Aden, The Magnificent

I have chosen to write my editorial column for week on Aden in order to reflect on a few positive changes that took place this Eid holiday. Aden is one of the most relaxing destinations for Yemeni citizens from the northern governorates, and in Aden those citizens found the heaven of enjoyment they had been missing in the north.

Some years, local tourism to Aden will surpass one and a half million visitors. Aden hasn’t seen numbers like that for years; that was during the peak time of the sea and soul of Yemen’s southern capital. Politics spoiled what was once a beautiful thing, and Aden has lost those scores of visitors. Now Aden must itself turn to the north, not because of the pull of Sana’a or Sana’ani people, but because of politics, and wrongheaded media.

I chose to drive from Sana’a to Aden via al-Dhala’a on some of the hardest roads for travelers to the south. These roads are sources of frequent tribal sabotage. During both of my drives, though, the road was very safe, and the only thing that the villages and cities between al-Dhala’a and Aden were suffering was scarcity of visitors. I was not astonished to find myself, frequently, the only traveler on the road, but I was astonished by the broken, deteriorating asphalt road I battled with mile by mile.

Reaching Aden early in the evening two days before Eid, I was greeted by charming weather and a peaceful Aden, a city that seemed unaware of the festivities that would start two days hence. I asked a few Adenis if they were bothered by all the Sana’anis beginning to fill their hotels, and whether they would prefer that northerners spend their holidays elsewhere. They told me no, they had nothing against their brothers from Sana’a.  “Just like us,” they said, “they, too, are suffering.”

Less than 200,000 visitors spend their Eid holidays in Aden this year, a very modest number compared to the tourist hoards of the past. The question is, is Aden as dangerous, as unfit for holidays, as northerners seem to think? Are the Adenis as violent or vengeful as the media describes them? This answer is also no, and “misbehavior” is not a trait of “northerners” or “southerners” but of individuals alone.

I would advise anyone looking to take a weekend off to spend it in Aden. Rumors fail when faced with facts; rumors are opposed to positive change, as well. The right decision is to try Aden for yourself. Discover the beauty of the sea, the mountains, the people. Tourism is for those who seek an adventure, and Aden is a worthy place for this adventure. Spend your next trip in Aden, and forget the politics.

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