Chance Meeting | Ali, Yemen

I’d been staying with my friend the past week. He works for a relief agency that operates in a very remote area. He has 20 high days every 3 months. When he’s in town, we usually paint it red…

None of us in our apartment can cook. We live on fast food and pre-packaged meals most of the time. Yesterday, we had breakfast at 11. I had my breakfast on a bench outside the restaurant. As soon as started eating, a man with tightly curled hair, which was as worn out and flecked as his cloths, approached and asked me for a cigarette. The question didn’t surprise me. I hear it all the time. It was just a little unexpected. After all, I was in one of the better districts in town, and cigarettes cost almost nothing in Yemen.

I got him a pack of smokes and some snacks, and we started talking. He told me that he’s a musician, and that he had to sell his guitar-like instrument (oud/عود) a few months ago for less than 10% of its market price. Sometimes during our conversation, it strikes him and he starts singing his full voice. I felt a little awkward at first. But I am glad that, after all he’s been through, his passion for singing is still as vibrant as ever…

Although the guy is singing in an dialect spoken in Lahj, I am sure most Yemenis can easily understand him. I also think, as is generally the case with music, that it’s not necessary to understand him in order to have “the chills”.

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