Tribes of Dhofar’s Empty Quarter

It is 21 degrees up in the Jebel Qara at midday, with fog so thick you can barely see 10m ahead. Barely an hour later, down the other side, past the scream of F-16s over Thumrayt and into the desert, the temperature is in the mid-40s. We’ve left the highway behind, turned towards one of the largest deserts in the world and switched off the air conditioning to save fuel.

We tuck in our massars around our faces and dab a bit of perfume on the pattern of checks. There is nothing else here: just two men, a four-wheel drive, the scent of oudh attar mixing with the escaped fumes from the jerry cans of petrol and a little whirlwind that twists its way across the flatness of the Ramlat Hashman. Ahmed Suhail Wasit al Kathiri might have been squinting, but you couldn’t make out through the sunglasses that peek out over head cloth. “If the aesar comes, it means there could be rain. Hot winds come from the north and cold winds from the south, and the whirlwind is created where they meet. This is the way it has always been.”

Almost 250km from Salalah towards the Empty Quarter, Hashman is a dot on the map, and even smaller in the flesh. Wedged in between the first massive dunes of the Rub al Khali, this settlement of Bedouin — and government assistance — sticks out of the emptiness before Yemeni and Saudi Arabian borders meet Oman a bit northwest of here. It is in such places that the bedu have settled, after centuries of nomadic existence that recognized no boundaries.

Now, after ages of baking in the sun, navigating the dunes and spending hours traveling for water, everything has changed — and yet nothing has. The bedouin receive free housing from the government, a package that includes all essential utilities like water, electricity and schooling — even money itself.

Hashman is barely larger than a government-built complex, with the wali’s office, a school, one foodstuff shop, one restaurant, a mosque and about 20 houses. Giving a nomad a house doesn’t domesticate him, though. The homes I visited had air conditioning and cooking ranges, but the walls were as bare as the sand outside, just white paint, with cushions on the side.

This is the way it was as we sat down with Mubarak and Salim al Rashidi al Kathiri in their allotted house in Hashman. We are sipping on tea and being sprayed with a blue bottle of cologne called Rally, with two white racehorses as its logo, to get rid of the last traces of our journey. Both brothers work with the wali’s office, tending to their camels after. They are askar, or civilians in the army, each earning RO350 a month, with everything provided.

The romance of the desert has dimmed a bit, somewhere between the abandoned wood sheds, the new concrete, the 4WDs and the cell phones that never stop ringing over the sands. Even a bedu thinks jumping on a camel in the 50 degree heat is a bit silly. Instead, you’re more likely to find the animals in their pens, kept for milk, meat and old time’s sake.

Hashman, barely large enough to be a called a village, is perhaps best viewed as a metaphor instead. A few decades ago, there wasn’t any Hashman at all, just a general direction where you might find the occasional scattering of Bedouin tents. “This area was called Fased in the old days,” say the brothers. “But there was no permanent source of water here. We only stayed because the camel grazing was good when the rains came. We had to ride for eight days to the water, which was good in Habrut, but salty in Bimbilla.”

Things changed with infrastructure, and the well. This was when Fased became Hashman and the bedouin built the wooden shacks or sandaka that you find abandoned today, in various stages of disarray. Ahmed persuades an old woman to dig into the corners of her soot-blackened kitchen for something real. She comes out with a camel hair bag full of dust, camel saddles and old metal kahwa jugs, with ‘Made in ROK’ embossed on the bottom. But this is all sand down the pipe. The camel bags aren’t woven anymore and the metal jugs have been replaced by the thermos. The cabins themselves have been left behind, when the Bedu swapped them for free houses that look more like villas. As for the saddlebags, what use are they when the animals themselves have been reduced to providers of meat and milk, or the racetrack in Thumrayt. As Ahmed so points out, “The bedu have forgotten the shidet, the camel seat. Today they drive the Lexus, LandCruisers and abu shenabs.”

Still, it is perhaps the camel that links the bedouin most firmly to the desert, in a grand ceremonial sort of way even when it isn’t really needed anymore. No one will say that aloud. Instead, you might have a family sacrifice a camel for a special occasion, as they did when we spent the night in Tudho on our last leg through the Empty Quarter. As the light faded and the camp settled down for another desert night, a handful of men flung themselves into the animal pen and onto a young camel. It screamed for its life, of course, just like I had the previous evening when I saw my first camel spider. The second step involved flinging it down side-first on the bed of a pickup and driving off into the night. All I could see was its little head peeking out from under bedouin feet, crying for its mother.

