Yemen has been on my mind lately with the recent intercepted mail bomb, the attack on the USS Cole and the book, The Woman Who Fell from the Sky in the news. I was scheduled to travel to Aden, Yemen, in 2001 as senior assistant Cruise Director on Renaissance Cruises 50-day sailing from Athens to Bangkok. Prior to our sailing, the USS Cole was bombed on October 12, 2000.
We changed our itinerary and did not go to Yemen, however, our ship did have two ports of call in nearby Oman. Being in Muscat and Salalah during Ramadan was amazing; the gorgeous sand colored 16th century Portuguese forts high on the cliffs, listening to the call of the mosque and trying not to get lost, and the intricate blue tiled mosques with the azure seas made for amazing contrasts. We sailed with a pod of over 100 dolphins, one of the most memorable days in my seven years at sea.
During the port talk about Oman, I stressed the importance of respectful dress, and not drinking or eating in the souks in front of Moslems, during their month of fasting.
When CBS World News reported on November 10, 2010 that British police said “a mail bomb intercepted last month at an English airport could have exploded over the East Coast of the United States,” Yemen was again front page news due to the potential devastation.
On that same cruise, we also canceled a port call in Colombo, Sri Lanka due to the civil war. This summer, George and I spent six weeks in Sri Lanka and I read Jennifer Steil’s The Woman Who Fell From the Sky about her work in Yemen as a journalist.
In the book, Steil remarks that “in many parts of the country, people are living exactly as their ancestors did thousands of years ago. They herd goats and cows; they grow wheat, pomegranates, and grapes; they travel long distances to fetch water. They live in simple square mud-brick homes.”
It is amazing in this time of jet planes, smart phones and speedy internet connections that parts of the world feel like you are traveling back in time. In the hills of Viet Nam, in Steil’s Yemen and a few other pockets of the world, it can feel that time has stopped.
For many people who will not personally visit some of these places, Steil comments that , “Books are one of the few ways in which we can truly get into the heads of people we would never meet in our ordinary lives and travel to countries we would otherwise never visit.” Steil’s book and relationships with her co-workers at the newspaper really enlightened me on the people of Yemen. When I was briefly in Oman and Dubai, I wondered about the veiled women and the woman only shopping line at the market.
During her time in Yemen, Steil was able to rent a house, shop, travel with locals and really explore what it was to be a foreign woman.
Her observations on the freedom allowed by wearing a veil surprised me. Steil says in her book; “I thought of the veil as an oppressive practice that kept women from being who they are…These women consider their coverings a statement of identity, an important defense against men, and a source of freedom.”
This reminds me that until you walk in someone elses shoes or wear their veil, it can be challenging to understand their perspective. But in the end, no matter where you go, you bring yourself and the traveler is the one most changed by the experience.
Every journey has ups and downs. My 50-day cruise long ago always made me wonder about Sri Lanka, which was an amazing place filled with friendly people, many elephants and great discoveries. I know that someday we will go to Yemen and explore great ancient sites, meet wonderful modern people and discover many things, mainly about ourselves.
Lisa Ellen Niver, M.A. Education, is a science teacher and an award-winning travel expert who has explored 101 countries and six continents. She sailed the seven seas by cruise ship for seven years and backpacked for three years in Asia. Find her talking travel at KTLA TV and in her We Said Go Travel videos with over one and a quarter million views (1,250,000) on her YouTube channel. She is the founder of We Said Go Travel which is read in 235 countries, named #3 on the top 1000 Travel Blogs and the top female travel blogger 3 times in 2019. She has hosted Facebook Live for USA Today 10best, is verified on Twitter and has over 160,000 followers across social media. Niver is a judge for the Gracies Awards for the Alliance of Women in Media and also ran fifteen travel competitions publishing over 2500 writers and photographers from 75 countries on her own site, We Said Go Travel.
From 2017 to 2020 in the Southern California Journalism Awards and National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards, she has won three times and been a finalist fourteen times for her broadcast television segments, print and digital articles. Niver won an award for her print magazine article for Hemispheres Magazine for United Airlines in the 2020 Southern California Journalism Awards. She was also a finalist for four other categories including online journalist of the year, digital story for activism journalism with Ms. Magazine, educational reporting for Wharton Magazine and a broadcast lifestyle feature for KTLA TV in Los Angeles.
Niver won a 2019 NAEJ (National Arts and Entertainment Journalism) award for one of her KTLA TV segments and was a finalist for articles published in both Ms. Magazine and Wharton Magazine. In 2018, she was a finalist for stories in Smithsonian, PopSugar Fitness and the Saturday Evening Post. Niver won a 2017 Southern California Journalism Award for her print story for the Jewish Journal and was a finalist for travel reporting.
Niver has written for AARP, American Airways, Delta Sky, En Route (Air Canada), Hemispheres (United Airlines), Jewish Journal, Luxury Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Myanmar Times, National Geographic, POPSUGAR, Robb Report, Saturday Evening Post, Scuba Diver Life, Sierra Club, Ski Utah, Smithsonian, TODAY, Trivago, USA Today 10best, Wharton Magazine and Yahoo. She is writing a book, “Brave Rebel: 50 Scary Challenges Before 50,” about her most recent travels and insights. Look for her underwater SCUBA diving, in her art studio making ceramics or helping people find their next dream trip. http://lisaniver.com/one-page/