The taxi down the runway after landing at Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, is the first hint that this place is a little extraordinary. Here are Su22 and MiG29 Soviet aircraft flying circuits (here is one with its parachute still dragging), and a number of them parked in their revetments. For a plane spotter it was heaven. For someone who studied these pieces for equipment for a living (yes, there are people who do that) it was nice to see them in their natural environment. But the real pleasure was the airport. Too soon, as with even the backblocks of China, we travel through new, shiny, efficient airports. They are nothing on the dim, vinyl floored, tacky Soviet style place that is still Sanna. It is a building and decoration straight out of a 1950s, eastern block movie. Right down to the uniforms worn by the immigration and customs staff and the AK47s slung by the security officers. A visa is obtained from a hole in the wall for USD100, attended by a bored official who clearly hates his rubber stamping role (he would be all at sea in India) and you are then processed into an area selling goods that look like they have been sitting there since 1964. Perhaps a key indicator of how much a time warp you are in is the absence of any ATMs – at least that was the case when I was there in 2005.
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