An hour later the pickup was back with the entire camel in the rear, just without its skin this time. Stage three involves one bedu in his undershirt and wuzar hacking away at the animal, standing on the flatbed. Each mammoth piece — a leg, the odd organ — was slapped down on the mat, where a circle of young men cut the parts into little pieces.

Step three involves putting all the little bits into a huge cauldron over a wood fire in the sand, pouring in water, adding salt and boiling this delightful mix for an hour or more. The pièce de résistance is the spoon: an iron rod from some part of the truck that they stuck into the sand when not stirring.

The next morning, after drowning myself in another glass of milky tea, I asked the bedu about their meal. A young camel is preferred for its tender meat, and it is taken away to be killed so that the mother doesn’t get too frantic (she kept us up the whole night anyway). The most treasured parts, usually reserved for the guests are the hump or sanam, the heart or kalb and the back or mattan. And there are three ways to cook a camel. The most basic style is the way we had it, called mathbu bil mayy, but there is also madhbi where it is cooked over stones and gishda where it is fried in its melting fat. The people from Salalah call the last method makali or kasabiyah. Camel meat is best described as an acquired taste, but the bedu relish it with a fervor that points more to a longing for the past than a culinary preference.We ate eight to a plate, sitting down on plastic mats, elbows on cushions for the lucky ones. You could drown this in either tea or coffee, or camel milk, which was kept in large bowls with as much froth above as there was milk below.

Camel milk, as with everything surrounding the animal, is viewed with pride. If you wanted your tea with milk it would usually turn the other way around, with about half of the little glass first filled with milk, and then the black tea poured atop like garnish. In the old days, milk was usually served in the leather bowls now gathering mould on walls but you will get it in the stainless steel ones that make up for lack of character by being easy to maintain.

The typical ratio of camels in a settlement might be one male for as many as 50 females, with the male mating with up to five camels a day. The male is bigger, up to 1,000kg, and you might find him outside the pen, with his legs hobbled, the females and young behind the barbed wire. A camel is precious, and not just sentimental value. A milking animal could fetch RO3,000, while a camel meant for meat might fetch RO500. One might also make cheese from their milk, called zubd, and in the old days their hair would be used to make rope, jackets and even socks for the bedu.

By modern Western definition a desert is all about the lack of things, of dryness and sparseness, a wasteland devoid of life. But start to live it and you realize that it is really not the desert itself that is the hero. It is merely blank canvas. The real story is in the lives it hosts, and the very fact they exist at all makes them so precious. As Prince Feisal tells Lawrence of Arabia in the epic movie, “No Arab loves the desert. We love water and green trees, there is nothing in the desert. No man needs nothing.”

But the desert is full of things. You just have to approach them from the desert, not the highway. To a city slicker these are little things, not worth a stop. To a habitant these are everything. Like Wadi Malhayt that you drive across on your way to Hashman. Just a few feet deep, you are barely aware this is a wadi at all, except for the scattering of shrubbery that sticks out of sand and hints at water, somewhere between Jebel Darbab and Muqshin. But the Bedu know that if you follow it 15km north you will reach water at al Khadifs.

Such wadis are also where you will find the palm called sa’af, whose fronds were used to twine rope in the old days, and one of the materials used to make the old bowls, along with leather, or gild. We found the palm in places like Wadi Ayyun where we stopped long enough for Ahmed to jump out of the 4WD and dive into a clump of palm fronds. “In the old days, all the bedu were doing this,” he says, whipping out a black bladed knife and slitting a few shoots off. In less than ten minutes he had made rope strong enough to tie an animal, and in another ten he could have twined it thick enough to haul a boat out of water, or a car out of sand. He did this by separating a single frond lengthwise, following its ribbed construction. Each long strip was twisted around another, and when you had enough strips wound tight enough you had rope. There is more you can do with sa’af. Pull out the entire shoot and you can eat the pith, a soft white core encased at the base, and the date-like berries above are edible too. Such knowledge of the land is just about kept alive, increasingly threatened by a new lifestyle where survival involves a drive to the foodstuff shop.

There is even more hidden away in the desert. If you are extremely lucky through the wadis you will find gazelle, but will most probably have to make do with the birds called habbar, and certainly the huge off-white iguanas they call dubb that sun themselves when it is cool enough. And dive down holes in the sand when you approach.

