Places We Go / Yemen

The Hodeida Fish Market

Ahh, we’re back in Yemen… In Hodeida.

The fish market in Hodeida is, perhaps not shockingly, right along the waterfront and it is impossible to miss.

We passed by during our first night in Hodeida and even though that is supposedly the quiet(er) time for the fish market, there was still a remarkable amount of activity and frenetic energy. I knew that we needed to come back in the morning.


Hodeida is definitely not a small town, but it would be pretty hard to miss its fish market when it is in top gear.  Even the constant honking and the roaring sounds of engines lacking mufflers that spill out from Hodeida’s streets are overwhelmed by the fish market’s sensory experience.

Imagine the perfume of exhaust from boat engines blending with the smell of roasting fish and the salty ocean air blowing across from Africa. Imagine fishing boats racing around the crowded harbor – always seeming like they are about to collide (but somehow intense shouting by the occupants of the boats serves as a sort of magical collision avoidance system). Imagine the din generated by hundreds of men crying out about fish for sale, arguing over prices (and who knows what else), donkeys braying, boat engines firing up and blocks of ice being hacked at with ice picks. Imagine absorbing all of the brilliant colors of the fish that have been pulled from the sea, the myriad colors of the fishing boats and the wildly varying outfits of everyone, the blur of money and fish changing hands everywhere around you… Well, you get the idea. It’s a hell of an experience.

Returning to the fish market the next morning along the waterfront:


The men in these boats have just returned from a trip out to sea and are offloading the fish they caught into the market… You can see the nets in the boat in the foreground:



This crew is sorting the fish they have brought to the market:


Large blocks of ice brought in by donkey carts do a brisk business at the Hodeida fish market as the fishermen must fill the holds of their boats with ice in order to preserve the fish they catch long enough to get them to the market (and as hot as it is in Hodeida, this is a matter of significance):


You can see the hold in the center of this boat where the ice is packed and where the fish are kept:


When one arrives at the fish market, one will be aggressively (yet good-naturedly) presented with an overwhelming amount of very fresh fish for purchase:



But the real action is inside the market itself, where one will be enthusiastically (and even more aggressively) offered a staggering array of fish as soon as one enters:



The full chaos of the fish market… Obviously, it is difficult to tell from a picture, but it is pandemonium in there. And one must watch their footing – the melting ice and water coming off of the fish blends with the constant dust blowing in from the sands of the Yemeni desert, forming a layer of mud on the floor and this, mixed in with fish guts, makes for a slippery stroll through the market:


Stingrays that were brought in:


I asked around about prices and can report the following:

2 kilos of shark meat costs 3,000 Yemeni rials.

The best fish at the Hodeida fish market will be 4,500 rials per kilo, but one must move quickly on that in the early morning because those disappear quickly.

The cheapest fish go for 1,000 rials per kilo.



This man was having a good day and had already sold most of his fish even though it was still early in the day:




A quiet corner of the market:


Wrapping up a deal… Sometimes the fishermen try to sell their own fish and sometimes they simply sell the fish to middlemen and head back out to sea:


Behind the fish market, the activity does not stop. This is where the fish start the next stage of their journey – this one on land:


Sometimes people come for one fish:


Sometimes they come in one of Yemen’s ubiquitous Toyota trucks for a basket of fish:


And sometimes they come with refrigerated trucks for an entire truckload of fish… Hodeida’s fish market accommodates everyone’s needs and such places are probably one of the purest centers of capitalism on the planet:


Now matter how they are transported though, all of the fish exit through here into the streets of Hodeida…


…and ultimately end up here on someone’s plate:











4 thoughts on “The Hodeida Fish Market

  1. One thing that I love about other countries, usually less developed than the west or that have differing cultures, besides the rather standardised shopping mall style cultures in western countries such as Australia (where I as born and grew up) or North America (I spent a year in Canada). One such country is Ukraine, were I am a resident and there are open markets that are just everywhere.

    You will find these “open markets” in almost every Ukrainian town, selling produce such as fruit and vegetables, meat (poultry, other kinds of birds, pigs etc) and fish (Ukrainians love their fish) whereas back home in Australia there might be a special “farmers market” offloading their veges in some cities, but nothing like in other places around the world.

    Anyway, there is one common facet with all these markets, it seems, such as the Hodeidah fish markets, is that if you dilly dally around and rock up late (late being anytime after roughly 9 – 9:30am), all the good deals are gone and you will be left to choose from the stuff that no one wanted to buy in the first place.

    You gotta be there early to get the best quality deals and they are not necessarily always the cheapest. Even in poor countries where they earn way less than we do in the west, people still want the quality products, not the cheapest!

  2. great post! all the colors and excitement – I love the colors of the boats – and the fish must have been delicious that fresh

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