For those of you worrying…

I had a quick discussion with Rick about the possibility of me going to Yemen, he thought I was nuts. I shrugged it off, but here’s a link that should put things into perspective. A few highlights:

“However, violent crimes against foreigners are almost non-existent”

“There have been no major terrorist incidents against Americans in Yemen since the bombing of the USS Cole in October, 2000.”

“Travel is particularly dangerous in the tribal areas north and east of Sana’a, close to the border with Saudi Arabia.”

The site is designed to help American businesses determine what kind of risks their employees face when going to different countries. It turns out that the big problems in Yemen are the same as any other poor country, sketchy emergency response personal, lawlessness in rural areas, etc.

True, there are some areas that tourists shouldn’t go to, but that’s the same with any major city or country. To put things into perspective, one guy that I have been corresponding with said that in the time that he was in Yemen, there were 10 homicides in his hometown and none, zero in Sanna a’. Where is his hometown? Washington DC. Since 1995, there have been 6 killings (as opposed to accidental deaths, can’t find any data on that) of foreign nationals in Yemen. Two of them were Americans in a southern Baptist sponsored hospital. Some lunatic walked in and started shooting. There was some tension between the evangelizing hospital workers and the locals… The other four were European tourists and that happened in a well known trouble zone (around Aden). In contrast, the snipers around DC killed 10 people in 2002 alone and there were over 2 thousand murders in DC from 1994 to 2000. By any reasonable measure, DC is a much more dangerous place to be than Sanna a’. What would the State department’s travel advisory to DC look like?

How have I managed to avoid the amazing violence in DC, simple, I don’t do anything stupid. Everyone knows where the bad places are, and we all avoid them. The same is true in Yemen. Over 370,000 tourists visited Yemen last year. 6 were kidnapped (once again, from a place they shouldn’t have gone to) and there were zero deaths. How would that stack up against tourists visiting America?

Not to sound too defensive here, but the family members I have mentioned this to have been, I think, overly negative and quite frankly a bit on the hysterical side. When I talk with people that have actually gone there, they paint a much different picture. Yemen is not like Syria, Lebanon, or even Saudi Arabia. If you want to see what a “Do not go here” recommendation from the state department looks like, check out their page on Lebanon. Now go to the one on yemen. Notice the difference in figures and the difference in the danger described?

I have not made up my mind on where I will be going, but if I decide that I want to learn a Gulf dialect, I will go to Yemen. The other contenders are learning an Eastern dialect in Morocco or going to Egypt and learning the Egyptian dialect (which is generally thought to have the widest amount of understanding throughout the arab world). I’ll be doing some research into which dialect would give me the best employment opportunities after I get back. In the meantime, don’t worry or fret, I’ve never been one to do stupid things why would I start now?


5 replies on “For those of you worrying…”

Egypt is the most moderate of Islamic countries, from what I can discern. Besides the people are pathologically polite. It would be of the greatest interest from a travel standpoint, selfishly speaking. Morocco would be interesting too. Yemen would be pedestrian by comparison. Also in Morocco, they speak French so you could fall baack on that when Arabic fails. Egyptian dialect is probably more commonly spoken than the other dialects. Can you tell I want to visit you in Egypt. Do believe it is safer too. Not many places are like DC. Rick and I have leads on people living in Cairo for contacts for you. Out of luck on Yemen and Morocco. I vote #1 Egypt #2 Morocco #3 forget it

I’d hardly call Yemen pedestrian, there’s quite a bit of history there too. Plus you’ll feel like you’re living in it too, that can be good and bad all at the same time. I have a feeling that I’ll be overwhelmed by the environment and sights no matter where I go in the middle east and I’ll not have enough time to do what I want. Here are some links to travelogues and pictures:
Click on a picture to see the rest of the album.
Some good pictures and a commentary on safety.
Probably the best site for pictures and stories.

I think I’ll have more than enough to occupy me for a year there…

Yemen does have one big big advantage, it’s about half the price of staying in Egypt, and about 2/3 the price of Morocco. In addition, I’d have a private teacher for my language study. This translates into being able to stay twice as long with potentially better teaching and therefore potentially twice the learning… Or I could stay a year in Yemen AND still have enough money to go to Morocco for an extended time (3 or 4 months perhaps). In other words, it opens up a lot of possibilities. There are several schools there with excellent teaching reputations (the one I’m leaning towards is affiliated with Cornell) I’m sure I will be in as good a position to learn as can be.

As far as safety goes, Egypt has had far worse things happen there recently, and they were specifically aimed at westerners and Israelis. Mind you, I still think that I’d be pretty safe there as long as I stayed away from places where Americans and Israelis congregated. Yemen sounds far safer to me overall, I just have to stay away from the Saudi Arabian border and the port of Aden. Traveling to the middle east is always a calculated risk, but I think that any of these destinations will minimize the risk.

Islam is one of the primary reasons why I want to go to the middle east. I want the experience of living in a Muslim land. Of course being a guy that’ll be easier for me, but it is something that I’d like to experience. Yemen is much more conservative (overall) than Egypt as far as that goes. In some ways, that would be an advantage for my trip. Cairo does have a richer diversity of religions (The Coptic section of town, Sufis as well as the more mainstream Muslim groups, etc.) but part of me thinks that with only one year to spend there, I would be better off concentrating on a single group.

Anyway, things are still in the air, but honestly my choices right now probably have Yemen and Morocco in a tie for my first choice and Cairo is in third only because of money and the prevalence of western influences there. I’m going to try to finalize things by the end of Feb.



Another advantage that I have realized about the language schools is that I can pretty much start whenever I want and I can leave whenever I want to. That could be huge… I’d hate to pay for an entire academic year and then realize I hate the place, it’s far better to have an escape option…


Oh Yeah

“Overly negative or hysterical”? AMNOTAMNOTAMNOT!!! It’s a good thing I don’t take this stuff personally or I would pay a visit and straighten you out right.


A caring relative who’s only care is your well-being.

Re: Oh Yeah

OK mystery S (Mark, is that you?) I appreciate the sentiment, I really do. It is always nice to hear that people care. But honestly, I can’t believe that any of my family, however close they are, has any greater interest in my life and safety than I do. I will not take any great risks, certainly not just for learning a language. I ask for some trust and faith in my ability to take care of myself. To me, worrying is really a symptom of lack of faith. I’ll be careful, you can trust me.


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