written on the walls

Here are some writings and drawings on some walls in Aden, Yemen 

I never saw anybody writing or drawing on walls, but I think it’s safe to assume that the authors and artists are children and teenagers.

Some of the drawings are very symbolic. I’ll leave the analyses to you.

Where possible, I have translated some of the Arabic words and phrases. Some don’t need translation.



The brick wall featured above is the outer wall of Qala’a Seera, or Seera Castle, an Ottoman (or Portuguese) fort perched on a small mountain. The fort looks over the Aden Gulf on one side and the Seera and Crater districts of Aden on another. Lots of young people come up here to chew qat and take in the view (and a few couples come up here despite the stares). 





Skull and crossbone stuff in Aden is more popular than you might imagine; air fresheners, t-shirts, jewelry, etc. The Arabic words written around the image are names of the artist(s) and their friends, I think. 





A Kalashnikov with bayonet on the right. The writing, from the top left and down, is hard to read, but a few words say: “al Jihad..Hamas…men of Palestine” and the name “Othman” in the bottom right corner.


The word ‘Gaza’ is written on the upper left, next to what appears to be a military helicopter. ‘The Arabs’ is written below and to the left of ‘Gaza’, near what looks like a faucet. 


Hey Arabic readers, can any of you decipher this?


Again, I had some trouble with the Arabic, but this is quite possibly a rendering of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. Drawings of the Dome, and the al-Aqsa Mosque, appear on walls throughout the city. img_5990Here’s another example of the Dome of the Rock. The word ‘Palestine’ is written across the dome. 


These words are printed on a few walls across the street from a beach. It may be a private school or group. The word “Allah” is painted to the right.


Soccer is wildly popular in Yemen, but the Yemeni national club is nothing to write home about. According to embarrassed locals, the players chew too much Qat and chain smoke. European and South American clubs are very popular. On this wall, Arsenal gets a transcontinental shout out. 

 Kids and young adults play soccer just about anywhere it is possible to do so. One group of students I know practices on a ‘field’ that consists of two iron pipes at either end of a long, open dirt space covered with jagged rocks. The field sits atop a British-era landfill. 



November 16, 2008 at 1:45 pm 1 comment

Dear Prez-Elect

Dear Bro,

Wait, can I call you bro?

Congrats. You won. We won. Change won.

Congrats to you. Congrats to us for getting you there. I was, like many others, and other others, touched to tears. Holy shit, you did it. We did it, I did it, they did it. You did it.

I was at a bar in the West Village with some for-profit foreign policy people and a gaggle of other dark-rimmed, American Apparelled liberals (and one tall, frisky fiscal, sandy Scandinavy blonde hedge funder who threw ‘em back like you could, couldn’t, would or wouldn’t believe).

We all watched the polls and cheered and booed according to the color of the state. Then CNN projected…what?…really…no…wait for the polls to report…oh…shit…is…that…no!!!!….MCCAIN…SHIT!….NO, shhhhhh…he’s conce…ding….FUCK! WE DID IT! WE DID IT!

And so on. Drinks were raised and we congratulated each other for doing it. Eventually, the almost entirely white crowd at the bar stopped congratulating one another. ‘We did it’ s were hushed, and you entered stage right, or left, in Chicago. Along the bar, a line of black Blackberry’s buzzed, neon displays flashed, but their pasty owners were too busy glued to that big LCD screen in the corner. 

Tears, bro, silence. You wisely declined to declare mission accomplished, although for many of us, with disbelief, relief, and Jamison, it was that simple.

We did it!

Yeah but not really. We did a little bit, our historically important bit. But you’re the one who really did it.

You galvanized us, B. You made some of the most intransigent and cynical among us believe that you could bring change to D.C. You got us off of our flashy fixed gears and out of our leased A4s, off of our tractors and out of our Aeron chairs, out of our funks and preconceptions…you got us all off of our asses. And just as remarkably, you somehow convinced enough casually racist white people not to cross the street when they saw you coming!

Oh, and you beat the fo-sho democratic heiress to get there…

So now you’re here and it’s all about change. Change. African American. Change. Leader. Change. D.C. Change. Dog. Change.

Change. How much change will be changed? I mean, how will you change this mess that we—300,000,000…or 6,000,000,000+ —are in?

It’ll take time, sure. But you’ve got the big ol’ world looking to you for some serious fixes really, really super duper lickity quick.

Yeah, Bro, things are pretty shitty right now. Wait, I can call you bro right?

I’m a little nervous. Not just because I’m prone to worry, but I’m still saying ‘that didn’t just happen’ and still worried that racism and xenaphobia, as old as our country, will somehow stop you from holding your right hand up in January. You have been compared to a lot of different historical figures. At at least one of them has been offed. Logic or hope or Zoloft tells me to chill, but I hope you the secret service has your back.

I’m nervous for other reasons too. You’re no guarantee. Rather, you’re a big-ass, hopeful eloquent question mark. That’s not a bad thing, of course. Every presidential candidate has been a big-ass question mark. How in the hell do you prepare for the presidency? You can’t. Nobody can prepare to take shit over. And you have as good a resume as any senator or any dipshit governor or the manager of a Wendy’s in Scranton. You’re a question mark like every president-elect before you going back the founding big-ass question mark fathers.

But you’re a big-ass hopeful eloquent question mark in a time of dark, twenty-first century question marks: housing, insurance, Iraq, Iran, Israel, petrol, Putin, Palestine; credit, banks, inflation, deflation, migration, desertification, over-population, de-forestation…foreclosures, famines….