Or the camel spiders that crawl through the nights in Hashman, preying on smaller insects that are drawn to the bright lights on its handful of streets. Walk through its deserted roads, all packed within its four walls, and you will see that the brightest spots on the ground are infested with them. To the Western eye a camel spider is everything you have been conditioned to hate and fear, an other-worldly concoction seen only in science fiction movies and horror stories. But the most you will get out of the Bedu is a laugh, a wave of the hand and the generic Arabic word for spider, ankbut.

I didn’t have the foggiest idea what it was when I saw it for the first time. It was too long to be a spider and didn’t have the sting of a scorpion, although it looked like a cross between the two. It was the color of the sand and — I swear to you — about as long as my hand, with extremely aggressive tentacles or mandibles jutting out of its head. It didn’t look like it did cute things like eat the dung left in the sand by camels, or sip on early morning dew. And this one was very nervous. Perhaps it was my shadow in the harsh glare. Or maybe it was just twitchy by character.

When it moved, and it was trying repeatedly to climb up the pavement, it did so with such speed you weren’t sure if you could outrun it if it came at you, and you hoped it didn’t jump. Later, checking it out on the Internet, I learnt that it probably could have run half as fast as the fastest human. That’s about thrice as fast as I can manage. Thankfully, it turns out camel spiders aren’t as bad as they look, and won’t bite unless attacked. They aren’t venomous, and the most you’ll suffer is an ugly wound from their very large mouth.

Such stories can run through the emptiness of the Empty Quarter like dead-end dirt and sand roads in the Ramlat Hashman. Choice seems endless: a vast, flat expanse with the tracks of pickups heading helter-skelter in seeming abandon. To an outsider, which unmarked turnoff to take is a life and death choice, but these fade into everyday decisions for someone like Ahmed. As we left the ravaged ruins of Shisr, propped up by the promise of tourism and headed into empty space towards Hashman, he pointed out signs in the middle of nowhere. On the horizon to our left, tothe south, he saw a well, or beir. I looked through his treasured Nikon binoculars and saw nothing except haze. He’s got to be bluffing, I thought, trying to impress me. But he would turn completely off the sandy track the next day, as we made our way from Hashman to Mitan, We drove for hours, following one pickup trail and then leave it for another, seemingly without enough reason. To be honest we did get lost after overshooting our destination, thrown off course by new roads since he had last been there, but we did get there eventually.

Out of the flatness of the desert, just kilometers south of the Yemeni border, little more than a pole in the sand, and the gigantic dunes of Saudi Arabia to the northeast, Mitan rises up. It seemed like a metropolis after half a day’s worth of wandering lost between countries, a mirage on the horizon that quickly grew into a sprawl of dusty wooden cabins, a laundry, a tailor’s shop, the inevitable wali’s compound and the promised half-constructed line of new villas that 500 inhabitants will eventually move into.

Walk into Mitan and you will find yourself in the midst of the Mahri, a Bedouin tribe speaking a language different from Arabic, or Jebbali, the language of the mountains. We are sitting in one of the cabins in Mitan, between four wafer-thin wooden walls, bare except for a broken television in one corner, a wall to wall carpet and a couple of cushions strewn around. This cabin isn’t the house, it’s just a part of it. The actual home is spread over four, if not five separate sandakas, each a handful of meters away from the other. They include the majlis where we were, the kitchen behind, the dining room to the side and the master bedroom, a grand affair a cabin or two further.

Each cabin is a world in itself, sharing only its razor-sharp architecture with the others. The interiors come in extremes: the deep red carpet in the majlis, stained with innumerable spilt teas, the airy dining room, clean because of the plastic sheets kept under the plate and the kitchen, surprisingly spotless, with a cooking range in front, a commercial-sized freezer in a corner (from which was thrown to me a can of Mountain Dew) and the half boiled chicken on the gas-fed fire. But it was the master bedroom that deserved a spread in an interior decoration magazine, a pearl in the desert. The white walls and ceiling were crisscrossed with gold piping, and even the air conditioner had a pattern around its frame. One wall had a white cabinet with numerous tiers and overhangs, and its top, a couple of feet under the ceiling, was lined with vases full of plastic flowers, in creams and reds. The king-size bed was draped in green and white, under the showpiece chandelier.

