JPG
After our amazing, delicious meal (which you always eat with your hands, on the floor, with communal dishes) we had Queshir (Keshir), the tea made froim the dried coffee skins, with a bit of sugar.
Duane rocks the Qat
Duane rocks the Qat
Mr. Sowaid in the back, Duane with a mouthful of cud. That's the worst thing about the qat - this gritty cheekful of vegetation.
nasser hussin
nasser hussin
He was loud, but clearly very hilarious (if you understand arabic), and gregarious. I was shocked to find out he was over 70! He also was one of the few people i ment who did not like qat.
Big Hands
Big Hands
This makes me think about the term "ham-fisted" quite literally. Was it my camera or are his hands really that big? This is one of the sons of Mr. Nasser.
Odd couple
Odd couple
This is another son of Nasser, and myself. He was nice, but I think when you have a cheekful of qat you end up grimacing at the camera.
Dawari Coffee Cherry, Ismaili, Yemen
Dawari Coffee Cherry, Ismaili, Yemen
Yet the coffee in some parts had some of the best yield we saw, especially where there was some shade provided to the trees by the topography. In this image, I probably singled out the most heavily-laden branch of coffee in all of Yemen - deinitely not representative of the whole.
The money shot
The money shot
A friend called all shots of coffee cherry to be a kind of nature porn. I don't think there is anything so obscene about photographing cherry, although it is the first thing every US roaster is drawn to when they visit origin countries, so images of coffee cherry abound. Hey, it's beautiful, and it's the source of our beverage,
Dawairi Mokha Trees
Dawairi Mokha Trees
On the way back to the asphalt road we encountered some Dawairi type trees. Ismaili is full of these, so I have many photos of this type later
Narrow, rippled leaves
Narrow, rippled leaves
I noticed how the Dawairi Mokha type had smaller, narrower leaves and were quite rippled. This can be partly from lack of water, but is largely due to the cultivar.
Lunchtime is Dinnertime
Lunchtime is Dinnertime
It was a late lunch in remote Mayan, and after the unexpectedly long hike we were very hungry. Lunch is dinner here, and they believe certain selections of spiced dishes "soften the stomach" to make the ensuing qat chewing ritual more enjoyable, I am not sure about that, but the food is awesome. It brings a new definition to "fresh and local".
Chat Room
Chat Room
The chat room. Well, qat room in Yemen (it is chat in Ethiopia). After dinner we retired fow many hours of discussion about coffee. Ismaili has only 20% of it's original population. Rural life just doesn't pay - many have moved to Sana'a. They make little off coffee and the costs are high. A bag of wheat that is 4500 in Sana'a costs 7000-8000 in Ismaili. A bottle of propane that is 450 in Sana'a costs 1050 in Ismaili.
Bulging cheeks ...
Bulging cheeks ...
I am not sure what age the boys began to chew qat, but this photograph might tell you.
The American Curiousities
The American Curiousities
I was surprised to find out that Mr Sowaid had not been here. I was more surprised to find that the village people could not recall any foreign visitors coming to this locale to see the coffee. They had visitors from Italy and France come to see the ruined church atop Mount Ismaili (Jabal Ismaili) but that is it. Considering this is the most fabled coffee in Yemen, that was a surprise. By this time we were certain there was no return to the car. We could never make the perilous hike in the dark, and yet our hosts did it, not once but twice, to go get our bags from the car! Two hours for each trip there and back!
Photogenics
Photogenics
It might be cultural, it might be something else, but when I looked at these images, I couldn't believe how stern and intimidation everyone looked.
Pictures of Everyone
Pictures of Everyone
I handed out my camera and told them to take pictures. I think they understood I wanted a picture of everyone. Indeed, it worked out. Ali had me burn a CD of all my Ismaili images so he could give it to them, and they could all see their pictures.
Qat Ritual
Qat Ritual
True qat chewing is indeed a ritual, in which the group all sits down as equals and talks. It can be intense, and you don't have to tell a Yemeni to "speak their mind" because they will, especially after everyone has settled down to qat for an hour or so.

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