Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Yemeni Ordeal (也门的考验)

Being the host of a travel program might be what you and me are looking for... Not only this host can enjoy delicacies of the world, he/she can travel 'free' and stayed in luxury 5 star hotels? Perhaps I can spare a column and let Paul relate his own Yemeni experience to you...

As we all know that Yemen today is not safe to general tourists ever since the start of the civil war in 2015. Before the war, Yemen was said to have been controlled by different warlords in various regions. So if one must travel across Yemen then, this person must first obtain permissions from various parties. That is to say that a permission in one region is a no go in the next. This is very different in region like EU where once you enter an EU country, you already obtained a almost free-to-all pass. 

Paul used to be a TV travel program host who was sent across the world to film travel programs and his programs were sold to TV stations across the globe. When I chat with him one day, I asked him to relate to me his most frightful experience when shooting his travel programs.

According to Paul, he got an assignment to produce a travel program to introduce tourists spots in Yemen many years back. So after his team done doing homework and aware of the chaotic situations in Yemen, off they flew to Yemen.

The first few days of shooting were relatively calm as they have gotten permissions of local militia. Though being warned by local Yemeni guide that Paul and his gang should not move outside of the town, the crew thought it will do no harm just to move a little distance away from Sana'a. Well, what could go wrong with only a few hundreds of meters away out?

So, in order to have a more dramatic shot, the filming crew decided to use a quite decently looking building as background for Paul to conclude his introduction of Sana'a...

When the camera started to roll and Paul started to speak, a group of militants rushed out from the building with AK-47 machine guns. They shouted at the filming crew and Paul in Arabic language that none of the folks understood. Unfortunately, the team's local guide wasn't around then.

The militants swiftly approached the filming crews and pointed their AK-47 at them. Poor Paul and his crew were scared to death. Not only none of them understood what had happened and none of them expected to be held at gun points after obtaining permissions.

As recalled by Paul later after taking a sip of cappuccino, he said that what he could remember then was the sensation of the scent of gunpowder and the muzzle of AK-47 by his temple.  

The entire filming crew was dragged into the building behind them and that building transpired to be the commanding post of the militias. Perhaps Paul and his gang had chosen a wrong location for shooting. Luckily they were not shut at literary speaking.

Since Paul and the militants couldn't communicate, and since Paul is a white man; the militants have some scruples and after some shouting; they called in an interpreter. 

Lucky for Paul, the interpreter was his local guide. After some local to local talks and a big bag of khat (a type of drug); Paul and his crews were released with a warning and their records were erased.

After returning to their hotel, Paul asked his guide on the reason of the commotion. His guide said: "Paul and his friends were taking photos of sensitive military locations. Further, the camera looks just like a bazooka from a far. So the militants thought they were under sieged at that time. Further being white, they thought Paul was some CIA agents..."

I cheered to Paul's story and emptied my cappuccino and asked him if he would return to Yemen again to complete his shooting. Paul cheered to me in return and replied: "Only when I have gotten used to being pointed with AK-47!"