Terror attacks in Japan, Germany, Belgium, France, United States, Turkey, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Thailand, Egypt……etc. The last two years have made the world bleed like never before and unfortunately we are still in July. With so much of hatred and violence spreading across the globe like a deadly virus, traveling has sort of become a dangerous passion. Attacks at airports, at national holiday celebrations, shopping malls etc have cast pall of dread on regular activities and you never know when terror and/or heartbreak strikes. Apart from facing such a situation yourself, losing your loved ones to these mindless acts of hatred is a most traumatic experience and the well wishers of the victims ask themselves the big question, “Why did this happen?” every single day of their lives. Being a direct or indirect victim of violence of such kind is a massive torture and whether it is war, civil riot or terrorist attack, the bloodshed of the innocent (especially if it is of your loved one) is a heinous act.
It had been while I was watching reports of Munich terror attack on TV that my memory had churned up some very familiar old ghosts of pain and immediately Sanaa had appeared in front of my eyes like a blast from the past. As the newsreader reported on the terrorist’s intention of targeting children inside a McDonald outlet, smiles, childish laughter and happy squeals from another place and time came back to me in a rush. The city had been Old Sanaa and the time had been Jan-Feb 2015. I had visited Yemen on a work trip and although, the country had been unstable at the time of my arrival, nothing had prepared me for the nightmare which had followed. Yemen government had fallen apart during my stay and immediately thereafter Saudi Arabia had attacked it with full vengeance. Bombs had fallen from the sky like huge, hot flowers of death and destruction had wiped out one of the loveliest and most historically rich places on earth. Those have been moments when time had stretched till eternity and I had finally returned home shattered to the core. My nightmare, however despite being brought to safety had continued and everyday for many months, I had remained glued to news spilling out of Yemen. I had waited eagerly to know of the welfare of the people I had known, stayed with, laughed with, played along and loved a little; people who had left deep impressions in my heart.
I had wanted to know of their plight; if they had escaped the wrath of war, if their homes had been left intact, if they had money left for food and medicine and most importantly, if they were still alive. This is an unimaginable torture, which I had continued to do to myself for months, until a deadly shock had informed me of the entire family of a very close friend in Taiz being wiped out in an air strike. The news had left me numb and after that I had discontinued following up on the Yemeni destruction. Travel, as I mentioned, often brings a lot of pain in today’s world and Yemen is the most beautiful, yet heartbreaking experience of my career. The ancient land of the Queen of Sheba, is unrecognizable today and the gorgeous UNESCO World Heritage Site of Old Sanaa hardly exists anymore. This brings me back to the blast from the past which had attacked me while watching TV last night and I had tossed uneasily once again, in desperate hope that some of my memories of Old Sanaa may have escaped from being wiped out. This photo essay is dedicated to those familiar ghosts of Old Sanaa, most of whom no longer exist today and now all I can do is say a prayer.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE