National Geographic : 1957 Feb
0 50 50O Author's route ->-> Wadi.... dry waterpourse Dhamar. YEMEN for Egypt, or for Rome, bearing the exotic freight of India and China, the frankincense and myrrh of the Hadhramaut. In time, sea routes, capped by the Suez Canal, doomed this traffic. But the old tracks across mesa and wadi remain, the skeleton of today's primitive road grid, and recently I have journeyed by jeep along more than one. "Indigo Warriors" Halt Jeep To traverse Aden's desolate, starkly beauti ful hinterland by such trails is to enter a world seemingly frozen in time, impervious to the fruits as well as the fevers of progress. And yet... I was driving down the sandy road from Mahfidh to Mudia one searing afternoon, sep arated from my guards, when suddenly two half-naked tribesmen appeared out of no where. Waving their rifles, they signaled me to stop. Aulaqi warriors, they were the drab yet haughty legatees of a venerable culture-the Ma'in, moon worshipers who once held sway over all this region and waxed fat on the fees of the great caravans. Their torsos gleamed like gun metal from the mixture of indigo dye and animal fat with which they greased themselves, partly for adornment, partly as a skin lubricant. A rag bound up their lank locks; ragged futas, or sarongs, drooped from their waists. In each man's belt was stuck the inevitable curved and heavy-hilted knife. One warrior put his hand on the jeep door. Ayyidirt laqdaha Eastern (British Crown Colony) G 1-- v of I rapped his knuckles lightly with my cane. He jumped back, surprised, and angrily de manded why I had done that. "The jeep is not yours," I said. "If you need food or water, you are welcome to it." He sucked his knuckles a moment. "Min ente? Who are you?" "The American consul from Aden." "Ah. Sahib, we are but poor and hungry Bedouin, and worn are our feet. We travel to Mudia, where, it is said, men have come seeking workers from among the tribes. In a car it would be quicker." I gave the pair a lift and thought no more about it until, some five weeks later, I was visiting the oil refinery at Little Aden. A young worker stepped up to me and said: "Don't you remember me, Sahib? I am the man to whom you gave a ride." Tribesman Becomes Oil Technician I stared at him. He stood smiling at me in clean overalls, his hair clipped, his flesh filled out with nourishing food. I checked with his supervisor. The Aulaqi apprentice was com ing along fine, he said. An eager fellow, he would soon make a good technician. Change, then, does come to the Protector ate. Not wholesale, as yet, but fitfully sparks struck from the anvil of Aden Colony, where the changing impact of Western ways on an older civilization resounds most sharply. When one leaves the Europeanized confines of the Colony and crosses into the Protector- Red Sea.