Posts filed under ‘Middle East’

layla fii sanaa

Here is the last set of Sana’a pictures, taken at dusk and night.


had to come correctly vain for the ender.





June 23, 2008 at 7:11 am Leave a comment

Black Hawk Down

The movie Black Hawk Down was on MBC2 last night.

Mark Bowden wrote Black Hawk Down. It was published in 1999. 

Black Hawk Down takes place in 1993, when 18 American soldiers were killed during a raid in Mogadishu. They were withdrawn shortly thereafter. Bill Clinton was the president then.

Before the credits, we are shown graphic images of starving Somalis. Interspersed among the images are messages that read, in order of appearance:





Years of warfare among rival clans causes famine on a biblical scale.
300,000 civilians die of starvation.

Mohamed Farrah Aidid, the most powerful of the warlords, rules the capital Mogadishu.

He seizes international food shipments at the ports. Hunger is his weapon.

The world responds. Behind a force of 20,000 U.S. Marines, food is delivered and order is restored.
April 1993

 Aidid waits until the Marines withdraw, and then declares war on the remaining U.N. peacekeepers.
In June, Aidid’s militia ambush and slaughter 24 Pakistani soldiers, and begin targeting American personnel.

In late August, America’s elite soldiers, Delta Force, Army Rangers and the 160th SOAR are sent to Mogadishu to remove Aidid and restore order.

According’s Mickey Kaus (partially quoting author Mark Bowden):

Muhammad Farrah Aidid was the recognized leader of the Habr Gidr, “a large and powerful clan planted deep in Somalia’s past and present political culture,” in Bowden’s words…

The Habr Gidr were the militarily more powerful of two main groups contending for control of Mogadishu. If the U.S. had killed Aideed, citizens of the Habr Gidr areas wouldn’t generally have felt liberated, like Afghans freed from the Taliban. They would more likely have been pissed off. 

 Later in the article, Kaus talks about an event that wasn’t mentioned in the movie:

On July 12, months before the Ranger raid, in an incident unremarked in all the Black Hawk Down hype, U.S. and U.N. forces attacked a Habr Gidr clan meeting. The meeting included clan elders, intellectuals, poets. It was held at the house of Aideed’s self-styled “defense” minister, but included Habr Gidr members who planned to argue against Aideed’s anti-U.N. stance. Indeed, the meeting had been called to consider a Howe “peace initiative,” according to Bowden.

The aim of the mission depicted in the movie was to detain two of Aidid’s aims. They hoped to capture Aidid as well.

The names of the dead Marines appear at the end of the movie, before the credits roll.

Over a thousand Somalis died as well. None of their names appear.

In the movie, Sam Shepherd’s character, Major General William F. Garrison, says something to the effect of :

             “This isn’t Iraq. The situation is complicated here.”

The marines in the movie constantly say, ‘huwwa’ as a response to a command, or an acknowledgement of fact. In Arabic, huwwa means ‘he’.

In the movie, the Somali spy who helps the marines is named ‘Abdi. A couple of years ago, I tutored a blind Somali man named ‘Abdi. He was one of approximately 40,000 Somalis who have immigrated to the Twin Cities since the early 1990s. He told me his story in short bursts, and with a quick smile and a reassuring laugh.

Tens of thousands of Somalis—or mostly Somalis, some of them are from other East African countries—have crossed the Gulf of Aden in rickety boats to come to Yemen.

There are over 90,000 Somalis in Yemen.

Somalia’s total fertility rate—the average number of children are born to a healthy woman—is the forth highest in the world, at approximately 6.6. Yemen is the sixth highest, at 6.4.

Yemen’s population is expected to double in 16 years. 

I live in Khormaksar, which is a neighborhood in Aden close to the sea, or gulf. Every day, I pass at least a dozen Somali men who wash cars. Somali women and their children ask for change quite close by. The men never ask for change.

Black Hawk Down is an effectively intense, neo-verite army movie that shows a mostly white army battle a black insurgency.

After an initial limited release, the movie was widely released in the United States on January 18th, 2002, three days after Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and two days after the U.N. Security Council established an arms embargo and froze the assets of Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaida, and the Taliban.

Black Hawk Down grossed over $170,000,000 worldwide.

