Living in Damaaj: A Personal Account

I was in Dammaaj in 2004. I only lived there for 5 months. I really enjoyed it, masha Allah.I had been used to living in the middle east for some time (we had lived in Sana’a, Yemen, for 6 months before and then I was in Egypt for a year and a half before that, so mind you, I had already somewhat adapted to the differences between the states and middle east/Muslim countries.Now, let me preface this all by mentioning in case you are unaware, that another civil war had started earlier this year (2007). When I was there in 2004, there were some battles, masha Allah, but the “other side” never came into Damaaj at that time. I ask Allah to make it easy on those that are there, now, because when I was there, I was frightened in the beginning because the Damaajis would talk about harb fi saadah (war in Saadah) and so I knew it was something if they were talking about it. I was there alone with my four kids at the time. So night after night, then, I was almost terrified because I had never been in a situation like that. We heard bombs at night going off and one time the kids and I sat there counting them and it was like 40. I was very nervous. I didn’t know how far away the fighting was so that made it even more frightening. Was it just over the mountain ridge? Then, masha Allah the word got around that the leader had been killed.

This time, the fighting had come into Damaaj, as I hear, so there is more of a danger.

Aside from that, most of my memories of Damaaj are good. Damaaj is nestled in the mountains and as you reach the last set of mountains coming in, it is a beautiful view as you look down on Damaaj. Spots of green trees sprinkled here and there.

I’ll mention a few things that I think might be interesting for those interested in hearing about the living there. These are my personal observations and experiences, so others’ may vary. Also keep in mind that this was three years ago and things can change very quickly…..

Housing.

Most of the structures are mud houses. We rented from a very nice Damaaji family (who were not salafi).

I made a point of mentioning this (about the landlords not being salafi) because most of the people that speak about going to Damaaj seem to be salafi and may not realize that not everyone there is salafi. That is my only reason for mentioning this. I did not mean anything derogatory by this. I have received a couple of comments on this and wanted to elaborate.

As I said, my husband was not there at first and the family was so helpful, masha Allah. They brought us fresh fruits from their garden just about everyday and they brought us bread at Maghrib during Ramadan. When we got a motor, they would turn it on every morning for us during Ramadan before we got up for suhoor.

The house was better than I had expected for mud, lol. Ours was painted on the outside and had a little decoration. Some houses are just kind of plain and look like what you see in National Geographic, lol. Everyone would say that we had a pretty good house (the rent was somewhere like $400-600 for the year, I can’t exactly remember). The main thing that I didn’t like about our particular house was that there was a courtyard in the middle of the house. It was nice in that at night, you could gaze up at the stars and it looked like you were at a planetarium. We had them put a screening over it because they were just going to leave it exposed. (to creatures and whatever else, lol).

So what was bad? Well when it rained in the courtyard, it was raining in the house. The floors were concrete so there was no damage, but to get from my room to the kitchen, I had to go “outside” lol. I have heard of other houses like that there, but most people had a courtyard in front of the house instead of in it. Some people have plastic tarpaulin type roofs. Ours was more like a “regular” roof, but we still had some problems with it. A couple of times it rained and the roof sprung a leak and down came mud and water. The kitchen was hit pretty hard one time, but the owner came from next door and repaired it masha Allah. One time, his daughters even came and cleaned up the mess in one of the rooms, masha Allah. That surprised me.

Water.

When we first moved to that house, we had no water, there were no pipes inside the house. I think it was because they were not really finished with the house when they rented it to us. So my oldest son was going to the well to get water and I had to use two dibas (containers)at a time to give baths and wash dishes and clothes for that first week. Then when the pipes were put in they were so low that the faucets were at knee level and I only had them in the bathrooms. So I had no running water in the kitchen. Again, this was just because they hadn’t finished the house before we moved in. Every other house that I visited seemed to have more American type situation as far as plumbing.

Electricity.

Most of the students got electricity from Maghrib to Isha, when I was there. We didn’t because we were not in a student area. I heard that we could have got electricity, but well, nothing ever surfaced as far as us getting it. So the first three months we were there, we had no electricity. So we didn’t use our refrigerator (well we used it to store food that didn’t need to be refrigerated). We used gas lamps for lighting which give off a lot of light and heat (great in the winter), but they are very scary to use at first if you aren’t used to them, lol. Then after 3 months, we got a motor, masha Allah. But we still didn’t have hot running water, lol. Kind of hard to wash seven little ones, but you manage. We warmed up water on the stove.

Phones

They have phone service there, but we never had a phone. It was about 100 dollars I think to get a phone line, if I am not mistaken. They have internet cafes there and itasalaat (phone places) where you can make calls.

Stores.

When I was there they had several stores. I had heard that a few years earlier, they didn’t have that many stores. They also have a few stores just for sisters, they usually sell clothes, make up, and shoes. I think there was one or two grocery stores there that just women could go to. Some people had people go to Saadah to get things that you couldn’t get in Damaaj and then some people sometimes got stuff delivered from Sana’a which is about a 5-6 hour drive away.

Classes I didn’t attend any Islamic classes while I was there. I had an American Arabic teacher who was very good mashaAllah. May Allah reward her. But I just found that it was too hard to go out with the kids. I had four and then my co wife died about a month after she got there and she had 3 kids and I had one on the way, so it was just too much for me. MashaAllah after my co wife died, my Arabic teacher held class in my house so I didn’t have to go out for class, may Allah reward her. So I can’t elaborate on the classes there at the masjid. I ended up seeing Umm Abdillah only once (we attended a lecture she gave) and that was in Sana’a.

Miscellaneous

The only other thing that shook me down there besides the fighting was the scorpions, lol. I counted 11 altogether throughout our stay there. That was something very new for me. They were small, but still rattled me each time I saw one. The black ones are poisonous, but I think I only had the brown ones there.

Ok so besides the fighting and the scorpions, the only other thing I did not like was that it was way out in the boonies. I am not a big city person either, but it was really isolated for me.. After 5 months, my husband moved us back down to Sana’a. I was happy to return to city life, but I did cry as we were leaving. It felt too soon to leave on one hand. But for me, I am happy to be back in Sana’a. I missed the wonderful damaaji family we rented from and the peace and quiet, but for me, it was just a little too quiet. But it was do-able for me. As I said, we had lived in the middle east for two years by then, so some of the things that may have bothered me moving straight from the states to damaaj, probably didn’t bother me.

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4 Responses

  1. Asalamualaikum, you mention that your landlord in Dammaji were not Salafi…..are you Salafi…What do you mean by making a point of it???

  2. wa alaykum us salaam,

    I made a point of mentioning this (about the landlords not being salafi) because most of the people that speak about going to Damaaj seem to be salafi and may not realize that not everyone there is salafi. That is my only reason for mentioning this.

  3. As salaamu alaikum sister,

    I’ve found your site to be very helpful, Mashallah. A few quick questions; Is all the housing available in Dammaj of the mud-brick type, What is the bathroom plumbing like toilets or holes?, and is electricity available 24 hrs a day? My apologies if you have already answered these questions. May Allah reward you for your help.

    • wa alaykum us salaam,

      It has been almost five years since I have been in Damaaj so I imagine a lot has changed.

      When I was there, the electricity was on from maghrib to isha, I think. We didn’t have any until we got a motor.
      We had the mirhad, not sure if anyone I knew had toilets, but really, they were nice (ok, if you can say that about a toilet). Somewhere on the blog I think I posted a picture of one. (not from Damaaj though).
      Most of the houses were mud-brick, but some had really nice ones that you couldn’t tell in the inside that they were mud at all.

      I am sorry, I don’t have current information on Damaaj.

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