Yemen: To Go or Not To Go?


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. 

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The Ambassador’s Wife


Lisa Ellen Niver

Lisa Niver is an award-winning travel expert who has explored 102 countries on six continents. This University of Pennsylvania graduate sailed across the seas for seven years with Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and Renaissance Cruises and spent three years backpacking across Asia. Discover her articles in publications from AARP: The Magazine and AAA Explorer to WIRED and Wharton Magazine, as well as her site WeSaidGoTravel. On her award nominated global podcast, Make Your Own Map, Niver has interviewed Deepak Chopra, Olympic medalists, and numerous bestselling authors, and as a journalist has been invited to both the Oscars and the United Nations. For her print and digital stories as well as her television segments, she has been awarded three Southern California Journalism Awards and two National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards and been a finalist twenty-two times. Named a #3 travel influencer for 2023, Niver talks travel on broadcast television at KTLA TV Los Angeles, her YouTube channel with over 2 million views, and in her memoir, Brave-ish, One Breakup, Six Continents and Feeling Fearless After Fifty.

6 responses to “Yemen: To Go or Not To Go?

  1. Lisa,
    We were on that 2000-2001 cruise with you and we have wonderful memories of our Middle East experience in Egypt, Oman, Qatar and Dubai. Despite the intriguing cultural differences we felt welcomed with every encounter. And we too wonder what it would have been like to see Yemen, Jordan and Sri Lanka. Glad you finally made it to one of them.

    Happy to see we are all still traveling. L&K

  2. That's an interesting question, whether or not to travel now to Yemen. Having hitchhiked around the country in the 1970s I can attest to its unique charms and beauty. Even at that time kidnappings of foreigner occurred occaisonally, but by following local advice about where to go and where to avoid – a normal procedure when traveling in remote areas – I stayed safe and sane.

    That said, I would add that you could listen to a thousand different reasons why you can't go but the inner voice always whispers, "Do it."

  3. Linda and Kit
    Thanks for posting! The photos are from OMAN!
    We hope to go to Yemen. Our next trip in December will be COLOMBIA!

  4. From BK:
    "My new mantra for the day:

    "…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".

    go for it. I bet Yemen offers many hidden beauties."

    We love your comments! Keep sending them!
    Happy Thanksgiving Weekend!

  5. Great post, love it! haha Anyway, today I had a big luck and want to share it with everyone – I finally found a way to make cheap calls to Australia, where my cousin Becky lives! There's this very neat site,, that offers a fast and easy way to reach your friends and relatives all around the world! You simply dial 084 3278 7878 for Australia landlines, and if you're in the UK, you can call Australia and talk for as long as you like! 🙂

  6. Dear Call Australia, Thanks for your comments. What about SKYPE for cheap phone calls? Glad you found a way to connect to your cousin.

    Happy Travels!

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