Walking around Sanaa with a man– How the Yemeni Stares Change


So, today I went out to dinner with some friends. The group split up with two of staying behind ( I wanted some Baskin Robbins ice cream… I have a new appreciation for the 31 flavors since I have been Sanaa, I will blog later about my experience with Yemeni food).

At any rate, I was well, not surprised, but nonetheless struck by how much of a difference it made to walk around with A man, and not a group of guysn’girls.

I’m gonna be real, my laundry is in the process of being de-bed bugged, and so I my outfit was definitely borderline Yemeni standards of halal ( for a foreigner, not a Yemeni woman). At any rate, it felt good to get respect.

On the ride over to dinner, we rode a dubab (public bus) and the man in front of me stared at me while chewing his Khat as if I were Quentin Terrentinos (sp?) latest thriller! The worst part was that I had to role my eyes at him like 15 times before he got the picture that I didn’t want to stared at.

but the way back was serene. I have a fear of crossing the streets here ( with good reason, people here drive crazy!) and so my comrade ( who lived in Cairo where crossing the street is truly an art form) held my hand as we crossed. I guess this made is look even more like couple to those around.

there was a shift in the kinds of stares– well a new one: How in the heck/when in the heck did they get together…. lol. You can tell from the way people shift their eyes from him to me and back to him only to end with a pseudo-confused look.

We stopped on the way back for some orange juice and some of the men there started their usual “hey black!” “your black” nonsense but when they “realized” that my companion didn’t just happen to walk in with me at the same time, that he was actually my “habeeby” they shut up real quick. In place of their stupid declarations about my race/color, they looked at us and out interaction with confusion.

I won’t lie, I had noticed the difference in people’s reaction to me way before the juice stand, and so I played my part as well: I made my big 24 smile as we stood their talking. My comrade, knowingly or otherwise further aided in the charade by standing really close to me. If we were back home, someone would look at the two of us and think nothing of it. This is one of the times I am grateful to be in a country where people are so in the dark about what male-female interaction looks like between two foreigners in a relationship.

I’m so grateful to have had my comrade around, no doubt my pseudo-conservative ensemble would have garnered me much unwanted attention and comments had I been out alone ( then again, had I been out alone, I probably would not have worn that outfit).

It’s kind of sad that one has to feign affection for a classmate in order to be left alone. How about ya’ll just let me because I am a human being that does not deserve to be gawked at as if I was the bearded lady! … but I guess rendezvous to Baskin Robbins will have to do.


2 thoughts on “Walking around Sanaa with a man– How the Yemeni Stares Change

  1. Kristen

    So, I was wondering…and I may regret asking this later (!) . . . There is a definite theme of race relations throughout your blog entries. Have your experiences abroad given you a greater appreciation for how blacks are treated in America, or do you think that racism in the U.S. is just more subtle?

  2. Gazelle du Sahara

    You know me well enough to know that there is a definite trend of race relations in my real life 🙂

    You bring up a really good point/question. As far as appreciation for the treatment of blacks in America, I’m not sure about all that right now.

    I do firmly believe/know that racism subtle and not so subtle is alive and well in the U.S. I think my abroad experiences appreciate the place of privilege from which I came because. 1. living/being in a developing country is my choice not my obligation. 2. As for the “developed” world experience, I have a greater appreciation for the space that the U.S. allows for discussion of race/racism.

    I will blog about this later, but I think that I have brought some of my “American” way of thinking when it comes to race, that may not have been completely fair to Yemenis ( well, maybe not unfair, but perhaps I should have been more aware of the Yemeni conception of race— maybe the problem here is a butting of heads of two cultures… I digress)

    At any rate, It’s something I am still trying to hash out in my mind… hopefully blogging further will illuminate my perspectives.

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