You’ve spent hundreds of millions of dollars promising hundreds of millions of Americans and hundreds of millions of oversees onlookers a whole bunch of different and sometimes contradictory things. You won’t be able to deliver on nearly all of those promises, but that’s expected (part of the bipartisan agreement that stipulates a promise to fix something you know you won’t be able to fix is not considered a lie if you do so in pursuance of a position that allows you to blame the other when the problem isn’t fixed).

You’re not going to please everyone and you’ll probably spend a fair amount of time blaming the Republicans. But you’re smarter than that. You acknowledged all of those people, tens of millions, who voted for the other guy. Don’t hate on them, but don’t give into them. And don’t give into the more ideological or conniving in your own party. Just…you know, stay away from the assholes. 

One more thing. I love listening to you talk, but right now is quiet time.

Now is the time for you to shut the fuck up.

Become a decider. First things first: find a school for your children. Then take your inner circle somewhere quiet, fire up the barby, and marinate on the multitude of problems facing our nation and our species. 

Hold off on the speeches for a bit, give us chance to breathe, and come correct for the State of the Union or a speech in the not-so-distant-but-not-so-present future.

Good luck.


PS-Can I lead, or be led by, the delegation you secretly send to Syria, Libya, Venezuela, Utah, Pluto or anywhere else?

November 11, 2008 at 1:24 am Leave a comment

Dear John McCain

Dear John McCain,

Tough break, old timer. I always liked the cut of your jib. But things got a little crazy and…

You got in bed with Bush. It was short, and you probably faked it, it still happened and you spent the rest of the campaign explaining it away: you had just come away from an ugly fight with Mitt, you were traveling a lot, and you needed the attention. But we all knew you could have better than that. 

The arch conservatives hoped it would lead to something meaningful, that Bush could make a man out of you, but they could see that your tryst was just that.

2000 should’ve been your year. You were strong, independent, straight talking and for a veteran politician, seemingly fresh and spry. But you were also in Rove’s sights, which led to racist vitriol spread by a prickly political operative you recently hired to help you run a respectful campaign in South Carolina.

In 2008, you came off as crazy-old-kootish, especially when it came to Iraq and Iran. Then you decided to go with Palin. She helped breathe a little air into your campaign, but ended up helping Saturday Night Live (and 30 Rock) more than anything else.

In the end, however, you lost for two reasons. The first was the economy, which seemed to go further and further down the shitter in concert with your chances of winning. The second, and more important, was your inability to convey change. You may have been a maverick, but that was during the Restoration, and now you’re a white man who is older than most vampires. You’ve worked in Washington D.C. for ever, and although you have courageously taken on your own aisle–recently, with campaign finance reform, torture, the errors of the Iraq war–you spent this campaign looking, speaking and acting like any other white old Washington D.C. partisan.

Of course, I still like you, and other Obama supporters do too (maybe more than the apathetic social conservatives who so unenthusiastically supported you). I hope you didn’t take the loss too hard, or too personally, even though it was entirely personal.

You’re concession speech was characteristically, but still inspiringly, noble and understated. You seemed genuinely proud of this country for tapping Obama, and you pledged your support for him.

Even the I’m-OK-really-but-really-totally-drunk, self-congratulatory white people in the West Village bar clapped when you left the stage, not just because of what was to come, but in appreciation of your inspiring prelude. We were drunk.

I hope this defeat hasn’t hurt you that much. If history has proven anything, it’s that you can take a lot of shit and keep going. So I hope you do keep going, and that your loss has reinvigorated the maverick in you.

Will you ask your wife if I can have $5,000,000 please? And is she wearing emerald contacts just to scare liberal children?



November 10, 2008 at 11:37 pm Leave a comment

Get on the bus!

The following videos were shot from the minibuses I take to get around Aden.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Get on the bus! on Vimeo“, posted with vodpod


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more about “still on the bus… on Vimeo“, posted with vodpod


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more about “…still on the bus II“, posted with vodpod

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more about “Up Up Up“, posted with vodpod


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more about “Down Down Down“, posted with vodpod


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more about “through Crater“, posted with vodpod


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more about “through Seera on Vimeo“, posted with vodpod

August 22, 2008 at 7:54 am 2 comments

My neighborhood

Here are a few videos of my neighborhood, Khormaksar (خورمكسر).

More soon inshallah.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Untitled on Vimeo“, posted with vodpod


Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “shabbbbbbat I“, posted with vodpod

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more about “shabbbbbbat II on Vimeo“, posted with vodpod

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more about “Shabbbbbat III“, posted with vodpod


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more about “خور و معلا “, posted with vodpod



August 21, 2008 at 8:03 am 2 comments


This is a monument commemorating the unification of North and South Yemen.  Many southerners, Adenis in particular, dislike the north. After unification, the more politically powerful (and populous) Northerners took over Aden’s port and began to send the majority of the profits to Sana’a. People have told me that Important government and economic positions were taken from Adenis and given to Northerners.

The president of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, is from the north and is widely reviled here in Aden.

This monument is adjacent to a wide swath of brick sidewalk that is used for pro-Government parades. A large painting of Saleh is hung above the whitewashed stone bleachers that look over the area.

Beyond the parade grounds is a neighborhood of embassies, delapidated houses, crumbling structures and a few new constructions. It is also where I work.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Unification“, posted with vodpod




August 21, 2008 at 6:03 am 2 comments

Walking to the Aden Mall

Walking into the main entrance of the Aden Mall.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Walking to the Aden Mall“, posted with vodpod



August 21, 2008 at 5:53 am 1 comment

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