Life in Sana’a

Living over here (and in Egypt) was a lot easier than I thought it would be, masha Allah. That is not to say that there are never problems, there are, but overall I find it more enjoyable as a Muslim living over here. And you trade some of the problems you have in say the states, for entirely different ones. But as a sister who had been living overseas in a Muslim country once told me, once you come, you will never want to come back. At first I didn’t believe it, and it might not be true for others, but I found that her words rang very true for me. The only reason I would want to go back would be to see my family, ok and maybe go to Walmart, lol…..oh and libraries…but seriously, masha Allah I am pretty content over here. We have our struggles from time to time, but I really do enjoy living in a Muslim country.

It is somewhat of an adjustment. There are things that I know I took for granted in the states that sometimes are a problem here. For instance, water and electricity. No matter if I lived in a poor, small village (qaryah) or a more affluent neighborhood, I have always experienced some problems with these two things—in Egypt as well as Yemen. Here, most water is stored in a wyat—underground storage tank. You either get a water truck to deliver water or you may have hakumi (government water). If you live in a villa, the water is pretty much on you, meaning you call the truck to bring you water. If you live in an apartment building, it can be a little more problematic depending on how the water is handled. If you pay monthly for water, its not as much of a problem and you may get a bill, pay it and that’s that (insha Allah) , but one house we lived in, they collected water money every time the water ran out. So if someone didn’t have the money……. So we have been without water for a few hours and in some cases days. Another cause of us not having water was when they were working on the sewer system. All over Sana’a, they are digging up roads and updating the current sewer system. Everywhere. It has made getting around quite a task in some places.

Tip for those planning on moving here or even to Egypt: Store water. We learned the hard way of the consequences when you don’t. They have containers called “dibas” these are like the things you use when you run out of gas. They come in different sizes. Get plenty and fill them up for when the water goes off (for whatever reason, no water in the wyat, pump breaking). And be sure to change the water often. It is not treated as well, if at all, like the water say in the states. You can see just how the quality of the water is if you leave clothes soaking in water for a few day :0 it begins to smell like sewage. And if water builds up in something like a dish drainer (for holding wet dishes after washing) it begins to grow ‘black stuff.” So you are advised to buy bottled drinking water to drink…even the Yemenis buy bottled water…You can buy the evian type bottled water or get the water that they fill up in water stations. People and stores bring back the jugs for refilling. If you buy the jugs in a store, you initially buy a new jug and return it for a different one. These jugs go back to the water stations. They do steam the bottles there but some of them look very disgusting and you don’t know where they have been. One bottle we got had some qat floating in it, so we now try to stick with bottles that you don’t return/get filled up. Personally I think its better to get the manufactured bottled water as it is cleaner, insha Allah.

Cooking. Although they may sell electric stoves here, most people use gas stoves with gas tanks. Ours lasts usually a month or month and a half. They used to be like $1.50 per tank (you buy a new one at like 2000-3000 riyals) and then use them and return them like the water. The price now (varies of course) but its something like 500-1000 riyals ($2.50 – $5.00). The price went up drastically after the riots that they had here two years ago when the price of gas went up. Well, the prices went up due to the gas going up, not the riots, lol…….It is best to buy at least two tanks. That way when one runs out, you still have another. Sometimes it can be hard to get a gas tank. We usually get ours from the tank men that walk around town with the tanks in a wheelbarrow, they bang on the tanks to let you know they are on your street. If you see the Sounds of Sana’a video mentioned in a previous Yemen post, you will see two tank men in there.

Air Conditioners/Washers and Dryers. Yup, they got them here. I haven’t really found the need for an air conditioner in the places that I have lived. I think it really depends on how your house is constructed. I remember maybe two times in one house I was thinking a fan would be nice, but other than that, it has been pretty pleasant in the house. Now some house you get (and I experienced this in Egypt more than here) it will get really hot or really cold…..Two places that I had in Egypt, I almost literally froze. They were sooooooooooo cold. And I usually felt colder after eating. Most of the time I wanted to stay in the bed to keep warm. What really got me was that I would be freezing in the house and then go out on the balcony to hang clothes and it was like a beautiful nice spring day. I wanted to just stay out on the balcony. And that was in a small village in Alexandria and another more well to do house in Cairo. But I never really experienced that degree of coldness here. It may have had some to do with the fact that we never had carpet in Egypt, Allahu ilm…and again, how the houses are constructed.

Weather/Out and About.

