Lifestyle

living on a Mountaintop

National Yemen
A girl sits on the roof of her house on Dhalamlam Mountain in the Jafariya district of the western province of Raymah, Yemen June 1, 2016. REUTERS/Abduljabbar Zeyad SEARCH "MOUNTAINTOP" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Written by Staff

In villages perched high on a mountain in western Yemen, residents are a safe distance from a conflict raging through most of the country, but they endure a hardscrabble existence little changed from hundreds of years ago.

Long used to a livelihood without electricity or running water, they have felt little impact from the 18 months of civil war which have cut those essential services to many of Yemen’s 28 million people.

Dinner is still cooked as usual on an open fire, and dawn light heralds the start of work in the fields.

But far from a country idyll, the sunny days in the crisp green hills are a medieval struggle for survival.

People in the Jafariya district of the western Raymah province haul basic goods uphill by foot, donkeyback and even a pulley-powered cable car soaring between peaks.

Majid Abdullah al-Ayashi, 14, regularly plies this misty 1,200-metre span in the rusty metal box along with produce and other basic goods which he then carries further uphill to his village on the Dhalamlam mountain.

“It really hurts my back. I wish there was another solution to move the goods because the elevator isn’t safe and could lead to a fall,” the child lamented.

Agriculture remains the mainstay of most villagers and the area is known for beekeeping and its distinctive honey is sold around the country.

Mohammad Yahya Haidar, 65, takes the sweet with the bitter.

“Despite the difficulty of life, we’re still living here, just as our fathers and our ancestors did. We grow coffee and grain like they did, and we’ve grown accustomed to this life with all its cruelty and extreme hardship.”

Most of Yemen’s population lives in the countryside, a disparate patchwork of deserts, mountains and scrubland where even in peacetime the writ of the government and the benefit of its services barely runs.

That isolation has girded countryfolk well for the trials of rural life, and even the architecture is purpose-built for adversity.

Traditional cisterns cut into the rock capture rainwater and many of the stone buildings in the area have withstood the elements for hundreds of years.

If calamity strikes, however, the villages’ distance from deadly combat can become a curse when residents need medical attention in faraway clinics.

Pregnant women suffering complications and immobile patients are lucky to survive the eight-hour carried on men’s shoulders in makeshift stretchers.

A cable car carries supplies to Dhalamlam Mountain, in the Jafariya district of the western province of Raymah, Yemen May 20, 2016. Reuters Photo/Abduljabbar Zeyad

A cable car carries supplies to Dhalamlam Mountain, in the Jafariya district of the western province of Raymah, Yemen May 20, 2016. Reuters Photo/Abduljabbar Zeyad A boy stands on the roof of a pond in the mountains, in the Jafariya district of the western province of Raymah, Yemen June 2, 2016. Reuters Photo/Abduljabbar Zeyad

A boy stands on the roof of a pond in the mountains, in the Jafariya district of the western province of Raymah, Yemen June 2, 2016. Reuters Photo/Abduljabbar Zeyad A boy sits on the roof of a house on Dhalamlam Mountain, in the Jafariya district of the western province of Raymah, Yemen June 2, 2016. Reuters Photo/Abduljabbar Zeyad

A boy sits on the roof of a house on Dhalamlam Mountain, in the Jafariya district of the western province of Raymah, Yemen June 2, 2016. Reuters Photo/Abduljabbar Zeyad A cable car operator uses a vehicle engine to run the cable car that carries people and supplies to Dhalamlam Mountain in the Jafariya district of the western province of Raymah, Yemen May 20, 2016. Reuters Photo/Abduljabbar Zeyad

A cable car operator uses a vehicle engine to run the cable car that carries people and supplies to Dhalamlam Mountain in the Jafariya district of the western province of Raymah, Yemen May 20, 2016. Reuters

Photo/Abduljabbar Zeyad A man rides a cable car that carries people and supplies to Dhalamlam Mountain, in the Jafariya district of the western province of Raymah, Yemen May 31, 2016. Reuters Photo/Abduljabbar Zeyad A man rides a cable car that carries people and supplies to Dhalamlam Mountain, in the Jafariya district of the western province of Raymah, Yemen May 31, 2016. Reuters Photo/Abduljabbar Zeyad A boy carries a gas canister on a road to Dhalamlam Mountain in the Jafariya district of the western province of Raymah, Yemen May 20, 2016. Reuters Photo/Abduljabbar Zeyad