At the centre of attention is Musallam Bahait al Mahri, an ancient, leathery man who is brought in by his 17 year old grandson, Salim Eisa Saab. He can’t hear very well, or see for that matter, so you have to shout at him repeatedly, and our voices bounce off plywood and into the dull heat of the desert outside. If you asked the Mahris how old he was they would probably say 100, but that’s a magic figure given to anyone very old. His glazed eyes light up with the news from far away that we bring, and eventually his khanjar is paraded around, the pride and joy of his life. Inscribed in the silver sheath was the name of its maker, Mohammed Ahmed Bagatiyan, from Hadramaut in Yemen, and the date 1379. Musallam says that it has been passed down through his family from one generation to the next, and that they are originally from al Ghayda in Yemen, now spread out over Mazyouna, Towsinat, Hador, Aybut, Harwiw and Dalkut.

You will find this story repeated, in its various forms, from one Mahri cabin to the other, the story of migration, of nomadism, of the wells that meant settling down, and the latest stage that is unfurling now: moving from wood cabins to concrete walls. One of the best people to ask for an overview, though, isn’t from the tribe itself, but an outsider. Dr Mansoor Ahmed Piracha is what is officially known as a primary healthcare physician, manning the clinic that is part of the wali’s complex, along with a school and other government services. Mansoor has been a spectator to life in Mitan for the past 14 years: he has delivered babies and seen them grow up, inspected kitchens, called for emergency airlifts and tended the sick.

It is dry and hot outside, high noon in Mitan, and Mansoor pours out a can of cola that we share with the nurse. His first patient for the afternoon is Faisa, a short 12 year old girl in school uniform who walks in with a friend for support. The doctor abandons the cola and starts clucking over her. “Come here, Faisa, what’s the matter? Don’t be afraid, I’m like your second father.” She’s got a pain in her year, and in between peering into it he turns to me. “I delivered her in February 1995,” he says, as if this was the most natural information he could think of. “She’s got a ear infection, nothing serious.”

Indeed, Mansoor can rattle off numbers and lives off the tip of his tongue. “60 per cent of the population in Mitan is above 15 years of age, and there are ten above 70. We’re talking of a total of 500 inhabitants, and 45 expatriates.” Mansoor is the doctor of the settlement, and it is under him that the people of Mitan benefit from 24 hours of medical service a day. The clinic is open from half past seven in the morning till half past nine at night, but the doctor is on call through the night. All someone has to do is call, or knock. “We never object to their timings – we know the bedu have none.” But Mansoor didn’t become an insider who can boast of being a girl’s second father by just sitting in his clinic.

“I do a weekly round of the houses every Thursday. We aim to provide medical aid at the doorstep.” This is in addition to the weekly school checkups, and the three to four years that he spent inspecting all the kitchens in Mitan, once a week, till they were up to his standards of hygiene. “The people should be suffering from diarrhea here, but they don’t. One reason is that they keep their kitchens so clean.” And it’s true: hours ago, as I explored the different cabins that make up Musallam Bahait al Mahri’s house, noticing how spotlessly clean the cooking area was. That kitchen, fed by gas and electricity, would later churn out our lunch: two huge plates of rice and chicken, the meat with fried onions and tomatoes and a reddish, faintly spicy biryani.

“I was sitting in my clinic, thinking of what to do,” continues Mansoor, talking of the old days. “And then I thought of teaching: all the basics I knew from being a doctor.” And so he approached the director general in Salalah for permission, and taught chemistry, physics and English for one hour a day at the school, free of charge. “Those students of mine are now doctors and engineers. I believe that you should pass on what you know to others.”

Such efforts will get a boost soon, with a college for women opening shortly (Mitan already has a co-education college, and school), in addition to a new playground and mosque. But the most anticipated development is the four year plan for 120 houses for the Mahri. Now in it’s second year, you can already see 27 finished. Soon the 88 wood cabins, each with a married couple and their offspring, will be abandoned, slowly taken over by the desert sands like in Hashman. The only trace of the Bedu will be wood sticking out of sand, sagging dish antennas and threadbare tires.

In addition to the new housing, a lot of the Bedu get ‘shun al ishtamaiyah,’ a social benefit allowance from the government in addition to the free services it provides. Meanwhile, school children receive a daily food allowance of 300–500 baizas per day from the Saud Bahwan group.

