Sanaa, Yemen Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Sanaa, Yemen

Sanaa, Yemen 05/17/16

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, mostly Asia before this

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

California. Flights go through Paris and/or Dubai and/or Frankfurt and/or Doha. Doha gets you an overnight stay in a hotel.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years until 2013

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government, FSO

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Apartments were large, housing is now in a hotel. Communal kitchen and laundry facilities. Causes a fishbowl effect. On the other hand, good for creating a strong and tight-knit community.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Everything is so cheap.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Mexican food supplies, baking food supplies

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Yemeni food is cheap, Indian restaurants aplenty, lots of Lebanese restaurants, also one really good Japanese restaurant which serves pretty good sushi and sashimi.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

APO/DPO

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Filipinos and Ethiopians. Very cheap.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Embassy gym and hotel gym

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Only the fancy hotels will take them

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There are two English language Christian mass/church services available. A Filipino priest and an Ethiopian pastor.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

A lot. Yemenis do not speak English in the street.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes, would not recommend. Third world with third world facilities.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Very cheap. We took them before restrictions set in.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

4x4 although post became an armored vehicle only post

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual. For women, covered shoulders and knees. Abaya and hijab not required, unlike Saudi. No one will give you a second look.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Security, constant threat of terrorism, civil war, gunfire. Fact of life. Hearing gunfire and/or artillery shelling while you're sitting at an outdoor cafe eating your cheesecake and drinking your mocha is not uncommon.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Not great. Saudi German hospital for emergencies.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Good. Not enough industry to cause pollution.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

70F degrees year round. Sanaa is located high up so occasional cool nights, but generally it's pool weather every single day.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Morale was high when I was there...extremely tight knit community because of the situation.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Lots of expat house parties, lots of oil company parties, foreign embassy parties.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Fine for singles. Couples, I'd recommend that they come together and they have a strong relationship or can stand living in a hotel room together...and seeing each other day in and day out. Cheating was everywhere in the Embassy and we saw lots of divorces occur when people showed up at post without their spouse.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Most likely not. Yemen is a conservative Muslim country. On the other hand, there is an underground gay scene and someone met their local spouse here.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

No. The locals could honestly care less if you were Christian or Muslim or Jewish. Obviously the terrorists care, but the average Yemeni doesn't. Religion is deeply private for them.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The amazing weather, the nicest people in the world. People are completely open and willing to talk about anything honestly, makes for great work as an FSO, makes it easy to make friends as an EFM.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Wandering the Old City in the souk market, being the only foreigner for miles around, amazing beaches and diving.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Amazing honey (almost all of it is exported to Saudi)

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Best weather in the world, always 70F degrees and sunny, no humidity. Nicest people in the world, local government actually wanted our assistance and advice, easy to save money. Culture and history is everywhere unlike the rest of the Gulf which has replaced those things with shiny skyscrapers.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes. I paid off all my student loans and saved the down payment for a house from my time there.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

How beautiful it was, how unlike it is from how it's portrayed in the news.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes. I pray that the Embassy reopens someday

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Preconceived notions

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunblock, sense of adventure

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Dancing on the heads of Snakes

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Yemen is amazing. Those who complained about it either chafed under the security restrictions or expect to basically be in a country exactly like the U.S. and had difficulties understanding a culture different than their own.

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Sanaa, Yemen 06/13/14

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Thailand, Myanmar.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

US, 15hrs - connect through London.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government - USAID.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Decent enough housing with walled compound. Traffic is horrible.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Expensive.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Good movie collections.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Qat gatherings maybe.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Few bugs that looks like tsetse flies.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Pouch.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

None.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Don't.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Churches aren't allowed.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Arabic is helpful with the staff.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Don't go in the first place.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

No.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

4x4 if you don't get blowned up or kidnapped in it.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Not really.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Not cheap.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No pets!

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

None.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

None.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Conservative.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

It's all about security concerns...terrorism!

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Expensive and average.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Moderate.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Dry mostly with spasms of rain during the season.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

None that I know of, taking kids to Yemen is beyond absurd.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

No.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Dwindling.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Drink to death! Excessive binge drinking is common.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Not good for anyone, maybe in the past, but not anymore.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

It is a Muslim country!

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes, they don't respect women.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Nothing, maybe getting moved to an hotel.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

There used to be good jambiya, now it's all from China.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Chinese made jambiya.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Weather and saving money; there isn't anything to buy except jambiya.

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10. Can you save money?

There is nothing to buy except booze, food, and Chinese jambiya.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

That it was far gone

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

NO.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Nice clothes, hiking shoes, and valuable stuffs.

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4. But don't forget your:

DIY kit.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:


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6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0446619264/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0446619264&linkCode=as2&tag=thesunspousunder

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Yemen as a whole is not nice but the locals are.