A boy carries a gas canister on a road to Dhalamlam Mountain in the Jafariya district of the western province of Raymah, Yemen May 20, 2016. Reuters Photo/Abduljabbar Zeyad Boys swim in a pond in the mountains, in the Jafariya district of the western province of Raymah, Yemen June 2, 2016. Reuters Photo/Abduljabbar Zeyad

Boys swim in a pond in the mountains, in the Jafariya district of the western province of Raymah, Yemen June 2, 2016. Reuters Photo/Abduljabbar Zeyad A girl plays on a swing near her house in the mountains, in the Jafariya district of the western province of Raymah, Yemen June 3, 2016. Reuters Photo/Abduljabbar Zeyad

A girl plays on a swing near her house in the mountains, in the Jafariya district of the western province of Raymah, Yemen June 3, 2016. Reuters Photo/Abduljabbar Zeyad Men work in a farm on Dhalamlam Mountain, in the Jafariya district of the western province of Raymah, Yemen May 21, 2016. Reuters Photo/Abduljabbar Zeyad

Men work in a farm on Dhalamlam Mountain, in the Jafariya district of the western province of Raymah, Yemen May 21, 2016. Reuters Photo/Abduljabbar Zeyad

The Wider Image: Living on a mountaintop The Wider Image: Living on a mountaintop The Wider Image: Living on a mountaintop The Wider Image: Living on a mountaintop

A teacher explains a subject to pupils in a school in the mountains, in the Jafariya district of the western province of Raymah, Yemen May 21, 2016. Reuters Photo/Abduljabbar Zeyad

A teacher explains a subject to pupils in a school in the mountains, in the Jafariya district of the western province of Raymah, Yemen May 21, 2016. Reuters Photo/Abduljabbar Zeyad Workers build a house in the mountains, in the Jafariya district of the western province of Raymah, Yemen June 2, 2016. Reuters Photo/Abduljabbar Zeyad

Workers build a house in the mountains, in the Jafariya district of the western province of Raymah, Yemen June 2, 2016. Reuters Photo/Abduljabbar Zeyad Children stand in a tub where their mothers wash clothes on Dhalamlam Mountain, in the Jafariya district of the western province of Raymah, Yemen June 1, 2016. Reuters Photo/Abduljabbar Zeyad

Children stand in a tub where their mothers wash clothes on Dhalamlam Mountain, in the Jafariya district of the western province of Raymah, Yemen June 1, 2016. Reuters Photo/Abduljabbar Zeyad A man and a child walk along a path on Dhalamlam Mountain, in the Jafariya district of the western province of Raymah, Yemen May 20, 2016. Reuters Photo/Abduljabbar Zeyad

A man and a child walk along a path on Dhalamlam Mountain, in the Jafariya district of the western province of Raymah, Yemen May 20, 2016. Reuters Photo/Abduljabbar Zeyad A girl sits on the roof of her house on Dhalamlam Mountain in the Jafariya district of the western province of Raymah, Yemen June 1, 2016. Reuters Photo/Abduljabbar Zeyad

A girl sits on the roof of her house on Dhalamlam Mountain in the Jafariya district of the western province of Raymah, Yemen June 1, 2016. Reuters Photo/Abduljabbar Zeyad People shop at a market in the mountains, in the Jafariya district of the western province of Raymah, Yemen June 3, 2016. Reuters Photo/Abduljabbar Zeyad

People shop at a market in the mountains, in the Jafariya district of the western province of Raymah, Yemen June 3, 2016. Reuters Photo/Abduljabbar Zeyad A woman shops at a market in the mountains, in the Jafariya district of the western province of Raymah, Yemen May 20, 2016. Reuters Photo/Abduljabbar Zeyad

A woman shops at a market in the mountains, in the Jafariya district of the western province of Raymah, Yemen May 20, 2016. Reuters Photo/Abduljabbar Zeyad A woman uses a stone grinder to make flour in her house in the mountains, in the Jafariya district of the western province of Raymah, Yemen May 21, 2016. Reuters Photo/Abduljabbar Zeyad

A woman uses a stone grinder to make flour in her house in the mountains, in the Jafariya district of the western province of Raymah, Yemen May 21, 2016. Reuters Photo/Abduljabbar Zeyad A beekeeper checks his beehives in the mountains, in the Jafariya district of the western province of Raymah, Yemen May 21, 2016. Reuters Photo/Abduljabbar Zeyad

A beekeeper checks his beehives in the mountains, in the Jafariya district of the western province of Raymah, Yemen May 21, 2016. Reuters Photo/Abduljabbar ZeyadOriginal Article