This article is dedicated to my travel friends and people I meet when I’m out travelling, especially all those fighting for freedom today. I’m also taking part in a contest about BEACHES in cooperation with:
travel – moments in time
hotel residence le acacie in elba island, tuscany, italy
and Silvia Ceriegi’s blog
My favourite beach is a desert beach, a place where no human work is seen and natural expressions are in the sand, in the air, in the sea, underwater and everywhere. Possibly it should be out of reach, out of time, or somewhere you can find yourself and find it in the same situation year round.
I’ve been travelling for about 30 years now and I’ve had the chance to spend some time in well known places as Maldives, the Caribbean, Thailand and Red Sea. I still miss Australia, Polinesia and far away places I hope I’ll have the opportunity to visit soon.
Not to mention such fashionable places in Europe as Saint Tropez, Nice and Cannes in Cote d’Azur (France), Capri, Sardinia, Tuscany, Liguria in Italy. How many people like to spend time and money, surrounded by other people crowding cafes and restaurants, going out for shopping!! I also like to do so, being Italian I have a special shoping instinct and as soon as I have this opportunity I like to dive into such fashionable places, but for no more than a short time: afterwards I feel the need for resting, relaxing and taking a laid back moment by myself.
Now let me talk about BIR ALI, a secluded magical place that tourists cannot visit today, being amidst an awful situation called civil war. Yemen should be already in any great traveller’s “Visited Countries List” but today this is impossible, along with the other Middle East countries where people have been asking for democracy, freedom and justice in recent times.
I spent a couple of lovely days there, back in September 2006, a time when Yemeni were already pretty concerned about their future and the need for change, but they simply kept going on “the way it was”. During our two weeks trip my group and I had the opportunity, among other things, to take part in presidential elections with people coming out of the cabins with a black-ink thumb, and ramadan, which basically meant we should do without eating from dusk till sunset, together with our four drivers.
We saw a wedding and a funeral, we were invited to visit homes where veiled women offered us sweet tea and, above all, their sweet smile. We stayed with families in funduks, popular homes with basic furniture but a lot of warm hospitality, we walked around villages where time had stopped to a timeless era. We visited fabulous Sana’a, the capital city of Yemen with an unforgettable medina, Shibam “Manhattan in the desert”, Shihara with a bridge stretching 160m high between two mountains, Aden with its colourful bay and volcano.
And after ten days around what ancient writers called Arabia Felix, a time when Arabic peninsula was amidst international trade the way we intend it now, spamming from Europe to Africa and India, we thought it was about ime we relaxed a bit on a beach and we chose BIR ALI, a hidden spot facing arabic sea with a threatening volcano taking care of us on the back. We had cabanas to keep our things and sleep for a couple of nights, but my choice was to lay on the sand and sleep in an amaca.
What a unique, unforgettable experience I had! All day long small birds flew over us crying while looking for food, mid afternoon an enormous, unbelievable flock of black cormorans crowded the whole beach, making it black for an hour or so. Then at sunset crabs took control of the beach running all over until the dark pushed them underneath the sand. And best of all, dolphins came to say good morning the day after, jumping over water looking for fish.
I only got up to climb over the volcano and see the bay from atop and the small lake inside the crater.
We ate fish of course, perfectly prepared by our landlord, a true lord who spoke a perfect british english who told me a tale of his life. His name is Abubaker, he spent his life travelling between UK and Arabic peninsula and finally settled here. Back in the 90’s his plans were to set up an eco village and diving centre, in partnership with other spots in Thailand and Red Sea. Then 11 september came and the world was not the same any more: not only were tourists missing from Yemen but the whole economy was damaged. I have had no news about him since then.
Qana complex is the place where we stayed, taking its name from the ancient site that developed around the volcano, where just few ruins and manufacts are visible today.
You won’t find information about BIR ALI in the web, neither google nor wikipedia dedicate more than a few words to it. A good reason to think about going there as soon as the situation improves.