Sweet Maria's Home Coffee Roasting

An Introduction to Yemen

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Ismaili Portraits
Ismaili Portraits
Ismaili is the name of an Islamic sect, but I was told that was not the reason for this regions name. I find it a little hard to believe. Oddly, Harasi, the region we visited the day before, is also a cultural group with a distinct language, from Saudi Arabia. Coincidental? It makes me curious.
Solitude
Solitude
Mountain solitude in Ismaili Yemen.
Yet more pictures of ruins
Yet more pictures of ruins
A closer view of the same ruined tower home, Bani Atiah, Ismaili, Yemen
Ismaili Portraits
Ismaili Portraits
He helped me carry my bag as we traversed across from Bani Atiah to Mayan. Mayan, Bani Ismaili, Yemen
Ismaili Portraits
Ismaili Portraits
Teenager with jambia, Mayan, Ismaili
Mayan Town, Ismaili, Yemen
Mayan Town, Ismaili, Yemen
Mayan town, Ismaili District, Yemen. No, it's no relation the Maya of the Americas. We traversed very steep terrain to get to the town, and then found it was too late to return. We slept on the floor that night.
Above Mayan
Above Mayan
Above Mayan, more houses on the hillside
Calf.
Calf.
A young calf, at Mayan town
The town arrives
The town arrives
Settling down for qat chewing at Mayan, Ismaili, and soon the entire village starts to arrive. How many people can this room hold - we shall find out!
Sowaid, father and son
Sowaid, father and son
We retreated to different room for enjoying the qat, and as it grew dark, Mohamed (always with the cigarette) and Ali Sowaid cut an interesting profile.
Old Sana'a - Jambir Van
Old Sana'a - jambia Van
I couldn't fiure out why there were so many jambias for sale, if they weren't just for tourists. Real jambias are handed down for generations and cost upward of $2000. One sold for $100k recently. I think the ones on the street average twenty bucks.
Old Sana'a - Making Oil
Old Sana'a - Making Oil
In old Sana'a they use camels to mill oil (seseme oil I believe. This shop was right inside the old gate to the walled city, and at first this looked so "Disney-esque" I thought it must be something they do for tourists. But I was wrong, as the adjacent area had quaite a few of these camel-driven mills in the byways and alleys.
Old Sana'a - Facade No 848
Old Sana'a - Facade No 848
Who decides where windows go? The City of Sana'a Code Enforcement Unit? I don't think so.
Old Sana'a - Wow
Old Sana'a - Wow
In conclusion of my report entitled "Yemen, Magical Wonders of the Ancient Land", I have proved my thesis that Yemen is facinating to naive rubes of the West, like myself, and you don't have to leave Sana'a to be amazed by the built environs, the food, the people, the hospitality, the proliferation of the jambia trade, and such things. Be advised, beer costs $8 at the Sheraton, perhaps due to some tax paid to the local mosque for transgressions, and everyone is completely obsessed with qat, which is very mild, but makes you feel like a goat chewing on someone's hedges. Despite 30 the 30 hour travel penalty, I would return at the drop of a pin, a hat, or a hatpin. The end!
Old Sana'a Marketplace - Jambir Row
Old Sana'a Marketplace - jambia Row
That evening, we walked around the market. With sections like this, all jambia vendors, you might think it's a big tourist trap. Well, there aren't that many tourists in Yemen (definitely not many Americans - I saw none) and on this evening stroll I did not see any foreigners.
Old Sana'a Marketplace - Jambir polishing
Old Sana'a Marketplace - jambia polishing
Oh, enough with the jambias already. My joke was, since they are all basically the same size, and are kinda, well, oddly placed, what if some tourist dude showed up wearing a jaqmbir that was comically huge. I think it would get a good laugh from the locals.
Old Sana'a Marketplace - Spice Row
Old Sana'a Marketplace - Spice Row
Everything is divided into sections here, tinware, hardware, those damn jambias, textiles, and here we have spice row. The food is so amazingly spiced here, and since Yemen always played a role in the spice trade, it's no wonder they are experts at this.
Special Man Shop
Special Man Shop
I was not special enough to stop and go in, so I am not really sure what they offered.
Sana'a Street Scene
Sana'a Street Scene
Typical all-purpose corner ship in Sana'a
Restaurant Proprietor?
Restaurant Proprietor?
At the restaurant, which have a big open cafeteria feel and serve GREAT food, an image in the wall caught my attention. Local celebrity, or the owner. Not sure.
Pharmacy
Pharmacy
What is the supposed connection between snakes and healing? Looks like a glass of poison to me.
Cupping with Mohamed (Sowaid)
Cupping with Mohamed (Sowaid)
Duane took the lead. They had just given us our owm jambia knives to take home, so we wore them just to look ridiculous. Since the whole thing seemed like a demo for an amazing blender, or ginzu knives, I added some smart-ass commentary to the bulletin board.
Cupping with Mohamed (Sowaid)
Cupping with Mohamed (Sowaid)
These were all roasted with a popcorn popper. I am not sure anyone in Yemen has ever even seen a real multi-barrel sample roaster.
Cupping with Mohamed (Sowaid)
Cupping with Mohamed (Sowaid)
Back in Sana'a, we arranged with the Sowaids to have a cupping. If you can believe it, nobody in Yemen cups coffee. They look at green coffee, they look at dry cherry, they are experts at looking at coffee. But there is no cupping. Sowaid wants to change that.
Cupping with Mohamed (Sowaid)
Cupping with Mohamed (Sowaid)
George M. George and myself at the impromptu "cupping table"
George M. George
George M. George
George M. George is Mr. Sowaid's main assistant, and is from south India. And he loves country music! (George; Those Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and Waylon Jennings CDs are on there way to you!)

Yemen Links:

Sweet Maria's Travelogue - November 2007 Yemen Coffee "Haj"

David Roche (CQI) and Steve McCarthy Article

USAID Yemen Coffee Assessment by Daniele Giovannucci

Yemen: Comments from A Japanese Broker

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