By: Asma Al-Mohattwari
Yemen’s coastal governorates contain the most frequently travelled-to tourist destinations for many Yemeni families during the Eid holiday, with large numbers of people turning their attention to Aden, Hodeida and Mukalla. Such a transition from people’s home governorates to Eid holiday destinations has the potential to lead a significant recovery in domestic tourism in Yemen.
Yet difficult conditions experienced by Yemenis over the past couple years have left a state of fear in many citizens, one which can prevent them from spending their holidays outside their own cities. Statistics show that Aden used to receive about a million visitors during Eid, but that following recent political crises, many of Aden’s hotels have been left empty.
Ali Mohammed, a grandfather, described Sana’a during past Eids as an abandoned city, when residents of the capital frequently traveled to tourist spots throughout Yemen. Even original inhabitants and workers would leave the city and head towards either rural or coastal cities which at times would teem with visitors from all over the world and from within the country.
“All that was many years ago, but now the situation is different and many people remain sitting in their houses and avoid leaving the city for financial and political reasons,” he said.
Statistics have shown that this Eid, three percent of Yemenis will spend their Eid outside Yemen – and most of those who will do so will be pilgrims.
Mohammed Al-Ashwal, the agent for the Ministry of Endowments and Guidances’ Hajj and Omrah Sector, said that most Yemeni pilgrims are traveling to their destinations by land, with only about 25% traveling by air.
“The cause of the low number of pilgrims traveling by air goes back to high prices for plane tickets this year,” he explained.
Hassan Al-Mahdi said that locals are simply accustomed to spending the Eid holiday outside Sana’a. “During Eid, we head to Aden in the south or to Hodeida in the west. Religious holidays provide the only outlet for my family to get out of Sana’a and to coastal cities, to have a good time away from traffic, concerns and anxieties,” he said.
Around 20% spend Eid in their home villages and with their relatives, where families reunite, often amid green landscapes, rainfall and towering mountains. Dr. Mohammed Al-Kazzan and his brothers prefer to spend their Eid with their father in Al-Mahabesha.
“Every year during Eid Al-Adha, we spend it with our father and relatives in Al-Mahabesha, enjoying the clean air, green mountains and quietness. It’s enough for us to see the happiness in our father’s face when he sees us around him,” he said.
Although many travel around the country, still, a majority of Yemen’s urban populations are remaining in the cities during Eid, and for various reasons. Most people complain of economic and political causes for their decisions.
Amal Manssor said she and her family used to spend Eid in Aden, but that this Eid they couldn’t. She said, “Everything became expensive, and my husband has debts he should pay, so we spent our Eid at home. We didn’t even go to the park.”
For his part, Ali Abass said that he wanted to spend Eid in Hodeida but that he wouldn’t because he was hosting his brother, who is arriving from America, and because he is preparing for his daughter’s wedding party.
Meanwhile, some have decided not to travel for Eid because of insecurity in Yemen and especially in southern areas.
In this regard, Osama said he was forced to stay in Sana’a because his mother was so afraid and wouldn’t allow him to travel. “She’s right to be scared about that; a man from our family recently lost his son, wife and four daughters in an accident and the reason for it was that they were trying to escape a bandit. There’s no security in Yemen,” he said.