Places We Go / Yemen

Hangin’ In Hodeidah With The Houthis

We arrived in Hodeidah two days after the Houthis took over… They had checkpoints set up at every point of entry into the city including, as we would find out, at the airport and the seaport. However, our driver and fixer had a well-rehearsed routine at checkpoints. The driver would slowly roll through while thrusting a permission slip from Houthi and government officials into the hands of the confused fighters, while further distracting them by shouting “Italia, Italia” at them (in reference to their obviously Western passengers). Most of the time the Houthi fighters or government soldiers didn’t care anyway, but for those that did, we were already through the checkpoint and accelerating away before the overwhelmed fighters or soldiers would gather their wits. In addition, some of our exits and departures were timed to coincide with peak afternoon khat-chewing sessions, which would further increase our chances of slipping past any headaches. This didn’t work everywhere in Yemen. In areas of recent fighting with the Houthis or government troops or al-Qaeda, whichever group was manning the checkpoints would be fairly jumpy and so we wouldn’t try running these stops. Of course, that usually meant being extensively searched, explaining who we were, passing over some khat as a bribe, etc. Fortunately, the Houthis encountered little resistance when they seized Hodeidah and so we were able to breeze right in and the city was not marked by the widespread evidence of fighting that we observed in Sana’a.

Entering Hodeidah:


Hodeidah isn’t a particularly charming city in the way that Zabid or Jibla are. The city has no “Old City” in the center and is comprised of heavy industry and unattractive contemporary buildings. Much of this can be explained by a fire that destroyed most of the city in 1961. The destruction by fire of historic buildings is already pretty hard on a city, but aesthetic values were further harmed when the Soviet Union helped rebuild large sections of Hodeidah following the fire:



Inside a restaurant in Hodeidah – the fish in restaurants in Hodeidah is always very fresh and very good:


Houthis get hungry too… These Houthi fighters dropped in for lunch shortly after we did:


The Houthis are feeling a little more comfortable in their dominant role in Yemen now, but when I took these pictures, the Houthis had just seized Sana’a and were sweeping down through the south of the country. In this context, they were fairly unsure of their status and were not happy about cameras being pointed in their direction. As such, I had to be somewhat discrete in my efforts to take their picture:

Al Hudaydah

Even if the city of Hodeidah isn’t much to look at, the scene along the waterfront is quite interesting and so I zeroed in on that rather quickly:


Exploring the port area… There were a lot of interesting characters here (notice the man’s cheek bulging with khat):


That is the port of Hodeidah in the background. This is the second largest port in Yemen (after the port in Aden) and was also the site of a Soviet naval base in the 1970s and 1980s:


Another of the handsome horses in the area:


It isn’t just horses out here though – there are plenty of camels too:



However, the camels seem to blend seamlessly with those living out here…



…and those just visiting:



These may have been visiting for a bit longer than those pictured above:


Back toward the center of the city and with a cold drink in each hand, we joined a group of Yemenis to watch the sunset:



Watching the women snap pictures of the sunset with their iPhones, it was sometimes hard to remember that Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East:



The sun – barely visible now – disappearing into the Red Sea:








4 thoughts on “Hangin’ In Hodeidah With The Houthis

  1. I worked in Hodeidah for 6 months in 1973. Little appears to have changed and during my time there was a military coup with streets closed off and army checkpoints on intersections. A hot humid town , a highlight was , as part of my job, visiting the compound of the Yemen cotton company where the guard on the gate was missing his left hand ( amputated for theft presumably) and within the compound bales of cotton stacked in 3 metre high blocks in rectangular plinths about 20 metres in length contained families and their water apart from a few standpipes and no shelter. Due to high humidity the roads at 6am were also wet though not through rain. A fascinating experience!

  2. Pingback: The Hodeida Fish Market | The Velvet Rocket

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