The Mahri here work in the government, with the wali’s office, while those closest to Bedouin ways tend to their camels and goats, selling them in Salalah or, even more lucrative, Dubai. Even the transportation has developed into an ancillary industry here. Camels are loaded on three-ton trucks at RO15 a head, with up to 10–12 camels in one vehicle.

Life has changed a lot since Mansoor didn’t know what to do with his time 14 years ago. He has been busy with what he calls EPI, clinic speak for the Expanded Program of Immunization that seeks to tackle diseases affecting children, including tuberculosis, polio, measles, tetanus and mumps. He doesn’t have to check kitchens anymore, but Thursdays are still kept for house visits. If needed, the clinic has an ambulance to take patients to Thumrayt, or Sultan Qaboos Hospital in Salalah, and in an emergency Mansoor can also call the commanding officer at Salalah airport for an air ambulance.

14 years ago, all this was a dream over open space. Mitan, like Hashman, barely existed, just a collection of Bedouin tents scattered in the general area. Nomads in the area would travel four hours by camel to Habrut for supplies, the main town in its time, with date gardens and shops. The doctor would drive through the sand from one tent to the other, espousing his mantra of ‘medical aid at the doorstep.’ “There were no gas cylinders in those days, of course,” says Mansoor. “The Mahra would pour camel milk in a pot called tassa, heat a washed stone over the fire and drop it into the vessel. This would heat the milk, and give it a taste like nothing else.”

So who are the Mahra, these nomads in the desert with their rock-spiced milk, short stature and delicate features? Where did they come from, why did they settle down in the desert and how do they compare to the other tribes found in Dhofar? Above all, why are they and all the other endemic social groups in this southern state so different from those found further north? Dhofar is a land of many secrets, but such questions will throw you into the deepest of ends.

You will come across two commonly used all-encompassing terms for the tribes in Dhofar: the Jebbali and the Mahra. Ask around and you might get varying explanations for each. What is obvious, though, is that the term Jebbali comes from the Arabic jebel, for mountain. And the Mahra are commonly associated with the Bedouin of the desert, and most would point to their origins in Yemen. Dig deeper, though, and you will find it a lot muddier than that.

Ahmed Za’abanoot grew up in Hafoof, a scattering of houses high up on the mountain, looking over Dalkut near the Yemeni border. He identifies himself as Mahra, and says this family of tribes is spread out over much of the desert and some of the mountains. “Look for the Mahra and you will find the Za’abanoot in Mazyona, the Rafeed across the desert and in Dalkut, a sprinkling of Kamsait in Mazyona, the Amarjeet in the Rub al Khali, the Thoar in Tawi Attayr and Thumrayt, the Kalsha’at in the desert and the Kahor, Hamoosh and Bait say Fot in Shelim. The Jebbali, or Gara, consist of the Katan in the mountains around Salalah, the Jaaboob around Salalah, Tawi Attair and Jebel Samhan, the Amri in Mirbat, Mashani in Taqah, Hardan in Dalkut, Shamas in Airdit and Akak in Rakhyut.”

But it doesn’t have to be as complicated as that. Ahmed’s version represents the commonly used, present-day break-up and distribution of tribes. But he does allude to a larger picture: “The original people here were the Shahra, and some of them broke away and called themselves Jebbali.” Jebbali is inherently a vague term, alluding to nothing more than an association with the mountains. “Jebbali,” says Ahmed, “are the same as Shahra.” So where does the Mahra come into the picture? “The Mahra and the Shahra are like two brothers of the same family,” says Ali al Shahra, who has spent decades researching the history of the tribes. “They are, in the end, the same.” But this sounds much too simplistic, and it is, for Ali has a few twists in the tale up his sleeve.

“The term Shahra comes from an ancient region called Bilad al Shahr,” he says, “that once stretched from Hadhramaut (now in present-day Yemen) till Ras al Hadd in Oman, and up to the southern shores of the Perisan Gulf, around present day Bahrain and Qatar. The word shahr means ‘the grazing land.’ This region was known by many terms, like al Ahqaaf, Bilad Aad and Bilad al Mahra. It is from this region that the earliest inhabitants of Arabia sprang forth, developing their language and culture and migrating outwards.”

