This is the blog of journalist, Lonely Planet author and photographer Stuart Butler. It features news and travel updates from the regions in which Stuart works, including northeast Africa (Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan), Yemen and Sri Lanka.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Yemen Updates: A letter (well ok an email) from Sana'a

I recieved this email last night from a friend in Sana'a. I have edited the email slightly to remove some personal extracts and details (ie - his current phone number etc).

Dear Stuart,
Thank you for your concern. Things are definitely getting worse in Yemen and especially in Sana'a. Tribesmen are all over Sana'a and I think 2000 is an underestimated number. But we have gotten used to tribesmen entering Sana'a every Friday to take part of the anti-Saleh (note the original email said pro-saleh but this was a mistake which I have changed) demonstrations for the past couple of months. At the same time, most major cities like Sana'a, Taiz, Hodeidah are blocked and whoever wants to enter goes through a very long check-point.
Demonstrations are taking place in almost all governates, but nothing as violent as Aden, Zinjibar, and Sana'a. On the other hand, it seems that the government have lost control of Marib - the main electric power plant in Yemen is based there and we have not had electricity for the past 3 weeks. We have heard that tribesmen have taken control of the power plant and have cut its supply as their way of participating in this uprising. We have been using personal electric generators for the past 3 weeks at our office and our homes, and those need diesel and petrol (which is also very difficult to find and very expensive in the black market).
I am still staying in Sana'a and I cannot evacuate - many of my friends and family members have taken their families and left to Cairo or Amman, but we cannot just simply close the office and go. I am not saying that there is a lot of work, but the business we are currently getting is barely covering our operating costs and providing salaries to tens of families.
 Ahmed is doing well and still working with us. Murad and Mujahid have not been in touch with me for a long time, and that I imagine is because they know that we have no tourists. All businesses are suffering and many are closing and Dawood hotel as well, but still open. I will try to call Hassan in Marib tomorrow and will let you know. As for the girls, I have not been in touch of any of them after you left.
The news coverage we are getting today is more than Egypt and Tunisia, and that is because the events that took place today. Let me explain: for the past week, there have been clashes between Al-Ahmar family and the government, but that is far away from where we live. Last night, Yemen Airways building was burned down, and today the attacks on Hamid Al-Ahmar (who's house is not far from mine) are very loud and could be heard all over Sana'a. There was also an attack on the mosque where President Ali Abdullah Saleh was praying and it seems he suffered some slight injuries - and some prominent government figures have been hurt also.
My friend I cannot picture a way out of this situation for Yemen and Yemenis, and it seems we will be in the same spot as the Libyans are in currently. Some government spokesmen have mentioned that the President is willing to sign the agreement but I honestly do not think that this will happen.
Your prayers and thoughts are very much appreciated.
Best wishes,


  1. Thanks for sharing, Stuart.

  2. Thanks so much for this Stuart. Send your friend my love and thoughts. - Leila, New Zealand.