 In 2003, NovaLogic released a video game for PCs, Xboxs and PS2s called Delta Force: Black Hawk Down. It’s rated T for Teen.  

A review on the site, complained that the computer-generated Somali insurgents were not developed enough. The writer added,

So, it’s basically up to you to play Rambo, running around and shooting all the sitting ducks. In fact, the game even keeps score for you–you can expect to kill more than 1,500 Somalis during the campaign.

June 17, 2008 at 5:44 am Leave a comment

sanaa 3

 Here are some tall pics and some comments. Most of these were taken in the narrow streets of the old city.










 This is bab al-Yemen, or the Gate of Yemen. It’s really old, maybe 1000 years old or so. The State Department thinks this area is dangerous. It seemed fine to me.

It’s the official entrence to Sana’a’s old city. Beyond the gate is the souq, which looks like this. 



These guys are crazy. They drive motorcycles through the extremely crowded and often narrow streets of the souq, dodging the people and stopping within an inch of pedestrians.


June 15, 2008 at 12:20 pm Leave a comment

sanaa 2

The hotel Arabian Felix.



Right beyond the Gate of Yemen, in the main souq.





June 12, 2008 at 6:06 am 1 comment

sana’a 1



 Still on that first weekish steez. Weird Twilight Zonish buzz, bros.

Last weekend, or two weekends ago, I had a three day weekend. So I took a bus to Sana’a, from Aden. The trip was less than 200 miles, but took eight hours because the drive was almost entirely up and around these crazy mountains. Plus, the driver made about six stops, more than half of which were for qat.

I eventually got there and found a beautiful hotel in the middle of Sana’a’s old city (Sana’a Qadima).

I walked around for most of the time, except for a brief visit to ‘Tourist City’ in search of a cold one, about six thousand miles from the closest PBR. 

Within three hours of arriving in Sana’a, I was almost struck by two motorcyclists, hit by three cars, and I was riding shotgun in a minibus that ran a red light and was two feet from being broadsided by a Land Cruiser. The traffic there is crazy.

Here is the first set of the photos I took.









June 9, 2008 at 1:16 pm 1 comment

What I’ve Learned

in the last monthish..


The stock market lost 400 points a few days ago, on high oil prices and news of a rise in unemployment. Huge font at the New York Times.

 I’m nuts about a girl in New York. I want to move there eventually. There are many other reasons too. But I would like to think coincidence is more than just coincidence, something stopped can start again, the third act can become a new play,  and somethings are just meant to be. 


 There is a scene in Hot Shots Part Deux! where the president of the United States, played by the late and great Lloyd Bridges, gets into a light sabers fight with Saddam Hussein, who talks in with a Vader-like voice.

Last night, a Debab, or minibus driver, asked me where I was from. Then he said he loved me and he loved America. Then he said, sarcastically I hope, ‘Saddam, mush tamaam. I kill Iraqis!’ A few of the riders seemed to get a kick out of it. I felt like crying.

Debabs run as late as 11:30 on Friday nights.

I am sorry for so many things that are done in the name of the country I was born in, the country I miss.

Chuck D taught me as much about American history as any teacher I’ve ever had. And I listened to him more than the others.

One of the five books I brought to Aden was ‘Imagined Communities’ by Benedict Anderson. I also brought ‘Orientalism’.

The British had control of Aden for one hundred and fifty years.

The president of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, has the Madrassa equivalent of a sixth-grade education. His two predecessors were deposed, and at least one of them was executed.

His security detail rivals that of George W. Bush.

Seera Castle, or Qala’a Seera, is a [most likely] Turkish fort that the Portuguese used. It’s on top of a very high ridge. There is an 18th century latrine in the main fort. Instead of a bucket or something else to catch the waste, there is just a hole with a view of the town below.

People take shits at the Seera Castle, in the dark corners. It smells there. Guards also patrol the area because it overlooks Ali Abdullah Saleh’s private ridge. Yesterday they weren’t there.

There is an IKEA in Saudi Arabia.

June 8, 2008 at 3:17 pm 1 comment

Is he going to steer our convoy in a different direction?

June 4, 2008 at 2:08 pm Leave a comment

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