According to Ali, the Shahra are the dwindled remnants of the last of the ancient, original tribe from al Shahr. But if his legend is true — and this is only one explanation — how come we talk of the Shahra in Dhofar when the ancient region stretched northeast till Ras al Hadd, and up to what is now the Persian Gulf? “Empires rise and fall,” says Ali, “and as the Shahra faced hardship over the centuries they withdrew to the place most precious, which had the monsoon, was fertile enough to cultivate crops and graze cattle and was home to the all-important commodity of that age, frankincense. This region is Dhofar.” So in Ali’s scheme of things Dhofar is the shrunken distillation of the ancient land of the Arabs, and everything flowed from here.

In time, with the death of the so-called Frankincense highway, that creator of kingdoms, even the Shahra abandoned the northern desert of Dhofar, according to Ali. It was perhaps after such times that migrations from what is now Yemen ensued, bringing the Mahri, a tribe from Mahra, which in turn is a region that stretches from western Houf till al Ghayda. Now, in present-day Dhofar, the majority of the population might actually be non-Shahra. But you will find traces of such Semitic languages and cultures even across the oceans, typically in Ethiopia, where a section of the population speak Amhari, which is said to bear a striking commonality with Mahri.

One could go on and on, and there are as many stories about the tribes and their origins as there are sub-tribes in Dhofar. But what is striking is the sheer weight of all this history and culture, of ancient languages, gravestones, cave paintings and clues. Dhofar, in whatever form it had come from and however it had been composed, with all its tribes and their lineage and property division, had gone through a golden age. The things we do know about it attest to this: the fabulous port of Khor Rori isn’t fiction, you can walk over its stones and gaze over its harbor. This was what the Greeks, the Romans and the Portuguese would later call the most important port in Arabia, with hundreds of ships loading and unloading their cargo here. Horses, perfume, precious stones and, above all, frankincense passed through here.

And frankincense was really at the heart of Dhofar’s importance to the world, the king maker. It was Dhofar that was the chief supplier of this product to the world, and the sap harvested from its knotted trees made kingdoms of the ports and towns it passed through, the life-blood in the veins of the world. For an age in history, Dhofar was the centre of the world. In time, as the frankincense trade crumbled, the kingdoms caved in and the famous frankincense highway disappeared into the encroaching desert, the Empty Quarter or Rub al Khali that we travelled through.

This much is truth — we know it. As for the tribes, their sources, their intermarriage and mingling that produced offshoots — these can be argued for eternity. The lineage of their people lies lost somewhere beneath the khareef-fed spurts of growth on the southern slopes of the mountains, the sand-ravaged wooden sandakas in Hashman and Mitan and the camel pens at Tudho. In a way, though, this is missing the point. The real hero of this story is the people, however many names they divided themselves into. From the Qara to the Jebbalis, the Mahra to the Shahra, the Kathiris and all the others: the Batahira, the Mashayikh, the Bara’ima, Batahira, Harasis, Hikman, Din and Hawashim. They are all inheritors to a collective history and culture, the richness of which has been the constant through the coming and going of the khareef, the rise and fall of the frankincense kingdoms and the migrations, disputes, divisions and intermarriage of the people.

Oman, September 2007

Hashman

www.pinaki.ch

GPS waypoints linking to Google Maps

Turn west off highway to Shisr, on to dirt track

Water station

Farms off dirt track

Shisr (Ubar)

Pump

Wadi Ghadun. Cross it

T-junction. Left to Mitan. Turn right to Hashman

Wadi Malhayt. Cross it

Unmarked airstrip on the left

Hashman

To get to Mitan, leave the dirt road just after Hashman, and follow the tire tracks to the west

Small dunes

Tire route marker, dune

Tire route marker

Tire route marker

Outcrop

Gravel

Dunes

Mitan

WARNING 
It is best to avoid roaming west and north of Mitan, because you might stray over the unmarked borders into either Yemen or Saudi Arabia. We got lost on our way from Hashman and accidentally crossed over into Yemen. I thought the tent in the distance belonged to Omani bedu, until we got closer and Yemeni soldiers clambered out in their underwear. And Kalashnikovs.

Oman-Yemen border post. Actual border unmarked. Avoid the area

Yemeni military tent, armed soldiers

Yemeni military tent, armed soldiers

Ariel on Mitan-Mazyona road

Wadi Shahan, road turns from dirt track to concrete

Mazyona

Wadi Ayyun

Qafa

Tudho

Wadi Gara

Wadi Aybut

Mudayy

Wadi Amad

Burj al Haluf, rock tower deep in wadi

Haluf Mislah

Checkpoint at Ayyun, road to Salalah