Had I stayed in Aden some more time, I would have looked as handsome as this Adeni gentleman, dressed up in traditional outfit for his wedding ceremony.
My Aden’s wheel has become full circle. I am now bound to deliver my farewell after 14 months of stay. I had a great time spent here, in spite of a challenging security environment.
As always in such circumstances, mixed feelings compete in my heart to shape my overall mindset : happiness to meet again my love ones, sorrow to leave friends behind.
I felt welcomed and was treated as a guest.
You have changed me forever and I’ll never forget you. You have made my world richer and worthier to live. I hope that you can mirror my statement on your side.
We often can’t live with the idea of farewell. True, a farewell means split, distance and fading memories. However, a farewell is by no mean necessarily definitive : ‘The return makes one love the farewell’, wrote the French poet Albert de Musset in the XIXth century.
Let’s hope for a return, awaiting to plan for a return. Meanwhile, new encounters will take place for you as for me. Meanwhile also, let’s cherish what has been achieved together, let’s nurture the social bonds forged, let’s keep our spirits high and sound.
My memory has carved a special niche for Aden where emotional and visual souvenirs will be cherished. Hereafter are presented a few of them, for you to appreciate and hopfully like.
Leaving my residence in Khormaksar district, I head to Seera castle.
The fort is located on a rocky volcanic island overlooking the sea access to Aden old harbor. Throughout the centuries, Yemeni rulers, but also Portuguese, Turks and British powers successively relied on the Seera castle to secure not only Aden but also their maritime routes along the Arabian peninsula. The panoramic sea view from the first line of fortifications is breathtaking.
Deprived of its original drawbridge, the main fort is reached through a very humble staircase. From a military facility, Seera castle has become a leisurable place where people gather on week-ends mostly to hang around or chew qat. Here again, the view over Aden town and Shamsan mountain leaves the visitor speechless.
Aden’s historical sea harbour is nowadays home to small-scale fishing boats only. In the 19th century, it started to silt up, which prompted building a modern sea port in Mualla district for steamliners and other major commercial boats.
Seera fishing port
I spent quite some time in and near Seera old fishing harbor, witnessing fishermen departing and returning from their sea outings, observing fish trade, tasting fresh fish in local restaurants.
In Aden as nearly everywhere, traditional sea fishing is a challenging and fragile activity, highly dependent on the changing moods of water and air. I respect much those fishermen who shuttle untiringly between their port and the open sea even in improbable hours of the night to bring us an impressive variety of fresh sea life.
The kings in size are tunas and sharks – the former availably nearly daily while the latter more of a rarity. When the sea waters of the Aden Gulf are cold and rough, tuna banks approach closer the shores. Those times constitute a golden opportunity for local fishermen who take then all risks to catch scores of tuna fishes daily.
Minutes after having reached Seera port, the fish is sold in colourful and loud public auctions. The freshness and the price of the tuna sold there are to keep you away from canned tuna fish for the rest of your life.
As Seera old port and fish market are key facets of Aden’s daily life, fishing is not only a job but a vocation, nurtured in early years of Adenis.
Beaches line all along the Aden Gulf, east toward Oman and west toward the Red Sea. I visited only a few of them, while I was told about the wild beauty of beaches located outside Aden. Never mind, most of the beaches visited in Aden are quite appealing and charming.
Lovers’ beach and Elephant bay (Gold Mohur beach) constitute two classical leisure outings in Aden for the scenic reasons exposed below. Don’t expect major crowds tough. Those places have unfortunately suffered from security issues over the last years. Tourism in Gold Mohur, once a major beach resort complex, is nowadays struggling to survive.
Opposite of Seera castle, the Shamsan mountain range is made of the remains of the volcanic crater surrounding the historical centre of Aden. From up there, Crater district looks dense, packed and compacted, wild and messy, defying all logics of a sound urbanism. The soul of Aden lies there nonetheless, and many Adenis live or wish to settle there.
Crater district is predominantly Sunni Muslim. Throughout its long and tumultuous history, Aden attracted people from many horizons and cultures from Asia, Middle-East, Africa, Europe. Crater counts still nowadays Hindu, Christian, but also Shia and even Zoroastrian religious references. Perched high in the mountain, the tower of silence below was used for Zoroastrian funerary rites until the 19th century. According to Zoroastrian faith, dead bodies are not buried or incinerated, but left to birds of prey.
Fresh water is quite key in Aden’s life. The Tawila tanks constitute an impressive piece of hydraulic engineering. Initiated thousands of years ago, the site consists of a series of interconnected cisterns. The tanking system aims to collect and store rain water from the Shamsan mountain and to protect the town from flash floods. 13 tanks have survived successive renovations, including by the British in the 19th century.
When the British took control of Aden in 1839, the Tawahi tanks were full of materials carried down by flash floods. The British ackowledged their potential to store fresh water, often scarce is town. Their renovation modified significantly the original and intricated network of cascading cisterns with a small number of larger tanks. Some observers point out that the storing and protective capacity of the water infrastructure was then significantly undermined. In any case, the tanks are nowadays dry, as rain has become quite a rarity in Aden.
Sea matters in Aden. The main commercial hub in the old town of Crater district exhibits a strong visual reference to the vital maritime activity of the sea port town.
I reported you already how Eid el-Fitr festival is celebrated in public places of Aden.
Street life is always fascinating for me, multifaceted and very telling of local know-how and customs. Having lived next to a wedding hall in Aden, I can testify that wedding ceremonies and parties are quite something in town. Fireworks and celebratory gunfire are some of their loudest and most visible public features. In a more contemporary cultural facet, the wedding car is often lovely painted with washcolours by local artists.
In a typically Adeni custom, the wedding car convoy may head to a tunnel road connecting Mualla and Gold Mohur districts at night. The caravane then stops in the middle of the tunnel, for the broom and the bride to dance for a while. You would not have expected this to happen in Aden, would you ?
Life is Aden is not always festive indeed. Hereafter a few snapshots of work and relaxing moments. I will remember forever the fresh mango juices available in town during the collecting season as these days.
Next to a spectacular power station on the way to Al Bureiqa, Al Haswa natural reserve offers an unexpected oasis of lush vegetation in an otherwise quite arid environment.
Wine trees design fascinating natural but nearly surreal sceneries of intricate shapes. The place hosts also numerous birds including flocks of flamingos.
So have been my 14 months in Aden. They have been much richer in fact, but it would be too long to review all special places and moments enjoyed during my stay. I feel stronger and happier than ever, thanks to this unique life experience.
I thank heartily all my friends in Aden for having supported me in many ways, and wish them the best of luck for the future.