"Restricted travel" Ma'rib by TheLongTone

Ma'rib Travel Guide: 22 reviews and 41 photos

Marib is a real contradiction. It is at one and the same time one of the fixtures on the tourist trail in Yemen and also one of the more dangerous places to visit in the country.

You are under heavy manners almost from the moment you start thinking about visiting the place. As with most places in Yemen, a permit to travel to the area has to be obtained. Armed with this- and a vast wad of photocopies of it to dispense at the various checkpoints along the way, the prospective visitor pitches up at a nondescript truck-stop on the outskirts of Saana and waits until a convoy is assembled. And then, a pickup sporting a 50cal machine-gun head and tail, off you all set for the three or four hour drive.

That's the theory, anyway: the day I made the journey I was the only punter. The pickup travelled half-way with us: at a heavily-fortified scarp around half-way there the pickup returned home, and for the second leg of the journey I a young Kalash-toting soldier embarked in the back of the land cruiser with me and off we set for Marib (500 rials backsheesh for the soldier, who also gets a break from the monotony of manning the outpost in the middle of almost nowhere.

Once there the level of supervision intensifies. There was a manned guard post outside the hotel, and when, having lunched, we set off to see the sights we were escorted by a car containing four soldiers. It seemed like a lot of trouble to take over one scruffy Englishman: but what is really being safeguarded is the reputation of the country: and, after all, you are their guest. They don't want anything unpleasant to happen to a guest.

I thought all the precautions over the top, and they certainly considerably curtailed my enjoyment. At the famous dam, my main reason for visiting, I would have liked to have wandered into the surrounding but this was absolutely not to be thought of.

My chaperones seemed actually nervous rather than people just going through the motions: and they were right and I was wrong, for about six weeks after my visit seven Spaniards along with their Yemeni guide and driver were killed by suicide bombers.

A very sinister development: the incidents that the guards were contrived to prevent were kidnappings by tribesmen with an issue with the government, not deranged 'islamists' with an issue with the modern world.

  • Last visit to Ma'rib: May 2007
  • Intro Updated May 30, 2010
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