Always ethereal, always eclectic, I write as the mood strikes, when there intrigue reveals itself. Usually that means something controversial or adventure of some sort.

I've tried really hard to be unprovocative, but have as yet been unsuccessful.

Thursday, 29 December 2005

Banned from Leaving!

I like this country. I love these people. Their just not ready for tourists yet.

After getting the tasireh, the travel permit, to go to Shibam Hadremowt (Hadramawt)- the permit that the police in Sana'a, the capitol, said you don't need but the police in the Eastern half of the country think is still required, I traveled up with a Dutch-Italian couple to Shibam. I came in late, looked around the town, and the next day, went to see some other towns nearby. All this is in the previous posting. Right after my last posting, I went to arrange a taxi for the next day, as the town that the taxis leave from is 20 minutes East of where I was staying, and I wanted to arrange something to pick me up at my hotel.

First I had to find the right taxi stand- which meant going to one, crossing the town to the other, and then coming back to a taxi stand right next to the first. They told me it would be 1000 Riyal (194:$1 exchange rate) to get back- which is what I was expecting. Then they talked a moment, and said they would have to raise the price to 1500. I asked why they were changing suddenly. They said that I needed a tasireh, and therefore it would cost more. I told them I have one. They asked to see it. They said that, No, I needed a tasireh to get back! I tried to explain to them that that didn't really make sense- I had permission to get there (permission I was told in Sana'a I didn't actually need), so it was obvious I had the right to travel, and it wasn't like the Yemeni government could keep me there in Shibam. They disagreed, and said I needed to go to the police to get a tasireh.

So I went to the police station, and was told I needed to go to the tourist police station. A nice police officer from Shibam took me to the tourist police- who were closed. We then searched for the guy who works there, who was living nearby. I went in and talked with him, and he had me talk with someone who spoke English on the phone. I explained to them both that I needed to get the tasireh as the taxi drivers weren't allowing me to negotiate with them until I did so. They talked for a while, and agreed that I could come back tomorrow morning to get it. I explained to them that I actually needed it now, as I wasn't staying in town, and was trying to arrange a taxi for tomorrow. They talked about it, and agreed I could come back tomorrow morning to get it, as they need the taxi number before they can give it to me. I explained to them that that would cost more money and time, and I needed to arrange this beforehand, and the taxi drivers wouldn't talk to me until I had it. About the time that I was banging my head against the wooden door, they finally relented and gave me the tasireh.

Off I marched back to the taxi stand, with tasireh proudly in hand. The taxi drivers said I had done a good job- and it would still cost 1500 riyal. I was tired at this point, so I said fine, and asked how much for the whole taxi- complete. 8000 riyal. I said, "Okay. This is what I want to do. I want you to try to find someone else for this taxi, as many people as possible. But by 830, if you haven't found anyone, come and get me, and I'll pay the whole thing." It is expensive, so I wanted them to find others- but I also had to catch the plane 4 hours to the South. (As you'll recall, I had been put on that plane to Al Mukalla and was told it was actually going to Shibam.)

This morning, the taxi showed up on time, a little early. They hadn't bothered to find anyone else, although I did get the costs defrayed by 600 riyal by picking up someone else along the way. And I did try to get some portion reimbursed from the airport, as they hadn't told me the airport in Sayyun (the city next to Shibam) was closed. They told me to come back in two days when the manager is in.

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