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Sanaa, Yemen 04/19/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

First expat experience

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington DC;Takes 1.5 days to make the trip. IAD -Frankfurt-Sanaa used to be the easiest, but Lufthansa stopped flying to Yemen. Now, Qatari--IAD-Doha-Sana is the best. Also can take Yemenia from Frankfurt/Paris to Sana. I like Yemenia very much.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Work for US Embassy

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing is generally in a southern suburb of Sana. The houses are very big and nice.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries are pretty limited. Fruit is good and readily available, but the meat and chicken is not too good;Household supplies are available, but lots of the products are expired in the stores.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

If you like cooking, all of you supplies. Any unique food products if you care about that sort of thing.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

One of the heads of the Yemeni Opposition, Hamid al-Ahmar purchased a KFC franchise some years ago and has since stolen the franchise and provides very subpar food. KFC apparently saw the futility in trying to seek justice in Yemeni Courts, so our friend Hamid continues to bootleg KFC.Its edible, but not too much. Other than that, saudi franchise, Tazij, which is pretty bad.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

None.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

The embassy has no APO and has a dip pouch. However, our Yemeni Governmental friends constantly hold up the pouch and go through our mail. You can send/receive no liquids at all. Also, no FEDEX or DHL.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Readily available and cheap.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Very limited;The movenpick has a gym, but that hotel is run really terribly and will be losing its name very soon. There is a gym in Hadda that is ok, but not great.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

ATMs are everywhere and are fine to use.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There is an Ethiopian Church.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes, but it is a joke.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You need Arabic to really function.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Disasterous. Driving is impossible, there are no Gov services and i cannot imagine someone with a physical disability here.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are everywhere and cheap, but not safe for a variety of reasons.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

You need a rugged 4 wheel drive car that you are ok with being destroyed. Driving here is the worst in the world and most of the drivers are stoned on Khat past 2 pm and will hit you, etc., without even knowing it. There is virtually no crime here.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Decent internet is provided by yemenet for about 40 US per month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

The embassy provides them.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There are a couple of vets, who only have rabies shots. Would not want to give them any chance to do anything else. Tons of Yemeni dogs--strays and they are very nice. Lots of people adopt them.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Relaxed.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Of course, the government is failing and services are quite poor. AQAP is active and there is constant tribal conflict and political demonstration at the moment. To date, other than AQAP, the other issues are not focused upon westerners, yet it is becoming increasingly difficult to function in Sana.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Name it. Air quality and food are bad. I have been sick many times here from eating the food, and I have an iron stomach. You just deal with it. There are only like 4 somewhat decent restaurants and they are barely decent. The best hospital is the Saudi German, which is ok.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Sana is about 8000 feet above sea level and there is pollution. Leaded gas does not help. People with asthma can have real problems.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Sana has literally perfect weather. Never too hot or cold. Its dry for the most part, but during the rainy season, it really rains hard for a few hours everyday.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There used to be some decent schools, but due to the security situation, families have all left.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

None

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Small and getting smaller. Very few westerners. Some Lebanese of course.

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2. Morale among expats:

Not good in general. For those who love Yemen, they are existing still but fearful, because of the current political strife. Ali Abdallah Salih and his family are holding on for dear life.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Hanging out with friends at home. Used to be a couple of fairly raunchy nightclubs, but they are closed now.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

You really must speak decent Arabic in order to get around effectively. Some time ago, this was an excellent family post, but now, due to security, no families are here. As for singles, men can have a very good time. It is much more difficult for single women.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Not so much, but I would not really know.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

There is some prejudice against people with dark skin, but it is not nearly as bad as it is in Saudi for example.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The Yemeni people are among my favorite in the World. Yes, they are poor and there is not too much education, but they are extremely kind, helpful and respectful of foreigners, be it western or not. I will miss the Yemeni people very much. They maintain the best traditions and codes of honor from thousands of years of Arabic/Islamic traditions, that people in the Gulf (saudis, Emiratis, etc.) have simply lost. If you are respectful and kind to the Yemenis, you will make friends for life and they will protect you at all costs. Unfortunately, western policies toward Yemen are not clear and the western media greatly exaggerates the situation in Yemen. Yes, AQAP exists in Yemen, but most Yemenis hate extremism.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Not too much for the moment. Aden is beautiful and the water is great, but again, security there is an issue. Socotra and Hudayda are great as well.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Most Jambiyas are now made in China. The honey is the best in the world.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The country itself is amazingly beautiful. Mountains, water, hills, green, etc. Unfortunately, due to the security situation, you are basically stuck in Sanaa, which physically is a very nice city. The weather in Sana is perfect.

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11. Can you save money?

There is nothing to buy, save for a jambiya, etc. Travel in the region is cheap too.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely. I love Yemen and would love to go back. The people there deserve a decent government not run by a horribly corrupt mafia and which provides some basic services. Some of the best people in the world.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Thoughts on enjoying long hikes through the countryside, traveling throughout Yemen, eating good food.

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience;Yemenis, especially around Khat time can be very frustrating. It can be very hard to get anything done, if you are impatient. Just remember that they are very very good people and if you respect them, they will treat you very very well.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

"Dancing on the Heads of Snakes" is the name, I believe. I read it and it was great.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

If you want to immerse yourself in the culture and enjoy what Yemen has to offer, you can love your time there. If you want to hang out with other westerners, get drunk all the time, and complain, you will have a very difficult tour.

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