I love the weather here. It is so nice and sunny the majority of the year. I still haven’t figured out the seasons. I can never tell when its winter or summer. To me, it stays pretty much the same. What you get is these rainy seasons (like we are in now). It will rain a lot in say a two week period and there will be flooding perhaps (see my Flooding in Sana’a’ video—link in a previous Yemen post) and then we seem to go months without rain. It gets cold at night and in the early morning. Then by like 9 am, it is HOT and stays that way until maybe shortly before Asr. Now I would say about 99% of the time, if its going to rain, it rains in the afternoon. Guess there’s some scientific reason behind that, we haven’t researched that in homeschool yet, hee hee. So you could pretty much plan your day. Get stuff done in the morning if it looks cloudy that day. Its almost like clockwork that it rains in the afternoon when it rains.

Many, but not all, stores close from Dhuhr to Asr. So if you can, get your shopping, etc done in the morning. However, some places, its just better to go to after Asr. In the afternoons you may see men sitting around chewing qat. Its best not to go to stores where they chew qat as sometimes they can get kind of grouchy. (ok, some people even grouchier). We went into a store one time and one of the workers was sitting on the floor chewing qat. There was a box of laundry detergent up high that I couldn’t reach and he told me to get something different. He didn’t want to get up—and he didn’t). One taxi driver told my son that when he chewed qat, he didn’t feel hungry. My son theorized that maybe this was one reason why poorer people might chew it. You will see men stuff their mouths with it so much that it puff out like Dizzy Gillespie’s cheeks when he played his instrument, no kidding.

Surprisingly (to me) there are many foreigners here that aren’t Muslim. I see a lot of Chinese people, and Europeans here. I think some are coming to teach English, work on improvement projects, are government officials, or are just working here and of course tourists.

Quite another novel again, but I just wanted to share some of my experiences/things I have learned over here for others who are considering traveling here or just interested in learning what life if like here (for a foreigner).


Glad to be American

 I ran across a blog the other day written by an American Muslimah who was desperate to get out of the US. She wrote about how it just made her sick to be there. I admit, when I left the US 5 years ago, I was ecstatic to leave the land of kufr and head for a Muslim country.  To this day, I am very happy, despite the frustrations from time to time, to live in a Muslim country and I truly do not have a desire to go back to the US, other than to see my family.

But within the last few years, my talk has gone from bashing the US to actually being glad that Allah had allowed me to be born and live in such a rich, powerful, and advanced country as the US. I realized that being an American over here has been more beneficial than a hindrance. Of course many people over here think that Amreekis are money bags and will try to squeeze extra out of you in the suqs or in taxis, but I have found that once people find out that you are American, their whole demeanor changes and you are treated with respect no matter what your color.  We are African American and most of the time people assume we are Somalian. When they find out we are American, they begin chatting and become super friendly and helpful and that has come in handy so many times.

One example of how helpful it has been to be American is that it is typically easy for us to rent apartments.  People have actually told us that had we been Yemeni, there would have been a higher security deposit and one Yemeni owner told us that he preferred to rent to Americans over Yemenis. (I think a lot of Yemenis may get behind on their rent payments and since many Yemenis don’t make a lot of money, it is hard to catch up).

I also feel blessed that Allah allowed me to be born into a wealthy, advanced country as opposed to a third world country. I see such poverty here that was unthinkable to me when I was living in the states. Of course there are homeless people in the United States, but from what I saw of the homeless situation in the states, it was nothing like this, not so prolific and severe.  I see little children half clothed running in the street and squatting down to defecate.  Even along one of the main streets here, you can see grown men stopping at a wall to urinate in public and I have seen people here and there sleeping out on the cold, concrete sidewalk or on the dirt in the hot blazing sun.  Some have makeshift homes made out of blankets.  Some families live in small storefronts with no windows, no running water, or electricity.  Sometimes when we throw our trash away, children and grown ups descend upon our trash picking through it. When we come out the next time, we see the bag torn up and the contents that were not taken lying spread out in the street or on the sidewalk.

I remember reading a local English paper here and the reporter interviewed a little shepherd girl who lived in the mountains with her family and she had never heard the words “play” or “education.”  For me, despite the ills of the Western world, this seemed like not much of a fulfilling life, a life that I would myself not want to live.  Things like this make me happy that I grew up in the suburbs of California and lived a very different life that what I have witnessed for some in Yemen.

Note: Although severe poverty is a lifestyle for many Yemenis, I have seen the opposite end as well—affluence (fancy cars, big mansion houses, etc). Insha Allah I plan to write about that as well in the future.

I hope that for those Muslims that are anxious to get out of the states, that Allah makes this easy for them to do so soon.  My purpose for writing is not to advocate Muslims to stay in a non Muslim country, but just encourage others who might still be there to take advantage of all the benefits of being there while they are there (for example, libraries;  it can be hard to find homeschooling materials here and also more difficult to get them through the mail (there is no house to house mail delivery here), its dirtier here and common diseases that have nearly been eradicated in the US are prevalent here, just to name a few things) and as a reminder that there can be some blessings in things we think are bad.

Overall, I love living in a Muslim country, but I am still glad to be a Muslim from America.