Yemen Travel: The Real Deal with Maz Livingston
Interested in a Yemen travel adventure? Here are Maz Livingston’s tips and recommendations for your trip.
Tell us about yourself! What do you do when you’re not traveling the world? Where do you live? What made you decide to go to your most recent destination?
I live in the flatlands of Oakland, California, in a Victorian farmhouse without a farm. When I’m not travelling internationally, I’m photographing and travelling locally, enjoying time with my friends, volunteering at my local food bank, going to the theatre, hiking and reading widely. I have been part of the adventure travel community for a long time now and am currently working for Explore Worldwide. I travel vicariously every day as I help others plan their adventures.
How long did you go for? How did you spend your time?
I travelled in North Yemen for three weeks visiting the capital, Sanaa, many small towns and markets in the mountains, the coast, and the Empty Quarter. It was quiet and we didn’t see other tourists. It was relatively safe at the time.
I went because I knew nothing about the country and that’s as good enough reason as any to travel. Visiting Yemen was like travelling back in time on roads less travelled. Many shared cups of tea later, I felt closer to the people and richer from the experience.
What were your most memorable experiences? What were the biggest disappointments?
The architecture was remarkable. Yemen was the first place to ever build high rises. The markets in the hills were bustling and good places to interact with the locals. Yemenite men chew qat (a mild narcotic) every day and it was interesting to watch them negotiating for the best quality at the best price (they all had hamster cheeks chewing and savoring the qat). Yemen did not disappoint.
What do you wish you knew before you went?
Friends asked why I was going to such a remote place. They worried about my safety. What none of us knew at the time was that there was going to be a very strong earthquake in San Francisco while I was away and Yemen actually turned out to be safer than home.
On a practical note, it would have been helpful for someone to have advised me to pack many layers of clothing. Yemen is a mountainous country and it was not unusual to encounter 3 different climate zones before lunch. We were constantly adding and subtracting clothing as we went along.
Any favorite restaurants/hotels/hostels/sites you’d like to recommend? Tell us what made them great!
A trip to Yemen is definitely not a foodie trip. It’s one of the poorest countries in the World. The people were generous. However, we ate simply while there.
There really isn’t a lot of choice in places to stay or facilities. I enjoyed the homestays, as well as staying in small country rest houses. I slept on simple pads on the floor and used the washbasin down the hall.
Is there anything that women specifically should know before they travel to your destination?
This is not a good place for women to travel independently. I recommend that they travel with a small mixed group and with a local guide, who will arrange the introductions. Right now, I wouldn’t recommend that they travel there at all but I sincerely hope that things will change and that, in the future, others will be able to follow in my footsteps.