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March 25, 2002

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Last night we finished our road trip at Sana'a. This morning we boarded a plane that carried us over a vast desert towards the rising sun. We landed in a canyon, 300 meters deep and 2 km wide, that cuts into the desolate table land. The Book of Genesis mentions this place as Hazarmaveth. Legend says Hud, a great grandson of Noah, settled here first. We know it as Wadi Hadramawt, a valley formed by nature's erosion of sandstone bedrock over millions of years. The wadi walls form a granite backdrop to red and white, clay brick houses, mosques, and minarets that sit in the valley. Our base in Wadi Hadramawt will be Say'un, the central city for visits to Yemen's eastern region. Until 1967 this was a self-governing area, a place too remote for colonizers. Sayun's power began in 1490 when the Kathiri tribe from North Yemen migrated here and made it their capital. The Kathiri controlled the surrounding valleys and taxed passing caravans. Bedouins come in and out of the region, armed with their pistols and Kalashnikovs, and the police are more strict at checkpoints. We're detained at the airport and on the road between villages.
Desert wadi (valley) view from the air.
Sitting with the Bedouin. If you don't have a gun they're happy to lend you one.
Sey'un palace - sunlight reflects off the whitewash and blinds you.
View of Sey'un from an old palace window.